Using pneumatic components within your machines and equipment is an easy way to keep maintenance costs low and keep your machines running longer. Our guide to pneumatic components will help you understand the basics so you can quickly integrate them into your equipment. So, whether you’re looking to replace a faulty valve or design a pneumatic system from scratch, this guide is a perfect starting point.
Table of Contents
What is a Pneumatic System
A pneumatic system uses compressed air to transmit and control energy. You might find these types of systems used in train doors, automatic production lines, or mechanical clamps. Below you’ll find a comprehensive list of the many types of pneumatic components, when you might use them, benefits, and limitations. For your convenience, all the pneumatic parts listed below can be found in our online web store.
Advantages of Pneumatic Systems
As mentioned before, using pneumatic systems is an easy way to keep maintenance costs low and keep your machines running longer. However, these are just a few benefits of pneumatic components. Using pressurized air components gives you the following advantages:
Simplicity of design and control – Machines are easily designed using standard cylinders and other components and operate via simple on-off control.
Reliability – Because gas is compressible, pneumatic equipment is less prone to shock damage. Gas absorbs excessive force, whereas fluid in hydraulics directly transfers force. Compressed gas can be stored, so machines still run for a while if electrical power is lost.
Safety – There is a very low chance of fire compared to hydraulic oil. In addition, newer machines are usually overload safe.
Limitations of Pneumatic Systems
While pneumatic systems offer many advantages over hydraulic systems, pneumatic systems do have a couple limitations. One of them is they are more prone to leakage. This is where routine preventive maintenance checks can save you many headaches. If you keep a regular maintenance schedule, you’ll catch leaks before they become substantial problems.
Another key difference between pneumatic and hydraulic systems is that pneumatic systems often store pressure in their pipes for a lot longer. This can make repairs a little trickier. The system must be depressurized correctly before starting any repairs. Thus, we recommend consulting with an experienced technician. Luckily, our technicians at Trimantec have extensive experience working with many types of pneumatic components.
Thread Types for Pneumatic Components
Before diving into the various types of pneumatic components, we’d first like to mention thread types. Components such as air valves and air cylinders will often have threaded ports. With Airtac you have three options: NPT, PT, or G (BSPP) thread type. If your equipment is originally from China, 9 times out of 10 you’ll need PT threads. If it was manufactured in North America, then you’re safe to go with NPT threads. You may need to reference the user manual to find this information or contact the original equipment manufacturer.
Other alternative options include using different fittings or thread seal tape. To learn how to accurately identify any thread type, check out our Thread Identification Guide.
Pneumatic Cylinders and Actuators
Pneumatic cylinders and actuators move a load using pressurized air stored within a piston or diaphragm. Depending on the direction of the load, you’ll either need an air cylinder or rotary actuator.
Pneumatic cylinders, commonly known as air cylinders or air rams, move a load in a straight line using a piston rod. Compressed air either pushes or pulls the piston rod in and out of the cylinder barrel. Two key parameters for air cylinders include stroke and bore size. Stroke refers the distance the cylinder piston or rod extends when it is actuated. Bore refers to the diameter of the pneumatic cylinder. The larger the bore size, the more pressure or force the cylinder can exert.
Single Acting Cylinders
Single acting air cylinders use one compressed air port to either push or pull the rod in a single direction. The rod then returns via spring action.
Double Acting Cylinders
Double acting air cylinders use compressed air ports on both ends of the cylinder to extend and retract the rod.
There are a few options when shopping for air cylinders that allow you to further customize it for your application. For example, cushions allow for quieter piston operation. Also, many of the cylinder models on our site have various mounting options available.
Rotary actuators rotate objects around an axis. They use compressed air that produces continuous torque.
Airtac’s rotary actuators, available in our web store, have a double rack-and-pinion design. Air enters through a port that pushes the piston linearly, which causes the connected rack’s gear teeth to engage with the teeth of the circular pinion and rotate the pinion shaft up to 360 degrees.
Pneumatic valves, also known as air valves, help stop and start the flow of air in a pneumatic system. These can be manual like a foot valve or they can be electrical like a solenoid valve.
These electric directional control valves stop, start or change the direction of air flow by applying electricity to the solenoid. To learn more about the different types of solenoid valves head on over to our Solenoid Valves 101 blog post.
Fluid Control Valves
These valves control the critical flow of fluids, including air, gas, water, oil, steam and other liquids. Applying electricity to the solenoid quickly stops, starts or changes the direction of the flow of the fluid.
