What is an Air Compressor Used for?
Introduction to Air Compressors
Air compressors have been an important feature in the manufacturing industry for a long time, ensuring that compressed air is readily available whenever needed. In fact, it was in the mid-1700s that the very first mechanically-operated air compressor units were made! Since then, they have gone on to become so important to manufacturing that they are now known as the ‘fourth utility’ alongside electricity, gas, and water.
Let’s take a moment to find out more about air compressors and what they are used for, so that you can pick the right model for your needs.
The Basic Principles of Air Compressors
When you consider just how many industries require compressed air, it’s clear that they are in high demand, but how exactly do they work?
Put simply, air compressors work by taking atmospheric air and subjecting it to pressure inside a pressurised air container. This pressurised air compressor can then be engaged when needed, by converting the energy into kinetic energy that can power equipment, such as pneumatic tools in your manufacturing plant or construction site.
Interestingly, air compressors work in much the same way as combustion engines, in that they need a pump cylinder, crankshaft, and piston to produce the required compressed air. When you think about how these parts work, you can see how air compressors provide air for pool toys, bicycle tyres, vehicle painting, fixing vehicle engines, as well as driving high-powered tools, routine maintenance power tools, conveyor belts, and more!
Types of Air Compressor
There is more than one type of air compressor on offer, and each comes with its own unique benefits. Let’s take a look at the different types of air compressors below, and learn more about which one is right for your business:
Dynamic Air Compressors
Dynamic compressors are used in operations that require high-pressure air compressors on a large scale. They work by converting gas into pressurised air.
The most commonly used type of dynamic compressors are known as centrifugal compressors, or turbo compressed air units. As dynamic compressors are used to produce high-pressure, delivered on large volume jobs, they often have several compressed air stages, ensuring they can provide the output required.
Positive Displacement Air Compressors
Positive displacement compressors are used for industrial purposes and can be large or small air compressors, depending on your specific requirements.
These include piston air compressors, reciprocating air compressors, scroll compressors, and rotary compressed air solutions such as rotary screw compressors, rotary tooth and rotary vane.
The rotary design works to gradually compress air until tank pressure reaches the required level, before being released for use via a port or valve attached to the chamber.
Applications of Air Compressors
Air compressors provide clean air for a variety of industries and needs, including oil-free compressors for industries with the strictest anti-contamination regulations.
There are a vast and varied number of applications for compressed air, and some of these include:
- Powering tools such as nail guns
- Air tools
- Pressure washing
- HVAC systems (Heating, Ventilation, and Air Conditioning)
- Scuba diving
- Inflating tires on cars, or bicycle tires
- Air brakes
- Spray painting
- Pumping up pool inflatables and air beds
- And many more!
In fact, the use of compressed air is in demand across a range of industries, and includes areas that need low-pressure air compressors, as well as more demanding manufacturing needs.
Factors Differentiating Air Compressors
With so many different air compressor units to choose from, let’s explore the differentiating factors of some of the most popular air compressor solutions:
Oil Lubricated Air Compressors Vs Oil Free Compressors
Oil-lubricated air compressor units are hard-working and long-lasting and often have a much longer lifespan than an oil-free compressor. This is because the oil protects the components so that they don’t need repairs as often.
Oil-free compressors, however, are often used in industries that demand clean air solutions, such as the food industry. They are popular as they do not emit particles of dirt or oil that can contaminate other materials and cause dangerous problems for consumers.
Single-Stage Vs Two-Stage Piston Compressors
The main difference between a single-stage and a two-stage air compressor is the number of times the air compressor turns and compresses the air between the inlet valve and the tool. Single-stage units compress the air once, and two-stage units compress it twice, with double the air pressure in the air tank, and a higher discharge pressure.
When it comes to drive mechanisms for your air compressor, you can choose between belt drive and direct drive, and between fixed speed and variable speed. When choosing your compressor, it’s important to note that a direct-drive compressor has fewer moving parts, making it more durable and offering greater pressure than a belt-drive compressor.
Customers in the manufacturing industry will find that a VSD (Variable Speed Drive) is a better choice when your air needs tend to change throughout the day, but a fixed speed is best when you are looking for higher pressure on a constant basis.
The Benefits of Using an Air Compressor
Whether you choose reciprocating compressors, medium-pressure compressors, or even electric-powered compressors, there are a huge number of benefits for both personal and commercial use.
Take a look at the top benefits below:
Better efficiency compared to electric tools
Light, functional air tools
Cost efficiency and reliability of air tools
Easy to access and store
Easy to maintain
Better control over air usage
Onsite air generation
Invest in Your Air Compressor Today!
When you consider the impact a few gallons of compressed air can have on your business, it makes sense to invest in the best machine for your needs.
Not sure if a rotary screw compressor is right, or have questions about getting the best air compressor solution for your remote sites? We are here to help you!
For more in-depth information on air compressors, read our detailed guides and articles, or get in touch with our team today!