All machines need a form of energy to complete their tasks. Basic machines would require mechanical energy, which could mean a human being providing the force needed. Electricity uses currents to have items move. Hydraulic forces use designated liquids to generate energy.
Some machines, such as electronic bikes that power up lightbulbs when pedaled, combine the forces. Others rely strictly on one source, for safety or efficiency reasons. We will be discussing another force entirely: pneumatics.
What Is Pneumatics?
Pneumatics is the use of compressed air to create viable energy. It is not the same as renewable wind power. Wind power uses the power of local gusts to turn generator turbines. Pneumatics have built-in air storage and rely on the pressure that ensues from putting the air within an enclosed space.
Consider when you blow up a balloon. You are putting air from your lungs into an enclosed rubber space. The balloon expands as it holds a fixed volume of air. If you add too much air, the balloon will pop. That is when the pressure inside the balloon becomes too high.
If you let the balloon and let it fly around, you can see it moving at a rapid rate. While we don’t use balloons in pneumatics, you can witness the power of compressed air in action with such a demonstration.
What about in a pneumatic machine? How do the same principles work? An air compressor reduces the volume of gas within a machine. Reducing the volume increases the air pressure because all the air molecules are compacted.
You use valves with ports to open airflow; this will spur the molecules to move towards an actuator, which in turn generates a force to power the machine. The pressure changes based on how many valves are open, but maintains a healthy equilibrium.
Compressed air needs to be processed before it can be used. While we only need the force itself, air can become contaminated with dust particles, water vapor or other risk elements. These can cause friction within the pneumatic parts.
What Is A Pneumatic System?
A pneumatic system is a system that uses compressed air to do work. They capture air, transport it around a circuit, and accomplish designated tasks with the generated energy. These are present in both manual and automated machines, and within the construction or mining industry. In short, pneumatic machines have a vast amount of applications.
You can find pneumatic systems both in industrial systems and in everyday objects. Dental drills use pneumatic forces during checkups and cleanings, while pipe organs and player pianos use the compressed air to produce remarkable music. Thanks to technological updates, you can also use pneumatics in robotics, which may do wonders for automation and the system.
What Are the Important Pneumatic Components Of A Designated System?
You need several components in a machine to use pneumatic forces. At SMC, we sell all the parts you need, in varying sizes and models. While the specifics may vary, you need parts that capture the air around us, convert it into useful energy, and distribute in a certain area to power a motor.
First, you need the air compressor. This device grabs the air from around us and stores it within the machine by reducing the volume of air, as we discussed, and storing it within an enclosed space. Vacuums are one example of a blatant air compressor since they absorb air and floor detritus alike.
Second, you need to have air cylinders. Air cylinders are devices that move when given the energy signal and creates the force that in turn will power the motor. They often move linearly, but some have varying strokes depending on the model that you need. Also if a cylinder gets damaged, then it will most definitely need replacing so that it doesn’t rotate inordinately and damage the rest of the machine.
Third, you need an actuator. An actuator opens and closes the valves in a pneumatic system when it receives a signal from a burst of energy. This movement is mechanical energy converted from the pneumatic signal. You need actuators that can assist in transferring power.
Fourth, you need a motor. The motor is the actual powerhouse of the machine, that will work when the cylinders are in motion. Air motors come in all shapes and sizes, depending on the tool that it enables.
Why Are Pneumatics Sometimes A Better Alternative To Electricity Or Used In Tandem With Other Forces?
One benefit of pneumatic systems is that the air they use is not usually hazardous. For electrical machines, the main concern would be if electric fires occur in volatile environments, especially if they are working with flammable substances such as gasoline or diesel.
Pneumatics reduces the potential for electric fires since it only uses air. The gases used tend to be ordinary air around us, which is comprised mainly of oxygen and nitrogen. If you want another source, pure nitrogen can be used, but that is rarer because one would have to extract the nitrogen.
In addition, the air used for pneumatic forces is less hazardous if the machine springs a leak. It’s unlikely that you would use hydrogen, which is highly flammable, or helium, which is undergoing a global shortage. If you have a leak in your system, the only concern would be the loss of compressed air pressure. You would then need to seal the leak so that the machine can resume its tasks.
Another benefit is that they are longer-lasting and require less maintenance in the long run. Due to not using electricity or hydraulic fluids, pneumatic systems are less likely to get damaged and can run for a longer amount of time.
Finally, pneumatics are highly versatile. Since people started using them to power tiny and large machines, we can see their potential as a renewable source. Engineers are working on using compressed air to run cars, which could reduce our dependence on fossil fuels.
Learn More From SMC Pneumatics
SMC Pneumatics wants to educate about this type of force, and how the machines function for daily tasks. When you want to go into automation and industrial manufacturing, we have the parts that you need, for various sizes.
Reach out to us today to learn more. Let’s get your machines running, and harnessing the power of compressed air.