The two main types of solenoid valves are direct acting and pilot operated valves. Direct acting valves “directly” use the power supply from the electromagnet to open and close the valve. On the other hand, pilot operated valves use the electromagnetic power combined with the pressure of the flowing air/liquid/gas to open and close the valve.
Manual and Mechanical Valves
These directional control valves start, stop or change the direction of air flow via manual or mechanical actuation. An example would be a manual foot valve that it actuated by pressing a pedal.
Special Purpose Valves
Examples of special purpose valves include non-return valves and flow control valves. Non-return valves, also known as check valves, only allow fluid to flow in one direction. A flow control valve regulates the flow or pressure of a fluid.
What Are Pneumatic Logic Systems?
Pneumatic logic systems are also referred to as air logic controls. These systems are used for controlling industrial processes and acquiring machine data.
Air Logic can perform almost any function normally handled by relays, pressure or vacuum switches, time delays, counters, and limit switches. While the design is similar, compressed air is the control medium instead of electrical current.
One of the most common uses is pneumatic counting. A pneumatic counter can provide valuable equipment data. Some mechanical or electrical devices may be impractical or inconvenient, depending on the application.
For example, Control Line’s AC-6 Pneumatic Counter can provide event recording, piece or part counting, or complete cycle counting. The data can be monitored and used for production purposes or in implementing a preventive maintenance plan. For more guidance on using a pneumatic logic system, our Air Logic blog gives more in-depth information.
Pneumatic accessories help you customize and adapt pneumatic components to your system requirements. Below are a few common accessories and how you might incorporate them with pneumatic parts.
Exhaust silencers reduce the noise levels of pneumatic equipment while in operation. This improves user comfort and protects the system from intruding contaminants.
Position sensors are commonly used with air cylinders. They detect the movement of an object and converts it into signals suitable for processing, transmission, or control.
Drip leg drains
Drip legs, also known as condensate drains, catch condensate and moisture in compressed air systems.
Pneumatic distribution blocks provide convenient port locations for pressure gauges, transducers, and other components.
Air manifolds allow for a convenient junction point for the distribution of fluids or gases. They’re used to provide pneumatic power to two or more locations to supply multiple tools.
Use spare coils to exchange a damaged coil or to convert the voltage level of a previously purchased valve.
Pneumatic System Maintenance
Preventive maintenance for pneumatic systems is important to getting the best performance out of your equipment. Regularly checking the state of pneumatic systems helps you catch wear and tear before it becomes a problem.
One common maintenance issue with pneumatic systems is air leakage. Detecting this early can save your system from overload, wasted compressed air, increased operating costs, and even loss of quality production.
Sometimes leakage is detectable by simply listening for air loss within the pneumatic system. Alternatively, you can use a water and soap solution, spray it on the system, and look for air bubbles.
Fixing air leakage can be as easy as tightening fittings. In major instances, replacing a broken part may be necessary.
Interested in learning more about preventive maintenance for your industrial equipment? Our Preventive Maintenance blog is a great resource.
Pneumatic Components in Industrial Automation
Pneumatic systems offer a multitude of benefits for the end users, technicians, and engineers. Therefore, we advocate integrating pneumatic systems into industrial automation solutions. Take a look at some of our most popular builds using a variety of pneumatic components.
Why Airtac Pneumatic Components?
In 1988, Airtac began as a small manufacturer of solenoid valves in Taiwan. Since then they have grown into one of the world’s largest pneumatic component manufacturing enterprises with locations throughout Asia and Europe.
Their dedication to industry leading research and development sets them apart from other pneumatic component manufacturers. They employ a team of 276 engineers and constantly invest in new production and testing operations to ensure a premier pneumatic product.
They offer superior value through key benefits including:
- High Quality
- Low Pricing
- Diverse Product Range
- Cross Compatibility with Existing Brands
As of summer of 2018, Airtac has opened a new branch office in Houston, Texas. With a branch now located in the United States, you can expect shorter lead times for select valves, cylinders, and accessories. To check availability on a certain product, don’t hesitate to contact us.
We hope this Pneumatic Components Guide helped you clear up any confusion between the different types of equipment. Cylinders and valves can be specially confusing with all the varying terminology. If you need assistance finding a suitable pneumatic part for your equipment, contact us today at (336) 767-1379. Or, email our sales representative at [email protected]