How Do Air Compressors Work?
p12d15ing > 11-16-2021, 05:17 AM
How Do Air Compressors Work?
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 we’ve 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. We’ve compiled a guide to all the major types of air compressor, how they work and how they differentiate from one another.
Whether you’re an engineering manager or in charge of facilities for your company, being informed about how air compressors function and what they’re 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. We’ll 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.
Type of Compressor: Single or Two Stage?
A Single-stage air compressor is typically smaller in frame size and has a lower amount of pressure – for the compression process only happened once.
Whereas for Two-stage air compressor, the compression process happened twice to double the pressure. While a two-stage compressor produces higher air power, they often cost more and produces more noise.
How Do Single and Dual Phase Compressors Operate?
Single phase compressors, also referred to as piston air compressors, works in a relatively simple and straightforward way. First, air is drawn into the cylinder; from here, it is compressed once by a single piston movement within a vacuum system.
The power of this compression is measured in PSI (pounds per square inch) or Bar – the higher the PSI/Bar, the more power the compressor has. In a single stage air compressor, the air is typically compressed at a rate of around 120 PSI (8.2 Bar). After the air has been compressed, it is sent into the storage tank from where it is dispelled into various tools as a source of energy.
Dual phase compressors operate the same way, except there are two stages of compression, rather than just one. After the first round of compression, the air is sent into a second chamber, where it is compressed for the second time, at a rate of around 175 PSI (12.1 Bar). After this, the air is sent to a storage tank in which it is cooled down and ready for application.
Both types of compressor are typically powered by either an electric or petrol motor, which drives the piston and causes the compression to happen.
Single Phase and Dual Phase Applications
Both function in fundamentally the same way and can be used for similar tasks, such as operating a pneumatic drill or other high-powered tools such as those found in a manufacturing plant.
Single phase compressors tend to be used within domestic settings for smaller workshop jobs done with handheld tools, such as woodwork, metal work and general DIY.
Dual phase compressors, on the other hand, are better for larger scale work in operations such as operations needed in vehicle repair shops, pressing factories and other plants where parts are manufactured.
Oil-Free vs. Oil-lubricated Air Compressors
Another way to compare air compressors is to look at whether they use oil or not – there are oil-free and oil-based / lubricated compressors and both are suited to slightly different jobs. For the air to be drawn into the chamber safely and effectively, the piston needs to be in top working order. To work properly, the piston must be lubricated with oil.
With regards to lubrication, there are two main types of compressor to choose from: oil-free and oil-based. The oil is used on the cylinder to ensure the compression goes smoothly.
The Difference Between Oil-Free and Oil-Based Compressors
Oil-free air compressors already have a lubricated cylinder (often with a non-stick material such as Teflon) and therefore require no further maintenance to work properly. Oil-based compressors require oil to be added to the piston area and changed regularly. Just how often you need to change the oil will be outlined in the compressor manufacturer’s manual that came with your compressor.
On the whole, oil-free compressors tend to weigh a lot less than oil-based compressors, as not only do they not have the weight of the oil, but they are more compact machines, requiring fewer separate parts to make them work. Oil-free compressors, being less complex in design, also tend to be more affordable than oil-based compressors.
However, although they’re more weighty and expensive, oil-based compressors have their benefits. For one thing, they are strong and durable, and usually have a longer lifespan than their oil-free counterparts. This is usually because over time the greasing material (usually Teflon) begins to wear down and lose its lubrication abilities.
Another important factor that should be considered when choosing between an oil-free and oil-based compressor is that the oil-less version tends to heat up faster and to a higher temperature than those which use oil. Compressors without oil also make a lot more noise than those with, so if you want a less noisy workplace, this is a factor to consider too.
Oil-Free and Oil-based Compressor Applications
Oilless air compressor is a great option for those in need of a lightweight, low maintenance tool for home use. Oil-based compressors are better suited to heavy duty jobs and commercial and industrial use, as although they’re generally heavier and require more maintenance, they are also more robust and versatile.
For industrial purposes and extensive, day-long use, oil-based compressors are by far the best option. If you’re looking to invest in quality compressors for your business, opting for oil-based machines is almost certainly the best route to take.
Within an industrial or commercial setting, there are numerous uses for oil-based air compressors, including:
Vehicle painting and repairs
Sanding and woodwork
Creating snow banks in ski centres
Tools within dentistry and other medical environments
Pneumatic construction tools such as nail guns
Air cleaning tools such as blowguns
Oil-free compressors can be used for domestic use, such as small-scale jobs like blowing up balloons, home workshop and DIY jobs. They are also largely used in industries where there is a need to avoid the product or consumer coming into contact with oil: food and beverage, pharmaceutical and dental, for example. In these sensitive applications, the consequences of having oil contamination in the air are too high to risk, so having an oil free compressor is a must. There is compressed air quality testing from the International Organisation for Standardisation (ISO) which oil-free technology can help you achieve.
Medical Air Compressors
Werther can manufacture a custom solution for multiple compressed air applications. We can customize any medical air compressor to fit all healthcare needs. If you're interested in our medical grade air compressors, then request your quote today! These compressors are perfect for hospitals, doctors’ offices, vet offices, and much more!
Medical Grade Air Compressors
Werther International's goal is to meet the high standards demanded by the medical industry. Our air compressor products deliver the quality of air needed to keep instruments clean and your patients safe. Medical grade air compressors are used to drive pneumatic devices in surgical areas, critical care areas, nurseries, operating rooms, intensive care, post-operative care, emergency rooms and more.