Pneumatic systems are one of the primary ways that manufacturing and industrial businesses use compressed air to power equipment. These systems provide a powerful, versatile and efficient method of delivering linear or rotary motion to equipment such as cylinders, actuators, motors, grippers, nozzles and more.

How Do Pneumatics Work?

What is a pneumatic system? In the most basic sense, pneumatic systems can be thought of as comprising three building blocks:

  1. Source: A source of compressed air or gas (typically, an air compressor)
  2. Delivery: A method of delivering the compressed air or gas to the point of usage (tubes, pipes or hoses)
  3. Tools: The work device that completes a movement or action powered by the compressed air (grippers, actuators, and other types of tools or devices)

This is, of course, a vast oversimplification, and pneumatic systems involve more components and pieces of equipment. These include:

  • Air preparation and conditioning: In order to work effectively and efficiently, compressed air must be cool, clean and dry. Air preparation equipment includes filters, dryers and sometimes lubricant equipment to deliver oil mist, if necessary.
  • Directional control: Valves are used to efficiently control the flow of air from the source through the delivery media to the point of use.

We will now look further into the best practices of how a pneumatic system works most efficiently.



Best Practices for Pneumatic Systems

Because pneumatic systems are relatively simple in concept (even as they may be extremely complex in execution, as in a large manufacturing plant), there are many methods and ways in which they can be implemented. In fact, one of the strengths of pneumatic systems is that they can easily be customized and tailored to suit the exact needs of the facility or application while continuing to operate at high efficiency in nearly any configuration.

There are, however, several best practices to consider when developing, managing and maintaining pneumatic systems. These include:

  • Maintaining the system properly: Leaks are the single largest efficiency drain in pneumatic systems, since any means of escape for pressurized air means that pressure will drop. This, in turn, will require more air to be pressurized in order to sufficiently power equipment, driving up energy costs unnecessarily. Be sure to include leak checks as a routine and key part of your air compressor maintenance plan.
  • Understanding and minimizing pressure drop: When transmitting compressed air (even without leaks), some degree of pressure drop is an inevitable fact of life, due simply to the nature of physics. There are, however, ways to manage and minimize pressure drop through efficient system design. In most pneumatic systems, air is provided from the compressor at a pressure of 60 to 120 PSI (pounds per square inch). Pressure will drop incrementally from the moment the air leaves the compressor to the point of use. Thus, the best way to minimize pressure drop is to minimize the distance that air travels from the compressor to the point of use. This means you should build systems that are tubed and piped in the most direct, efficient design possible.
  • Choosing the right valves: Directional control through valves is one of the key methods of control in a pneumatic system. An ideal valve choice is generally a 5-way center exhaust valve. This valve gives you the ability to control and direct air while also offering an “off” position when the emergency stop is activated.
  • Choosing the right compressor: The air compressor can be considered the heart of the pneumatic system, since it is the source of the pressurized air that drives the tools and equipment. The right compressor should offer the capacity you need, the right conditioning and preparation components to maximize efficiency, and the right cost for your budget.

This information gives you the basic components that make up a pneumatic system, along with deeper insight into the most efficient way for everything to work together. At Kaishan, we provide best-in-class air compressors to power pneumatic systems and any other components you may require. To learn more, contact us today.

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