Pneumatic systems are defined as a collection of interconnected components that use compressed air to operate automated equipment in a variety of industries. They are often found in dental drills, air brakes on buses, exercise machines, inflatable structures, and more. Regardless of how they are implemented, pneumatic systems all use the same simple components, all of which this blog will outline.
For a pneumatic system to work optimally, high quality air must be used. As the air we breathe contains particulates and volatile organic compounds (VOCs), air intake filters serve as a filtration mechanism that removes any contaminants. Additionally, they remove any moisture, which can damage the machine.
The entire system works in a vacuum and air is drawn into the system using a piston. When the piston is on one end of the cylinder, a vacuum is created to draw air in. As it moves to the other side of the cylinder, the air becomes pressurized, forcing it through a check valve and into a storage tank or accumulator. The piston is able to move back and forth via an electric motor with a crankshaft and connecting rod attached.
Meanwhile, sensors tell the system when the tank has reached maximum pressure. As a result, the compressor will shut off and turn on once the compressed air pressure drops below a certain level.
Check valves are a type of valve that enables compressed air to flow in one direction. Systems use varying types of valves, those of which include solenoid valves, directional control valves, gate valves, relief valves, and more. In particular, check valves do not allow air to flow back into the component through which it just passed. As such, air pressure builds up so that it can work.
Air Treatment Unit
Before the air can make its way into the accumulator and become pressurized, it must pass through an air treatment unit. Essentially, this unit is equipped with a series of fine grade filters to remove finer particulate matter. Additionally, it contains a dryer to remove any water that stays in the air. Then, the air is cooled in order to lower its dew point, allowing more moisture to drop out. The gas is warmed back up before going into the accumulator.
With some air treatment units, a type of chemical called a desiccant is used to collect additional moisture from the air. In some instances, compressors will have FRL units which consist of a filter, regulator, and lubricator. Beyond removing dust and moisture from compressed air, they also provide excellent lubrication to any air-driven tools.
The accumulator tank, or buffer tank, is a cylinder that receives air from the compressor, allowing air to accumulate and build pressure. They are furnished with a primary shut-off sensor, and a relief valve to prevent the tank from becoming pressurized beyond the capacities of the tank wall.
Feed lines push compressed air through various parts of the system. They come in the form of large hoses that allow compressed air to move quickly, and are designed to withstand the strain of pressure without rupturing the cylinder.
Lastly, actuators are the part of the pneumatic system that does the work. With the most common variations being a cylinder or plunger design, compressed air is pushed into the chamber and forced out of a smaller hole as the piston moves forward. This action drives chisels, drills, and other rotating apparatuses.
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