Guide to Industrial Compressed Air

Questioning how to decide on the fitting air compressor on your facility? On this information, we’ll cowl all of the fundamentals, together with how air compressors work, the forms of air compressors, and air compressor specs and options to search for.

Easy methods to Select the Proper Air Compressor 

Choosing the proper air compressor for industrial and industrial purposes will be difficult. The appropriate alternative depends upon a number of elements: 

  • How a lot air (CFM) is required by your purposes?
  • What air strain is required?  
  • Are your air necessities steady or sporadic? 
  • The place will the air compressor be used? 

Purposes for Industrial Air Compressors 

An air compressor acts like a battery within the store, manufacturing facility or job website. Compressed air is used to energy loads of totally different industrial and industrial purposes. Among the commonest embrace: 

  • Powering hand-held pneumatic instruments akin to nail weapons, air hammers, grinders, caulking weapons, hydraulic riveters, influence wrenches, and ratchets. 
  • Paint spray, for each hand-held airbrushing and portray instruments and industrial spray cubicles. 
  • Powering pneumatic manufacturing strains, together with conveyor methods and automatic hydraulic equipment
  • Many metallic working machines akin to CNC’s, Laser chopping and blow weapons. 

The most effective air compressor will rely on the appliance it’s getting used for. Understanding how air compressors work and the several types of industrial and industrial air compressors will assist you to make the fitting alternative.  

How Does an Air Compressor Work?

Air compressors work by taking in air from the setting and squeezing it, lowering the scale of every cubic foot. As air is compressed, it’s pressurized: the smaller the amount that the air is pressured into, the extra strain it exerts. This is called Boyle’s Regulation and is expressed mathematically like this:  P1 x V1 = P2 x P2

It’s this pressurization that offers compressed air the flexibility to do work. In essence, as you compress air right into a smaller area, you might be storing power that can be utilized later to energy totally different purposes. The compressed air can be utilized instantly to energy numerous instruments and machines. Extra generally, it goes into an air receiver tank, which shops the compressed air for later use and ensures a constant provide of ready-to-use air.  

Air compressors obtain compression in certainly one of two methods. 

  • Constructive air displacement: Air is pressured right into a chamber, the place it’s compressed utilizing mechanical means right into a smaller quantity. Pistons, screws or rotary vanes could also be used to attain mechanical compression. That is the commonest technique of air compression utilized in each residence and industrial air compressors. Rotary screw, rotary vane and reciprocating air compressors all depend on optimistic displacement. 
  •  Dynamic displacement: Rotating fan blades powered by an engine create airflow. As air strikes by the area, it’s step by step constricted right into a smaller quantity. Axial air compressors and centrifugal air compressors depend on dynamic air displacement. These kind of air compressors are usually solely used for very high-volume industrial purposes, akin to massive air separation crops.

How a Positive Displacement Air Compressor worksHow a dynamic displacement air compressor works

Sorts of Air Compressors 

What kind of air compressor must you use? There are a number of forms of air compressors to think about. As defined above, most air compressors use a type of optimistic displacement to generate compression. These vary from small moveable models utilized by small retailers, residence hobbyists and DIYers to massive industrial air compressors used to energy total factories. The appropriate kind of air compressor depends upon your utility and the way a lot, how usually and the way constantly you might be utilizing air. 

Reciprocating Compressors

A reciprocating (or piston-style) air compressor makes use of pistons pushed by a crankshaft to compress air. They’re greatest for purposes that require brief bursts of air intermittently, akin to guide air-powered instruments, blow-off and cleansing, tire inflation, airbrushing and sandblasting. They are often safely run with occasional, inconsistent use and at lower than most capability. A reciprocating air compressor is a good alternative for smaller retailers with a number of guide processes or with horsepower necessities of 10 HP or much less.

How Reciprocating Compressors work

Rotary Screw Air Compressors 

Rotary screw air compressors use two meshing helical screws (or rotors) to compress air. Rotary screw air compressors are greatest for purposes that require steady air, akin to robotic manufacturing gear and conveyor methods. They produce a constant, nonstop provide of unpolluted air, making them your best option for paint line, meals processing, packaging and different purposes the place air high quality is a consideration. They additionally are likely to have quieter operation than a comparable rotary vane mannequin, so they could be a good selection if noise is a priority. They’re advisable for purposes with obligation cycles of 30-100%. They aren’t advisable in case your air necessities are occasional or intermittent; they don’t carry out properly with downtime.  

