hydraulics with arduino


Im new and wanted to ask a couple of general questions. Im looking to create a system (a 'living' table infact) that is affected by noise and other sensory stuff. Im just doing general research at the moment and think im going to need to use hydraulics to affect the shape of the table.

Does anyone know any links to information about using hydraulics with arduino. Also could i code something like this through Flash or would it be directly though the Arduino?

Controlling Hydraulics would be pretty easy. Its all in how you control the pump. Mainly how much power is needed to drive the pump.

Yes you will code it in the Arduino IDE. There are other ways to write the code and get it uploaded to the arduino but i don't think Flash is one of them. Now if you want to send commands to the arduino threw the PC there are several ways to do that as well. Just not sure Flash is one of those methods either.

Is there a standard hydraulics kit that you would use or is it just a case of finding something online? Ive not used hydraulics before

Hydraulics (actuators, control valves, oil supply and pump, etc) are quite expensive and take up lots of room, make a lot of noise, are messy, etc.

There are usually only used where one needs output tremendous mechanical force and are seen mostly in heavy industrial applications. Pneumatic controls have the same disadvantages but to a somewhat lesser degree.

An Arduino can interface to nearly any kind of electro-mechanical components, but one really needs to justify the costs Vs capabilities of the various methods and components.


As lefty has noted, if you intend to have this "table" installed inside, you DO NOT want to use hydraulics. Hydraulics are overkill for one, as noted, plus if you have an oil leak occur, you are in for a potentially hot, sticky, ugly mess (some hydraulic fluids are corrosive, to boot!). Then there's the expense and learning how to hook up such a system; not easy at all.

Pneumatics (which might be what you are thinking - so many people call pneumatic cylinders "hydraulics" for some reason - must be the lowrider culture or some other confusion?) - are easier to interface with (12-24V air solenoids, usually), but they have their own difficulties, and once again, if you are buying the stuff new, be prepared to spend a hefty sum. They too require pumps, regulators, hoses, manifolds, cylinders, solenoid valving, fittings, pressure vessels, etc.

You don't say what this table is going to do - this will effect what you use (you also don't say how large the table is or what material it is made from - for instance, if you were make a giant's table from steel, for some huge Burning Man-esque surreal sculpture, hydraulics would be what you would need - but I don't think that is the case here).

You might be able to get away with homebrewed pneumatic cylinders, depending on the purpose and the amount of force you need to use; look into homemade motion platforms (home aircraft flight simulation), as well as into homemade pneumatic systems for "dark rides" and "halloween haunted house props"; both of these subjects have followings on the internet, and a lot of information is out there for such projects.

You can homebrew cylinders out of dowelling and PVC pipe; small actuators can be made with syringes and aquarium tubing.

Use an old or cheap airbrush paint air pump for the air source; you could also use a tank of CO2 (with proper ventilation!) and a regulator to reduce the pressure. You could also repurpose an old breathing treatment air pump (nebulizer) - I see these for sale all the time at thrift stores (whatever you do, clean it well!).

Cheap air valving could be made from smaller automatic sprinkler valves, or from solenoid valves for propane use in RVs and boats.

Air lines (depending on pressure needs) could be anything from aquarium tubing to air hoses for shop compressors.


thanks for the advice so far...

Basically this 'table' is for a uni project, im thinking about creating a table that might perhaps be shy and not like noise or light for example, using a few sensors I want the table to react depending on its environment. Still not sure about it exactly but for instance if the table didnt like noise, it could be 'shy' and just have an appearance of table form but if it was in a quiet environment it would start to move and alter its shape.

I was thinking hydraulics just as it was the first though i came to when thinking about giving the table some sort of movement to change shape or something.

Well, if it is a regular table; I could see this:

  1. On each leg, have two perpendicular and angled pneumatic cylinders at the corner, connecting to each leg; with such an arrangement, you could have the table “move” (kinda bend away/around) the axis of the legs where they join the top.

  2. For the surface, use individual pneumatic “bladders” in a grid arrangement, under a conformal covering - inflate the bladders to change the shape of the surface to an extent. Make the surface/bladders somewhat transparent, then add RGB leds underneath for mood indicators, etc?

  3. You might be able to have something to allow it to bend/fold in the middle…?

Because of the noise, space, and power-requirements of a pump, if you didn’t want this table tethered, you would probably want to use a cylinder of compressed nitrogen or plain-old air (don’t use co2, unless it is going to be in a well ventilated area - actually, just don’t use it at all); use a small and thin cylinder (an oxygen bottle might work); add a regulator, hoses, valving, manifolds, etc.

This won’t be cheap, though (unless you use surplus sources - even then, it still won’t be as cheap as you may want it)…

Good luck!


ok thanks, I might look in to the table top concept. I dont think ill use anything on the legs as im not planning on it looking like a conventional table. Im looking for a base this weekend and so could use anything as a table body, my tutor suggested anything like a motorcycle frame so ill have to see what looks good and 'doable'.