Skip to Main Content

Fluid Power Technicians


Machinery that operates using fluid power has been in use for thousands of years. In Roman times, water flowing past a rotating paddle wheel produced power for milling. Early leather bellows, hand-operated by blacksmiths, were the first known devices to use compressed air. In Italy, in the 16th century, a more sophisticated bellows was invented that used falling water to compress air. Shortly thereafter, Denis Papin, a French physicist, used power from a waterwheel to compress air in a similar manner. 

The 19th century brought the first practical application of an air-driven, piston-operated hammer, invented in Great Britain by George Law. In the mid-1800s, water-cooled reciprocating compressors were introduced in the United States and resulted in the development of large compressed-air units that factory workers used to operate industrial tools. In 1875, American engineer and industrialist George Westinghouse created and utilized a continuous automatic compressed-air brake system for trains.

In the latter part of the 19th century and the early part of the 20th, experiments in fluid dynamics by Osborne Reynolds and Ludwig Prandtl led to a new understanding of the way fluid behaves in certain circumstances. These findings laid the groundwork for modern fluid power mechanics. The 20th and 21st centuries have witnessed a significant increase in the use of fluid power for many different uses.

Fluid power workers are now employed in any number of industries, from aerospace to materials handling. Fluid power is also routinely used and depended upon in daily life. Anyone who has ever ridden in a car, for example, has relied on fluid power to operate its hydraulic braking system. With fluid power so widely used, many businesses throughout the United States employ men and women who are trained in its various aspects. Fluid power technicians, with their specialized skills and knowledge, have become a mainstay of industrial support groups that work with this type of machinery.

Related Professions