Rotary screw air compressors are available each fixed-speed and variable-speed fashions. A set-speed rotary screw all the time is working at most capability. A variable velocity drive permits the air compressor to ramp capability up and down based mostly on precise use. In case your demand for air varies (however doesn’t drop to zero), a VSD rotary screw compressor is a superb alternative. 

How rotary screw compressors work 

Rotary Vane Air Compressors 

A rotary vane air compressor is just like a rotary screw compressor, however makes use of a rotor with particular person sliding vanes to compress air as a substitute of the helical screw mechanism. Because the rotor turns, the vanes are pushed in the direction of the wall of the chamber by way of centrifugal pressure, forming a seal. The trapped air is compressed right into a smaller area throughout the revolution. Like rotary screw compressors, rotary vane compressors are designed for steady use and are available each fixed-speed and variable-speed fashions. They sometimes have the identical ambient temperature necessities and preventive upkeep frequencies as their rotary screw cousins. 

As a result of the mechanism may be very easy, rotary vane air compressors could provide advantages by way of power effectivity, service life and upkeep prices. Older fashions had a popularity for requiring extra time to finish a PM in comparison with a rotary screw compressor, however fashionable fashions (with higher oil filtration and separation) have largely eradicated this concern. Nonetheless, if the rotary vane mechanism must be rebuilt, it might be tougher to discover a facility able to finishing the rebuild than it could be for a rotary screw compressor. Bigger vane compressors over 50 HP are often much less environment friendly than rotary screws.

How rotary vane air compressors work


Moveable Air Compressors 

Most moveable air compressors use reciprocating, or piston-style, know-how. Moveable air compressors vary from small hand-held models with 1–5 CFM capability to bigger truck-mounted models with capacities of as much as 100 CFM. Smaller portables are available “pancake” and “hotdog” types, named for the form of their built-in tank. These models are nice for hobbyists, DIYers, small retailers, roadside service and different purposes requiring small, intermittent bursts of air. 

Air Compressor Specs

Along with choosing the fitting kind of air compressor on your utility, it is usually necessary to dimension the air compressor appropriately on your wants. There are three essential specs to think about when choosing an industrial air compressor, and they’re all associated. 

  • PSI (Kilos per Sq. Inch) is a measure of air strain, or the quantity of pressure the air exerts on the encircling supplies. PSI interprets to the quantity of power saved in your compressed air system and the quantity of labor it will possibly carry out. 
  • CFM (Cubic Toes per Minute) is a measure of how a lot air the compressor can produce every minute. PSI and CFM are interrelated: your CFM ranking is all the time for a particular strain ranking (e.g., 100 CFM at 90 PSI).
  •  Horsepower (HP) measures the quantity of labor {that a} motor can carry out. The HP ranking in your air compressor tells you the scale of the motor it has. 

Air Compressor PSI

Air compressors are rated for a most PSI. A typical industrial air compressor could have a most PSI of 125, which is greater than enough for many manufacturing, auto store or fabrication purposes. Some purposes, akin to sandblasting and sure laboratory purposes, could require a better PSI. Keep in mind that PSI and CFM all the time go hand-in-hand; see extra on CFM under. 

Sustaining the fitting PSI is important for each security and productiveness. If the PSI on your system is just too low, instruments and equipment could not work correctly or cease working completely. If strain is just too excessive, it might injury instruments and gear or create security considerations. 

Step one to calculating air compressor specs is figuring out the PSI necessities of the instruments and machines the compressor will energy. Completely different instruments have totally different PSI scores. Most pneumatic hand instruments (akin to air hammers, staple weapons, nail weapons, ratchets, air brushes and influence wrenches) require round 90 PSI. CNC machines and different hydraulic equipment could also be rated for as much as 100 – 110 PSI. 

