What is an air compressor and how does it work?

What is an air compressor, and how does one work? An air compressor is an extremely useful piece of equipment that compresses air for its subsequent use in various applications.

This machine can be seen being used in workshops for clearing up dust and cleaning tools. It may be seen on a construction site, powering tools such as nailguns and pneumatic shovels. You may even see them in the industrial setting, working in conjunction with air-pressurized sensor lines and other specialized equipment. The basic premise in all of these applications though is the use of air that is under pressure.

The Compressor’s Inner Workings Explained

The air compressor is the piece of equipment that produces this pressurized air. But how exactly is this done? How does the air become pressurized and then released on demand? It’s no feat of magic, but it is a feat in physics and engineering. In layman’s terms, this is how it works.

First, you have an intake port. Here, fresh air is “breathed”, or taken in by the machine. The air is pulled in from the port and into an area in which it and a compressing piston must share the same space. The compression piston then moves with an in and out motion, creating a massive vacuum and pressurizing effect on the air within that shared space.

The air is subsequently released by valve either directly to the user or to storage. In storage, the pressurized air can be compiled and stored up until the vessel reaches a certain, indicated pressure. If immediately used, on the other hand, the air actually meant for storage is instead instantly evacuated via hose or tubing to the user calling for it, rather than routing to the storage vessel for containment.

The Motor

Of course, there has to be a driving force of some sort keeping the aforementioned piston in motion against these strong forces of physics. That force is the air compressor’s motor. Typically energized by regular AC or DC electricity, the motor generates the brute force that is applied to the piston in order for it to work. The motors used on air compressors can vary greatly due to makers, tank sizes, demands and intended purposes, and more.

Attachments and Output

Where the pressurized air produced by this machine goes is entirely dependent on the application that has brought about its use.For example, in the workshop, John needs to clear dust from his project and some tools. He squeezes the trigger to a hand-held attachment that is tube-attached to the compressor’s output port. Air is then blown out via the attachment and relevant to the squeeze of the trigger.

In other circumstances, the compressor may be connected to a complex building system which employs devices connected to the air compressor and calling for air automatically when needed. Similar to hand-held attachment setups, here, tubing and hoses connect the distant device calling for air to the compressor making it. Whatever the application, there is a hand-held or stationary output custom tailored to it.

These are just the basics of how this common and very useful piece of equipment works. In hospitals, on construction sites, and in automotive garages, air compressors can be found on-scene in so many applications.