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Vista Projects
Copper Tip Energy Services
Vista Projects
Copper Tip Energy

Off-the-Shelf vs Custom Hydraulic Cylinders

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off the shelf vs custom cover copy

When it comes to selecting a new hydraulic cylinder, you generally have two options: off-the-shelf cylinders or custom manufactured cylinders. While both options have their place, design requirements and application will greatly influence your decision.

Which type is better for your application? In this article we’ll explore the advantages and disadvantages of each option.

Off the shelf

Off-the-shelf cylinders are mass produced with the intention of fitting a wide range of hydraulic systems. They can be found in stock at your local supplier, providing a quick and inexpensive option that can come close meeting your requirements.

Selecting a pre-fabricated cylinder is especially attractive when equipment is down and a replacement is needed in short order. A pre-fabricated cylinder is also an option when manufacturing new equipment. The cylinder can be sourced early in the design process and the mating hydraulic components are designed around it.

Although an off-the-shelf cylinder can be suitable in these situations, a compromise is typically made in regards to materials and quality of design. For example, the barrel may be larger than what you need and your choice of rod material and diameter is limited.

Integrated features such as valves, manifolds and electronics can be found on some off-the-shelf cylinders, but they can be difficult to find and they are not designed with your application in mind.

For existing equipment, compatibility, safety and space issues can arise resulting in increased maintenance costs and downtime. Misalignment is common, putting stress on both the cylinder and mating parts, port orientation can be awkward and lower quality components can degrade rapidly.

Specifying an off-the-shelf cylinder for new equipment design often exposes areas in which it is not the optimum choice. Mounting styles are limited, seals may not be rated for the intended use and limited lifting/load capacity can affect overall performance. An off-the-shelf hydraulic cylinder can become the weakest link of your overall assembly.

“The bitterness of poor quality remains long after the sweetness of low prices are forgotten.” -Benjamin Franklin.

Off-the-Shelf vs Custom Hydraulic Cylinders 1

Custom Hydraulic Cylinders

Custom Hydraulic Cylinders are designed to meet the specific needs of your application. Key requirements such as lifting capacity and operating environment drive the design, instead of availability, resulting in an optimal cylinder for your intended use.

Piston rods, barrels and other components are designed to the precise length and diameter required. Upgraded materials, coatings and finishes can be applied to best suit an application and valves, manifolds and electronics can be integrated directly into the design.

Extreme ambient temperatures, such as sub-arctic conditions or proximity to a furnace, can be accommodated with seal design specific to its intended use. Port sizing and location can be designed to suit overall equipment design and many styles of mounting connections are available.

While the initial cost to manufacture each cylinder may be higher, custom units often pay for themselves over time with greater performance and lower maintenance costs.

In prototyping situations, a custom design can be engineered and refined many times over until the ideal solution is found. The cylinder can then be manufactured at a much lower cost, especially in a fully integrated facility. Since all necessary pre-work is complete, production runs can be delivered in as little as four weeks and recurring orders can be aligned to match your build schedule.

Which is right for you?

Design requirements and application will guide your decision on whether an off-the-shelf cylinder will be sufficient for your task. In low-stress situations, an off-the-shelf cylinder can get you back up and running quickly.

But convenience aside, a custom cylinder will outperform and outlast the competition every time. Designed specifically for your application, a custom design will generally pay off in the long term with reduced down time and maintenance costs. Pricing and delivery can be lower than you think!

Don’t know where to start?

Lean on our expertise. For over thirty years we have been providing engineered, in-house solutions to solve your complex and toughest challenges. We turn rough ideas into comprehensive solutions and we handle the easy ones too!

For more information, visit or speak to a member of our technical sales team at 780-452-2876.

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