The PSI on your compressed air system must be set to make sure that strain won’t drop under the minimal PSI for the instruments and machines the system is powering. As a result of strain drops because it strikes by piping and connectors, you will want to set your system slightly above your minimal required PSI to make sure that machines on the finish of the run don’t lose strain.

Aire Tip: Many services have PSI set larger than is critical for his or her gear. A 2 PSI discount in plant strain will save ~1% in power prices on your compressed air system. Learn extra: Reduce Plant Pressure to Save Money and Energy

Air Compressor CFM 

CFM is the simplest technique to measure and evaluate the capability of an air compressor. At a given PSI, an air compressor with a ranking of 100 CFM can carry out much more work than one rated for 50 CFM. Bear in mind, the CFM ranking on your air compressor is given at a selected PSI (sometimes 90 – 100 PSI). CFM is the quantity of airflow that the air compressor can ship to take care of that PSI. 

You may even see air compressors rated in SCFM. This stands for “Commonplace Cubic Toes per Minute.” That is the air compressor’s ranking at commonplace atmospheric situations (14.5 PSI atmospheric strain, or sea stage, and 70°F with relative humidity of 0%). Your precise delivered CFM will range barely relying in your elevation, temperature and humidity; ranking models in SCFM permits correct comparability between machines with out worrying about these variables. 

Your CFM necessities will rely on what number of instruments and machines are utilizing air in your system and the PSI that must be maintained for them to run correctly. There are a number of strategies for figuring out your general CFM demand, together with direct calculation, Pump-Up Assessments, and Draw-Down Assessments.

Aire Tip: A Pump-Up Take a look at may also help you calculate your CFM demand. Learn extra: How to Calculate Air Compressor CFM Output and Production Requirements

Air Compressor Horsepower and Voltage

You could assume that the HP ranking of your air compressor’s motor is an important indicator of the quantity of energy it will possibly ship. Nonetheless, HP may very well be the least necessary ranking on your air compressor. Whereas extra HP is usually correlated with larger CFM output, CFM is the extra necessary quantity. 

 The quantity of horsepower required to generate airflow at a given CFM will range relying on the effectivity of the air compressor. The extra environment friendly the compressor, the extra airflow per HP it is ready to generate. The effectivity will rely on the kind and design of the air compressor. Generally, rotary screw air compressors are extra environment friendly than piston air compressors and require much less HP to generate the identical CFM. 

 Along with HP, you’ll additionally wish to take note of the air compressor voltage. Industrial air compressors have two voltage choices: 208-230V and 460V. Make sure that the mannequin you select has the fitting voltage on your facility. In case you have each voltages accessible in your plant, it’s extra energy- and cost-efficient to go along with the high-voltage choice. 

Air Compressor Options

What options must you search for in a industrial air compressor? Upon getting decided the kind and dimension of air compressor you want on your operations, you can begin evaluating the function units for various compressors. Listed below are some issues you need to search for. 

ASME Certification 

In case you are buying a industrial air compressor, ASME Certification is one thing that must be thought-about a should. The American Society of Mechanical Engineers, or ASME, is a company that units engineering codes and manufacturing requirements for a wide range of machines, components and system parts. ASME acts as an impartial high quality assurance group to make sure the security and high quality of manufactured objects. An ASME certification stamp signifies that the producer has met all security and engineering requirements for his or her product.

Smaller air compressors bought by big-box shops for residence use is probably not ASME rated. In case your HP and CFM necessities are low, you could be tempted to buy certainly one of these off-the-shelf client fashions. Nonetheless, these models usually are not designed for every day use in a industrial or industrial setting. Search for the ASME ranking to make sure that your air compressor can safely meet your utilization calls for. 

Variable Pace Drive 

Rotary screw and rotary vane air compressors are available each fixed-speed and variable-speed fashions. A variable velocity drive (VSD) motor controls the frequency equipped to the drive motor in response to real-time demand on the system. In case your demand for air is variable, a VSD drive can save vital power and cash. 

Aire Tip: A VSD motor may also help slash power payments on your compressed air system by as much as 70%. In some circumstances, your power firm will assist you to pay for the improve. Learn extra: Why Choose or Upgrade to a Variable Speed Drive Air Compressor?

