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Are Pneumatic Compressors Different? Air Compressors for Pneumatic Systems

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The heart of any pneumatic system is an air compressor, or otherwise known as a pneumatic compressor. If a pneumatic system is not fed air in the proper amount and pressure, then all control will be lost and operations won’t succeed. This article will provide you with all the relevant information on pneumatic systems and the compressors that power them.

Table of Contents

What are Pneumatic Systems?

A pneumatic system is a system that uses compressed air to transmit and control energy and is extensively used across an array of industries. In most cases, a pneumatic system relies on a constant supply of compressed air for them to operate effectively.

Pneumatic System Advantages

Pneumatic systems are widely used in different industries for powering automatic machines and they come with a significant amount of advantages. Compared to other systems, pneumatic systems are far more economical, components are less expensive and the parts are more durable so maintenance costs are reduced.

Compressed air systems are less affected by high temperatures, dust, and corrosive environments and so have higher adaptability to harsh environments. Though – it’s important to note that they are still affected by these, just not as much as other systems.

Due to the unlimited supply of air in the atmosphere, there is an unlimited supply of compressed air to be produced. The use of compressed air is not affected by any distance as it can be transported through piping networks and so, pneumatic systems have high effectiveness.

Pneumatic systems are environmentally friendly as they do not produce pollutants. They’re capable of working in environments that demand high cleanliness with proper exhaust air treatment. Their system components are extremely durable and reliable; they cannot be damaged as easily as electromotive components.

Pneumatic systems are also safer than electromotive systems as well because they can work without the risk of causing fire or explosion. Finally, the speeds and pressure of pneumatic systems are easy to adjust with few limitations. They adopt a simple design which makes them far more suitable for use in simple automatic control systems. The choice of either linear or angular rotational movement with simple and continuously variable operational speeds favors them.

Pneumatic System Disadvantages

Nothing is perfect, and of course, pneumatic systems have some limitations in that the compressed air must be processed before use, to ensure water vapor, dust, and other particulates are removed from the air stream. They are liable to produce a lot of noise especially when compressed air is released from the pneumatic components.

Due to pneumatic systems being powered by the force provided by compressed air, their operation is subject to the volume of the compressed air which can vary during compression or heat. And so, the overall accuracy of the system may decrease if the supply of air varies.

The Role of Pneumatic Compressors in Pneumatic Systems

Air compressors are what provide this constant supply of air. The compressor sucks in air from the atmosphere and compresses it by reducing the volume and thus increasing the pressure. The compressed air is then stored in a high-pressure tank called a receiver, and from the receiver, the compressed air is supplied through a series of pipes and valves to the pneumatic system.

Air compressors convert the mechanical energy of an electric (in most cases) or combustion motor into the potential energy that is compressed air. There are several different types of air compressed that are used in pneumatic systems, and I invite you to read further into the various types on the following pages:

Though not all types of compressors have an air receiver tank, because they’re able to produce continuous flow, those that do, use them to smooth the pulsating flow coming from the compressor and aid in cooling and condensing any moisture present. Hence, why pneumatic systems will often implement a storage tank if the compressor itself doesn’t already have one.

The air receiver tank is typically to be large enough to hold all the air that the pneumatic compressor can deliver. And the air pressure will be held at a higher level than necessary to account for any pressure loss through the systems piping network. These large tanks can also help with the dissipation of heat from the compressed air stream.

Compressed Air Treatment for Pneumatic Systems

The compressed air is fed into your pneumatic system must undergo some air treatment to ensure that the pneumatic system operates properly and efficiently. The air will undoubtedly need to be cleaned and dried because atmospheric air is contaminated with dust, smoke, and other particles, as well as containing humidity.

These contaminants will cause the wear of the pneumatic system and all its components, as well as the moisture leading to corrosion. Therefore, it is imperative that coolers are used to reduce the temperature of the hot compressed air, water separators or dryers are used to separate the water vapor or moisture from the air, and filters are used to eradicate any dust, rust, or other particulates.

The air treatment can typically be divided into the following three stages:

  1. Large sized particles are prevented from entering the air compression due to an intake filter
  2. Known as primary air treatment. An aftercooler and dryer aim to lower the temperature of the compressed air and dry out the humidity. Air drying systems can be adsorption type, absorption type, refrigeration type, or even membrane type. Inline filters are used to remove any contaminant particles that are present
  3. Known as secondary air treatment. Further filtering is carried out depending on the requirements, this will typically include additional separators or filters

Another important treatment to consider is the lubrication of moving parts, depending on the type of pneumatic compressor you have. Though some valves may require lubrication as well, which leads to the need to install lubricators to introduce a fine mist of oil into the compressed air. This will help lubricate the moving components of the pneumatic system.

Optimum Performance of Pneumatic Systems

In order to achieve the optimum performance of your pneumatic system, proper distribution of compressed ever is crucial. When analyzing or designing a pneumatic circuit, you must take the following four very important considerations into account:

  • Costs
  • Operational efficiency
  • Operational safety
  • Performance

Control valves should also be used to regulate, monitor, and control directional flow and pressure. The main function of a control valve is to maintain constant downstream pressure in the airlines, irrespective of any variations in upstream pressure.

Due to compressed air flow having such a high velocity, there is a flow-dependent pressure drop between the receiver and the pneumatic system. And this explains why the air tank’s pressure is kept higher than the desired system pressure. Just before entering the desired application, the pressure can be regulated to its preference.

FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions)

How does a pneumatic compressor work?

Pneumatic compressors work by forcing air into an area and then decreasing the volume of the area which in turn increases the pressure of the air. The air is then stored in an air receiver tank before the compressed air is supplied through a series of pipes and valves to the pneumatic system

What are pneumatic compressors?

Pneumatic compressors are the foundation of any pneumatic system, they’re the part of the system that generates and provides the power for effective operation. Pneumatic compressors compressed atmospheric air into smaller volumes which increases the kinetic energy and pressure of the air. This now pressurized air is sent through the system and allows it to function.

What are the 3 types of compressors?

The 3 main types of air compressors are a reciprocating piston, rotary screw, and rotary vane. But it’s important to know that these are not the only types of air compressors, and there are indeed others.

Which compressor is used in pneumatic system?

It’s possible that you can find any compressor powering a pneumatic system, whether that be a reciprocating, rotary screw, rotary vane, axial flow, or centrifugal compressor. It is generally down to the preference of whoever is installing the system, each has their own benefits.

If you have any questions regarding pneumatic compressors and systems, please leave a comment below, with a photo if applicable, so that someone can help you!

By Aidan Weeks

A passionate Mechanical Engineer with endless enthusiasm for fluid power - building off the back of over 18 years of high quality contribution and discussion stimulated by Bill Wade here at About Air Compressors. With both practical and theoretical experience in pneumatics and hydraulics, I'm putting my knowledge to work - and working my grey-matter through my research, assistance and publishing work here at About Air Compressors. Feel free to reach out any time! P.S. A HUGE shout out to Doug who really offers such great value to all visitors to About Air Compressors - once again, feeling like I'm standing on the shoulders of GIANTS by getting to work alongside such a great community

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