Pneumatic systems are designed to turn the movement of pressurized gas (usually compressed air, though other inert gases can be used, as well) into mechanical motion. Pneumatics are used in everything from dentistry to mining.
Though the concept is relatively simple, pneumatic systems can be incredibly complex, with hundreds of individual components. Common pneumatic components include, but are not limited to:
Compressors: Gas compressors increase the pressure of the gas (again, usually air) stored in a pressure vessel by reducing the gas’s volume. Compressors may be gas, diesel, or electrically powered, and a number of different technologies can be employed. Compressors are essentially the “heart” of a pneumatic system.
After the gas is pressurized, it is fed to the pneumatic system through a valve, tube, or pipe.
Cylinders: Pneumatic cylinders, also known as air cylinders, transform the pressurized air generated by compressors into motion. Specifically, cylinders produce reciprocating linear motion; i.e. back and forth, or in and out, motion.
Cylinders can vary greatly in size, appearance, and function, but most fall into one of three general types. Single-acting cylinders use compressed air to create driving force in only one direction (usually out), with an internal spring to return to their starting position. Double-acting cylinders utilize compressed air power for both extension and retraction. Multi-stage, or telescoping, cylinders include a piston rod within a series of hollow, nested stages; the piston rod extends, pushing the stages out in succession to create a segmented piston with a stroke longer than a standard piston of the same collapsed length.
Manifolds: Pneumatic manifolds provide a junction point for the distribution of compressed air to multiple implements. Manifolds include a number of threaded ports (generally in even numbers) for the attachment of supply lines, which can be used to power nearly any other sort of pneumatic device.
Photo Credit: Pneumadyne
A number of configurations are available, including inline, 90-degree and terminal and junction blocks. Pneumatic manifolds can be manufactured from a range of materials, such as aluminum, brass, stainless steel, and engineered plastics.
Valves: Valves control the flow of compressed gas through a pneumatic system. Most common are electromechanically operated solenoid valves, which provide fast on and off switching for precise control of pneumatic operations.
- Intro to Pneumatic Components 125 https://www.toolingu.com/class-570125-intro-to-pneumatic-components.html
- BBC – BCSE Bitesize: Pneumatics http://www.bbc.co.uk/schools/gcsebitesize/design/systemscontrol/pneumaticsrev2.shtml