Cooling System

The compressor ought to include an inside cooling system to maintain the pumping mechanism and motor cool. The cooling system will prolong the lifetime of your compressor. 

  • An air-cooling system makes use of a fan to chill the pump and vents extra warmth from the system into the ambient air. 
  • A closed-loop dry cooling system acts equally to the radiator of a automotive or the coils of an air conditioner. Liquid (sometimes a coolant akin to glycol) regularly strikes by a collection of closed coils, carrying warmth away from the compressor pump and motor. Extra warmth radiates off the coils to re-cool the liquid for the following cycle. 
  • An open-loop evaporative cooling system makes use of recent water and transferring air to chill the compressor. A fan blows air throughout the water, which supplies pure cooling to the compressor motor. 

Thermal Overload Swap 

Air compression generates loads of extra warmth. An industrial air compressor ought to include a thermal overload swap, which can shut off the motor if the compressor begins to overheat. This can tremendously scale back the danger of burning out the motor. 

Commonplace vs. Oil-free Pumps 

Reciprocating (piston-style) air compressors have two choices in the case of the air compressor pump: oil-lubricated and oil-free. Oil-free models have piston rings coated with a non-stick materials that gives the lubrication for the piston movement. An oil-free pump minimizes contaminants within the airstream. 

Single-Stage vs. Multi-Stage

Reciprocating air compressors are available each single-stage and dual- or multi-stage variations. Small compressors and portables are single-stage. Most industrial and industrial air compressors are dual-stage. Because of this air goes by a second stage of compression earlier than going into the air receiver tank. Twin-stage air compressors are able to producing extra air at a better PSI. They’re a better option for steady operation, services with a number of air-powered instruments and machines, and purposes requiring pressures larger than 100 PSI. 

Air Compressor Equipment: What Else Do You Want? 

What sorts of equipment do you want on your industrial air compression system? An industrial air compressor is often paired with a number of different parts to create a whole system. These embrace air dryers, air receiver tanks, drain valves, oil/water separators, compressed air piping, hoses and couplers. 

Air Dryers

An air dryer removes extra moisture from compressed air. When air is compressed, moisture current in every cubic foot is elevated and the air is heated subsequently capable of maintain extra moisture. The air dryer removes extra moisture from the airstream and ensures a provide of unpolluted, dry air. An air dryer is necessary to forestall the buildup of condensation in compressed air piping, gear and instruments, which may result in corrosion. 

There are two primary forms of air dryers for compressed air methods: refrigerated and desiccant. 

  •  Refrigerated air dryers chill the air till water vapor condenses and drops out. They dry air right down to a dew point of 38°F. That is enough for many industrial compressed air purposes. 
  • Desiccant air dryers use desiccating beads to adsorb and take away water vapor from the air. They produce ultra-dry air at a dew level of -40 to -100°F. Desiccant air dryers could also be wanted for specialty purposes together with laboratory, meals processing, out of doors use in winter and pharmaceutical manufacturing. 

Warmth Exchanger

A warmth exchanger captures the surplus warmth produced by air compression. The warmth exchanger not solely removes extra warmth out of your compressed air system, however truly captures it so it may be used for different functions. Waste warmth from the air compressor can be utilized to warmth components of your facility, present warmth for manufacturing processes, or to warmth sizzling water. The warmth exchanger pays for itself over time because it reduces your power payments by placing waste warmth to make use of. 

Air Receiver Tanks

The air receiver tank (generally known as an air compressor tank or compressed air storage tank) is a tank that receives and shops compressed air after it exits the air compressor. This offers you a reserve of compressed air that you may draw on with out operating your air compressor. An air reserve lets you meet sudden, sharp calls for for compressed air and ensures a gentle provide of air to compressor controls, eliminating short-cycling of your compressor motor and over-pressurization of your system. The air receiver tank additionally acts as a secondary warmth exchanger, permitting compressed air to chill earlier than it’s utilized in your processes. 

