How Do Air Compressors Work?

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Air compressors are an invaluable tool for both industrial work and DIY at home, and there are several different types to choose from depending on the job you need doing. Air compressors have a number of uses, such as to fill gas cylinders for industrial purposes and scuba diving, to create the power needed to run pneumatic tools and spray guns, for pumping up automotive tyres, and within heating and air conditioning systems.

As weve touched on here, there are myriad uses for air compressors both in commercial and domestic environments. Within the category of air guns, there are several types, each of which is suitable for a different job. Weve compiled a guide to all the major types of air compressor, how they work and how they differentiate from one another.

Whether youre an engineering manager or in charge of facilities for your company, being informed about how air compressors function and what theyre used for is handy and can help you make the proper decisions for your business and industry.

Get all the information you need to know about air compressors, complete with the infographic below, with our comprehensive guide. Well address the benefits of using premium air compressors in your industry, as well as the questions of what are compressors? and how does a compressor work?, covering all the essentials in one convenient place.

The infographic below shows how a Hydrovane series rotary sliding vane air compressor works

Why Use Air Compressors?

Since their invention in the 19th Century, mechanical, automated air compressors have continued to be one of the most widely used tools in industrial settings. Air compressors provide a continuous stream of power that is safer and cooler than many other forms of energy. For many industries, such as metal work and mining environments, air compressors are an absolutely essential tool. After the basic utilities of water, gas and electric, compressed air is actually considered to be the fourth utility.

Air compressors are also an affordable choice of tool for many manufacturing jobs, as they are durable, and high quality types require minimal maintenance and repairs.

Between the two main categories of compressor the scroll (piston) compressor and the rotary screw (reciprocating) compressor, you have a tool for every type of industrial and commercial setting, as well as various domestic uses.

Single Phase vs. Dual Phase Compressors

The most common types of air compressors are single and dual phase, both of which operate in the same fundamental way, only dual phase has one more step involved in the compression process. In a single phase compressor, there is one chamber and the air is compressed a single time; in a dual phase, there are two chambers and the air is put through compression twice.

Be careful not to confuse single and dual phase compressors with the number of cylinders a compressor has. Both types of compressor use two cylinders; one-cylinder compressors are less common, because air balancing is made easier with two cylinders. The difference between single and dual stage compressors is that in the former the cylinders are both the same size; in the latter they are different sizes.

Air Compressor Grades

Consumer-grade air compressor is mainly for low pressure single tool usage. Most commonly found in household or small garage workshop.

Contractor-grade air compressor is portable yet capable of providing a steady supply of compressed air. Typically wheeled, or mounted on a small vehicle to enable use of pneumatic tools on work-sites.

Commercial air compressor is continuous high pressure, heavy-duty air compressors that can power multiple tools at a time. Designed to be fixed in one place, they are most suitable for industrial and marine usage.


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