Pneumatics and Control Valves Part 1

Pneumatics is a branch of mechanical engineering that deals with the use of air pressure in creating motion or some form of mechanical force. Pneumatics is used mainly in factories and industries where compressed air is dealt with. The compressed air or steam is stored in one location and distributed through valves. Compressed gases are a cheaper solution to using electric motors and actuators. Pneumatics is used because of the cheap availability of air. Air costs nothing. Compressed air can be stored and used even when electrical power is lost. The design is simple and straightforward, utilizing existing components like cylinders and pistons.

The first pneumatic tool probably was the bellows used by blacksmiths. Modern air compressors were designed in the 1800s and were used in department stores. The system was used between sections to get change. Air compressors were also used on barges and boats. These were hand operated and needed four hardy men to keep it going. The air pump was used to supply air to divers. Due to the limits of human strength high pressures could not be produced and this limited the depth the divers could go to. As steam engines began to be used, the man power was replaced by this.

Air compressors began to be used more widely in the second half of the 19th century. Compressed air was used to dig the foundations of the Brooklyn Bridge. The silt under the river was very porous and the water kept seeping into the caissons. Compressed air was used to keep out the water. Pneumatic machines gained popularity fast and industrial installations all around the country started using them. There were uncertainties on whether steam or electricity was the energy of the future. In the end electricity won out because small businesses could not afford steam systems.

The invention of the pneumatic tire called for a cheap, mass produced air pump. The hand pump was the first mass produced air pump. It became a standard part of bicycles, cars, and trucks. The hand pump was also found at garages and gas pumps. The introduction of electric motors meant businesses did not need to buy steam plants to power their compressors. The electric motor revolutionized the air pump. Air compressors could be made smaller and more inexpensive, opening out the market further. World War 2 added impetus to the air compressor development. Air compressors started to be sold in units of the pump, the motor and the receiver.

The better technology of air compressors meant that a variety of air and pneumatic tools were developed. Personal sized tools were developed to make them more affordable. Go to any auto mechanic and you will find that he uses air tools and has a compact air compressing unit. Today the air compressor is found nearly everywhere. Buildings use air compressors to operate heating, ventilation and air conditioning. If it wasn’t for air compressors very few rides in the amusement park would work.