There are a whole host of ways to pressuize gas from atmospheric pressure to a whole range of low, medium, high and ultra high pressures. As a result of varying demands to compress gas, whether it be air or another gas – a number of compressor designs have emerged to suit each application perfectly.
What types of air compressor are there?
Air compressors however can be broken down into types in several ways. This probably needs a diagram to explain it more clearly.
There are 2 main categories of air compressor:
- Positive Displacement (Constant Flow Compressors)
- Dynamic Compression (Constant Pressure Compressors)
Types of Positive Displacement Air Compressors (Constant Flow Compressors)
Within the positive displacement air compressor category, there are:
- Reciprocating Air Compressors (Piston Air Compressors)
- Rotary Screw Compressors
- Rotary Vane Compressors
- Scroll Compressors (AW*)
Types of Dynamic Compressors (Constant Pressure Compressors)
Within the Dynamic Compression Air Compressor category, there are:
- Centrifugal Air Compressors
- Axial Flow Air Compressors
What are the 3 most common types of air compressors?
The 3 most common air compressor types are:
- Reciprocating air compressors
- Rotary screw air compressors
- Centrifugal air compressors
Rotary vane air compressors and axial flow air compressors are also other types of air compressor.
Commmon Types of Air Compressor Explained
Reciprocating air compressors
Reciprocating air compressors are positive displacement piston type air compressors that suck in air into a chamber and compress it. Read more about reciprocating air compressors here.
Rotary Screw air compressors
Rotary screw air compressors work by generating compression continuously at the rotary screw drive air end of the compressor. Air enters the unit at the inlet port of one of the two large screws rotating against one another, also known as the rotors or rotary screws. This air then moves down the length of the screws and compresses the air towards the outlet due to the air gaps in the rotors getting smaller and smaller. Read more about rotary screw air compressors here.
Centrifugal air compressors
Centrifugal compressors draw air into the centre of their rotating impeller using its radial blades. The blades essentially produce a pressure variation very similar to an airfoil of a spinning propeller on an aircraft or wind turbine. The centrifugal compressors are built in stages, and each stage has a part to play in the overall pressure increase of the system. Read more about centrifugal air compressors here.
Rotary Vane air compressors
Typically an electric motor that rotates the rotary vane shaft, the vanes to draw in free air, and compress it as they rotate, generating compressed air power. Read more about rotary vane air compressors here.
Axial Flow air compressors
Axial compressors are typically made up of many alternating rows of rotating (rotors) and stationary (stators) blades. The blades are similar to that of an aircraft wing as they have small airfoil cross-sections. Jet engines are actually extremely large examples of axial flow air compressors – in their case using the compression to generate thrust. A bit more than your commercial variety axial flow air compressor!
Air Compressor Applications & Uses