From small drills to powering a jet’s engine, air compressors are everywhere. You can find massive compressors air units and even the smallest ones because these devices come in every shape and size. They are rapidly replacing the belt-an-pulley and other mechanical systems that were once in high-demand for powering equipment.
Since the end of the 18th century, these devices are making their way into every sector of the world. These devices can power even the most massive units by working on the pneumatic system as it is that powerful. Air compressors can be found in homes, workplaces, manufacturing industries, and even automobile workshops.
They are so popularly used due to the incredible benefits they boast. The most significant advantage is that air compressors use the air from the atmosphere and do not require air from a gas station to operate. It can power heavy equipment and even work perfectly for powering small tools such as drills, nail guns, and HVAC systems.
There are two basic types of compressors, including positive displacement air compressors and dynamic air compressors. These are further sub-categorized into the reciprocating, rotating screw, and centrifugal air compressors. All these offer a unique set of benefits and are perfect for use for different applications.
So, how does an air compressor work?
Working of an Air Compressor
To understand how an air compressor works, you must have an understanding of two processes, which are compression and release operations. These devices work on pneumatic-system and are very efficient as powering a wide variety of tools and appliances.
To simply state, an air compressor works on the principle that when an amount of air compresses, it occupies a smaller volume and gets highly pressurized. A compressor may use a simple piston-cylinder system that is a reciprocating air compressor to power a tool. Or these may use a rotary screw or a rotating impeller to compress the air and convert the atmospheric air into high-pressure and low-volume air.
An air compressor works very efficiently, but it requires a power source to start operating. Without a power source, air compressors will not work. In terms of power source, there are two categories of air compressors. One category is the gasoline-powered air compressors, and the second one is electric-powered air compressors.
Gasoline-powered air compressors are perfect for applications in rural areas where electricity is not readily available.
We can understand the working of an air compressor by taking into consideration the simplest air compressor type, and that is the reciprocating air compressor, which uses a simple piston-and-cylinder mechanism.
The basic components of a reciprocating air compressor include a crankshaft, connecting rod, cylinder, piston, and a valve head. There is an inlet on one end of the compressor, and the discharge valve is at the
opposite end. The inlet valve’s function is to inject or suck air from the atmosphere, and the discharge valve provides a way for compressed air to exit the compressor.
A piston moves back and forth in the cylinder and creates a vacuum in the compressor. When a piston retracts, the air from the atmosphere is sucked into the cylinder from the inlet. When the piston extends, the sucked air is compressed, which then passes through the discharge valve. At this stage, the inlet valve is shut to prevent the compressed air from escaping through it.
How does an air compressor with oil work?
It is crucial to understand how the lubrication system works as it helps in maintaining the air compressor. There are two types of lubrication pumps that are found in air compressors. These types include oil-lubricated pumps and oil-free pumps.
In oil-lubricated pumps, the lubrication system works on the concept of an oil bath, which is the splashing of oil on the cylinder and bearings to lubricate the compressor. It is also known as the oil-flooded lubrication. In this system, a small amount of oil does get mixed with compressed air. Moreover, these pumps require detailed maintenance.
The second type of lubrication system is the oil-free lubrication. The bearings in the air compressor are treated with lubrication that lasts long. These require light maintenance but are much noisier than the oil-lubricated system.
The Safety of Air Compressors
Safety is an essential part of the air compressor operations. When it comes to an understanding of the working of an air compressor, we need to understand its safety functions as well. The two most significant elements make an air compressor safe to use, and these include pressure switches, overload valve, and air regulators.
The pressure switches in air compressors are an essential part of the system. These allow the motor that is powering an air compressor to turn on or turn off based on the pressure. The pressure of the air will not exceed the cut-out point due to pressure switches.
As soon as the pressure reaches the specific point, that is the cut-out point, the pressure switch sends a signal to the motor, and it turns off. It saves the air compressor from overloading, and it is what makes the compressors safe for use.
Compressor Relief Valves
Air compressors have one drawback, and it can turn into a deadly situation. The air compressor explosion is massive and turns into a complete disaster. The safety valve, also known as the compressor relieve valve, is a backup for pressure switches.
When the pressure switches fail to turn off the motor, the compressor relief valve opens and relieves the compressor of excessive air. It releases air until the pressure of the air reaches a safe threshold. Once it reaches a safe value, the compressor relief valve closes.
You will find thousands of air compressor models by hundreds of different manufacturers. You must choose the one that is suitable for your use. Choosing the wrong air compressor can increase the risks of explosions and air compressor failures! When investing in an air compressor, make sure the money does not go in vain!