Aire Tip: rule of thumb is to have three to 5 gallons of air storage capability per air compressor CFM output. Learn extra: Air Receiver Tank Full Guidelines

Drain Valves

A drain valve is a requirement on your air compressor, air receiver tank and refrigerated dryer. Drain valves enable extra condensation to be simply drained away. This condensation have to be drained every day, or extra usually for high-production services. There are a number of varieties to select from. 

  • Guide drain valves, because the title implies, have to be opened manually by upkeep workers. They’re more likely to come commonplace along with your compressed air gear. Usually, slightly compressed air is misplaced together with the water every time the drain is opened. 
  • Zero-loss drain valve makes use of a float system to open the drain routinely when sufficient water accumulates. As a result of they’re solely open for the period of time wanted to empty the condensate, they stop compressed air waste. In addition they remove a upkeep job, making your compressed air system simpler to take care of. 
  • Electrical drain valves will be programmed to open for a number of seconds at set instances to empty the system, automating drain valve upkeep. Not like a zero-loss system, the valve will open whether or not or not condensate is current, which suggests some compressed air could also be misplaced whether it is set to open too lengthy or too often. An electrical drain valve is usually a nice alternative in case your system must be drained often (as usually as each minute) and produces a predictable quantity of condensate. 

Oil/Water Separators

In case you are not utilizing an oil-free compressor mannequin, an oil-water separator is extremely advisable. An oil-water separator (generally known as a condensate separator) is a tool that separates oils and lubricants from liquid water. The oil-water separator collects condensate out of your air compressor, tank, filters and dryer and removes the oil so it may be disposed of correctly somewhat than put down the drain with the water. A separator could also be required to maintain your facility in compliance with EPA and native laws. 

Inline Filters

An inline air compressor filter captures contaminants (akin to oils and particulates from the compressor and microorganisms) earlier than the compressed air goes into the air dryer, air receiver tank or piping. This ensures that the air that’s used to energy your machines and processes is as clear as doable. There are three forms of inline filters: 

  • Commonplace particulate filters seize stable dry particulate, sometimes right down to 1 micron in dimension. 
  • Coalescing filters take away aerosolized oil mists from compressed air in addition to dry particulate. 
  • Activated carbon filters take away oil mists, vapors and gases. They need to be utilized in mixture with a coalescing filter for max effectivity. A 2-in-1 inline filter supplies each forms of filtration. 

Compressed Air Piping

The compressed air piping system delivers air from the compressor or air receiver tank to the remainder of the power the place it’s used. Piping have to be sturdy sufficient to face up to the pressures of compressed air supply. Black iron pipe is the commonest materials, however galvanized metal, stainless-steel, copper and aluminum will also be used. Some plastics are acceptable, however PVC pipe ought to by no means be used. 


Aire Tip: Aluminum piping is light-weight, doesn’t corrode, and provides glorious leak resistance and ease of set up. Learn extra: What Is the Best Piping Material for Compressed Air Systems?

Hoses and Couplers 

Hoses and couplers are used to attach gear and machines to the compressed air piping system. Quick couplings are designed for simple change-out of air-powered instruments; they’re an incredible choice for stations the place a number of totally different guide pneumatic instruments could also be used. 


Aire Tip: Hoses and couplings are sometimes sources of compressed air leaks if they don’t seem to be correctly used and maintained. Use piping to hook up with stationary gear wherever doable, and reserve hoses and fast couplings for purposes the place fast change-out or mobility is required. Learn extra: How to Detect and Fix Compressed Air Leaks

The Finest Industrial Air Compressors 

The most effective industrial air compressor for you depends upon your utility. Fluid-Aire Dynamics sells, installs and maintains best-in-class industrial air compressors and equipment from Pneutech, Ingersoll Rand, CompAir, Saylor Beall, Mattei and Hydrovane. 


Undecided which air compressor is best for you? Our skilled compressed air system engineers may also help you choose the most effective air compressor on your facility. We are going to assist you to: 

  • Calculate your CFM and PSI necessities on your compressed air system. 
  • Select between rotary screw, reciprocating and rotary vane air compressor fashions.
  • Decide whether or not a VSD air compressor drive is best for you.
  • Put collectively a bundle of air compressor options and equipment tailor-made to your utility, objectives and funds.

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