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What is a Hydraulic Buffer?

By Christy Bieber
Updated: May 17, 2024

A hydraulic buffer absorbs the majority of energy produced in an impact shock through the use of water compression and release. Typically comprising of a piston tube containing a piston and rod that protrudes from the tube, a hydraulic buffer can be used in a number of different impact-related applications. From door closure units to recoil-reducing weaponry tactics, hydraulic buffers are more commonly used than most people would generally consider.

In the automation process of heavy steel or metal fabricated door mechanisms, simple closure mechanics aren’t strong enough to withstand the energy produced by a door as it closes. This often allows the heavy door to slam closed, which is dangerous for anyone who uses the automated doorway. The use of a hydraulic buffer closure relieves the pressure created by the heavy door as it shuts because of the resistance created as the piston is forced through the hydraulic fluid inside the piston tube.

The piston creates fluid displacement. With the movement of the fluid comes powerful resistance that is able to withstand the weight of the heavy door as it closes. This effect means that the door is no longer able to close with an amount of force as to create an impact, but rather must close slowly, allowing the user to safely navigate the doorway.

In the weapons industry, hydraulic buffer tubes have been designed in a much more compact fashion, allowing the user to substantially reduce the amount of recoil or “shoulder shock” produced when the firing pin engages the primer of the shell inside the firing chamber. These hydraulic buffer tubes have greatly reduced the amount of shoulder strain incurred when a soldier is in combat and has to fire either a fully automatic weapon or is firing a heavier piece of weaponry that uses a much larger shell than conventional civilian firearms. Hydraulic buffers are also available for civilian use in hunting rifles or for high-powered, long-distance firearms used by hunting and shooting enthusiasts.

There are also many uses for hydraulic buffer units on much larger scales, such as stop mechanisms for large freight elevators and the lowering units on large industrial crane mechanisms. Buffers used in these applications greatly reduce the speed and shock of impact if either of the two operating mechanisms were to fail. The hydraulic shock buffers that are typically standard equipment on many construction tools, especially demolition tools like jackhammers, are another example.

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