Gear Up: How Gear Pumps Stack Up

Gear pumps work by trapping fluid between the teeth of two or three rotating gears. Often, they are magnetically driven, which means they use less “wetted” materials for greater chemical compatibility. These pumps operate well with high system pressure applications and are commonly used for hydraulic fluid power uses, for example in tractors and garbage trucks, and with heavier viscosity fluids, such as oil, that are not compressible.

Gear pumps feature true positive displacement with every revolution delivering a precise volume. Since each pocket of fluid that passes through the chamber is small and so many pockets go through per unit time, the flow rate is virtually pulseless.

With metering, circulation, dosing, and transfer capabilities, gear pumps are efficient in offering a fast response, continuous flow, and dose accuracy. Analytical chemists use gear pumps for dissolution testing, liquid handling, sample dilution, and flash chromatography. The pumps handle fluids in diverse industries from dispensing spray wax coatings onto foods to metering flavors and fragrances to adding optical brighteners to paper. They are found in chemical processing, laboratories, pharmaceuticals, industrial facilities, energy and fuels, and paint and ink production.

Gear Pumps vs Peristaltic Pumps

While peristaltic pumps offer many advantages, a gear pump is sometimes a better choice than a peristaltic pump. Gear pumps deliver a wider range of flow capabilities than peristaltic pumps and a slightly wider range than hose pumps. Because gear pumps can use more rigid tubing as the solutions enters and exits the pump, there is little to no absorption of fluid. Conversely, peristaltic pumps operate with more flexible tubing allowing for some fluid absorption and fluid fluctuations.


Features Gear Pumps Peristaltic Pumps
Positive displacement Fixed volumes due to rigid components May vary due to age of tubing
Pressure capabilities Higher back pressures Lower pressure capabilities; better suction
Temperature range Wide Varied range, but not as wide
Pulsation Less* (near pulseless) More
Particulates Does not handle particulates Handles particulates
Viscosity Handles fluids with lower viscosities Handles higher viscous fluids
*Compared to most peristaltic pumps. Large-hose peristaltic pumps are the exception

Maintenance for gear pumps is more time-consuming than peristaltic pumps, as users must open up the pump to clean its gears and the pump head. Also, gear pumps may be limited in terms of chemical compatibility, with pump materials typically crafted of stainless steel, PTFE, or PEEK. Finally, particulates are messy within a gear pump and the pump does not tolerate them well. In this instance, a peristaltic pump may be the better option.

When an application calls for pumping a clean fluid without particulates in a consistent flow, a gear pump is often the best pump to use. For example, in industrial applications such as pumping inks, coatings, or for pipeline injection, a gear pump would be the recommended solution.

Gear Pump Designs

Gear pumps consist of the drive and pump head. Most commonly the drives are combined with the following two options of attached pump heads.

The cavity-style is designed to handle higher inlet pressures. They employ two or more rotating gears that mesh together and depend on the surrounding fluid pressure in the magnetic cup to maintain a tight seal between the gear teeth. This pump head is best for applications requiring suction lift, frequent cycling, or a pressured inlet.

The suction-shoe design gives higher delivery pressures and superior priming performance. These pressure-loaded pump heads have a suction shoe positioned around the inlet. Higher pressure in the magnetic cup relative to the inlet side holds the gears and suction shoe tightly together. This design increases volumetric accuracy by ensuring complete fluid transfer with no backflow or leakage between gear tips, even at elevated pressures. Since the pump efficiency increases as discharge pressure increases, these pump heads work well with applications requiring high initial differential pressures and precise flow rates.

The Best Pump for the Job?

Gear pumps are the optimal choice when seeking hydraulic and power efficiency, corrosion- and abrasion-resistance, a pulseless continuous flow with no dynamic seals, and a fast response. Because they can run for long periods between maintenance, they are suitable for continuous duty applications, such as filling and dispensing operations requiring a pulseless flow and general transfer and sample delivery.