What are the differences between hydraulic and pneumatic balers?

Some baler companies will tell you that hydraulic machines are best. Others will tell you that nothing can beat an air powered pneumatic baler. This is normally because they don’t offer both. We see things slightly differently as we can offer both. There really is no black and white answer to the question as it depends on what you want the baler to do.

What material is best for the baler types?

Cardboard - It is generally the case that for cardboard, a hydraulic cardboard baler is the better option. An air machine cannot achieve the pressure that comes with a hydraulic power pack. However, you may not need to achieve very dense and heavy bales for your recycler, you may simply want to make movement of material a little easier.

Soft Plastics - It is generally the case that for soft plastic, a pneumatic baler has more advantages for low and medium volumes of shrink wrap (or similar material). Constant pressure creates very solid bales and reduces the material rising in the baler chamber, making filling easier.

High Volumes - We would always recommend Hydraulic to those with 1 tonne of material or more per week, providing that 3-phase electricity is available.

Have your own airline?

Definitely consider a pneumatic baler first – get a free site survey to establish volumes achievable, the recycler that is available and any revenue stream possible with storage. We arrange all this Free of Charge as part of our free site survey.

Easiest to use?

We would advocate that all pneumatics have the edge for ease of use. Bale out kickers are fitted on most models – but do take care on the smaller machines as you may need a bale out kicker to satisfy your own H&S requirements. They don’t all come as standard. We can point you in the right direction as we have both. Air machines used to be less complex to operate although making a pneumatic machine comply with EN16500 regulations (section below) has removed some of the simplicity.

Which one is quieter?

Most assume hydraulic; but you can make a pneumatic baler virtually silent, even with a compressor - so best to get that free survey really. The hydraulic salesman will always say that you don’t want a noisy compressor (and they can be) or a discharge of air sound coming out of the top of the baler – instead have a hydraulic that will purr when working, albeit more of an industrial purr than a domestic cat! Hydraulic is generally quieter though without modification.

hydraulic-qcr-350-balerMaintenance - which is best? 

If you have your own air line – pneumatic. If you don’t and don't have a small air compressor, then hydraulic. Compressor maintenance checks are pretty straight forward and take up a couple of minutes per month.

Energy Use?

It is generally understood that compressors can have a relatively high electricity demand. We’ve done back to back tests on the KW/h consumption of comparably sized pneumatic and hydraulic machines and hydraulic uses significantly less electricity per tonne of cardboard. When baling soft plastics energy use is reversed for small to medium volumes. As your volumes and bale size increases, the calculation does change so it's always best to get a free site survey if this is important to you. It's worth noting that the cost of electricity is likely to be less than 10 pence per bale for smaller balers. 

Compliance with EN16500:2014

Manufacturers must ensure that all new balers must comply to this legislation.

It is already in force and is in addition to all previous rigorous legislation. The key areas where this has had impact operationally are:-

  • Two handed bale out when ejecting bale
  • No access to moving parts
  • Isolation of power switch on the machine.

Most other amendments are ‘behind the scenes’ electrical and safety switches.The British Safety Standards have a full report that can be purchased online here. You can be re-assured that QCR will never sell you any machinery that is not compliant with the most up to date legislation.  

Twin Chamber Balers

We can supply them but rarely do. Only those companies with lots of old stock of these will be suggesting it’s the best solution. Volumes of card and soft plastic or any other material they want to use the two chambers for are unlikely to be similar; nor will the requirement to have exactly the same aperture to load the machine. Add on the dynamics of soft plastic rising in the chamber to prevent you adding more, a ram you have to slide across the material – and you have an much more difficult machine to use. Come and see one before you make a decision on one to avoid disappointment later.

The fact is, the question of which is better depends entirely on the customer and what they need their baler to do. We can offer you unbiased advice because we offer eight pneumatic models and eight hydraulic machines; and this is in addition to the larger Mill-size and Horizontal balers, which add a further 10 machines to our standard range.