Air compressors are extremely useful pieces of machinery for a number of industrial and DIY applications. Whether you’re a DIY enthusiast, an industry professional, or simply curious about how air compressors operate, you can always benefit from learning the basics about how these machines operate and how the right one can benefit you. We’ve created a simple guide for anyone looking to learn more about air compressors that delves into the inner workings of air compressors and explores the principles and mechanisms that make these versatile machines work.

How Do Air Compressors Work?

The specific design and functioning of an air compressor may vary depending on the type, whether it’s a reciprocating compressor, rotary screw compressor, or other type. Each has its advantages and most suitable applications, but the fundamental principle remains the same, the conversion of power into compressed air. Air compressors work by converting power, usually from an electric motor or a fuel engine, into potential energy stored in compressed air. The basic operation of an air compressor works in the following process:

  • Air Intake

The compressor draws in outside air through an intake valve or port.

  • Compression

The air is then compressed using one of several mechanisms, such as piston-cylinder arrangements, rotary screws, or centrifugal force. As the compressor’s moving parts reduce the volume of the air, the pressure increases.

  • Storage and Discharge

The compressed air is then discharged into a storage tank or directly into the application through an outlet valve or port.

  • Pressure Regulation

Some compressors have built-in pressure regulators or controls to maintain a specific pressure level. This ensures that the compressed air meets the requirements of the application.

  • Cooling and Moisture Separation

During compression, the air heats up, so it often passes through cooling mechanisms or intercoolers to reduce its temperature. Additionally, moisture can condense from the compressed air, and moisture separators or dryers are employed to remove excess water vapor.

  • Air Supply

Air compressors can operate in different modes, such as continuous run or on-demand. The motor or engine powers the compressor, enabling it to deliver a constant supply of compressed air as needed.

What Are Air Compressors Used For?

Air compressors have a wide range of applications, making them useful in a variety of industries. They are an invaluable tool in industrial spaces, helping to make otherwise difficult or time consuming tasks much quicker and easier. 

Air compressors can be used for the following:

  • Powering Pneumatic Tools – such as impact wrenches, nail guns, spray guns, sanders, and drills. 
  • Industrial Processes – such as air blowers, air knives, pneumatic conveying systems, air agitation in chemical processes, and air separation systems. 
  • Painting and Finishing – such as automotive refinishing, furniture manufacturing, or other industries requiring precise and uniform coating. 
  • Tire Inflation – they are used in automotive service centers and gas stations for tire inflation and maintenance. 
  • Medical and Dental Applications – including dental drills, air-powered surgical instruments, respiratory therapy devices, and medical air systems. 
  • Food and Beverage Industry – for applications such as packaging, bottling, and food processing equipment. 
  • Power Generation – they are used in power plants for processes such as combustion air supply, instrument air systems, and control valve operation.


What Are the Different Types of Air Compressors?

There are four main types of air compressors, each with its own benefits, depending on the application. To choose the right air compressor for your business, you first need to consider the amount of airflow you require and the frequency at which you require it. You can then determine the most suitable compressor for you, ensuring you get the most out of your air system.

The four main types of air compressors are:


How to Choose the Right Air Compressor

When deciding on the right air compressor for your business, there are several things you need to consider. Now you know the choices available to you, you can start to make an informed decision. Sometimes the best air compressor isn’t the best one for your specific needs. Following these next steps will help you find the best air compressor for your business’ needs:


What will you use the compressor for?

Once you know what the exact application of the air compressor will be, you can start to look at the various models and their specifications. These can vary significantly depending on whether you require industrial-scale applications or smaller DIY tasks.

CFM requirements

Knowing what CFM (cubic feet per minute) you require from your airflow is essential for finding the right compressor for the job. The CFM is the amount of air generated by the air compressor at a specific pressure level.

Tank size

Your compressed air will need to be stored ready for use, and depending on the frequency of use, you will need a different size tank. A larger capacity air tank is suited for industrial applications that require continuous airflow.

Do you require oil-free air?

Depending on the application of your compressed air, you may require an oil-free compressor. They are the only type of compressor that provides 100% clean air, which is essential for pharmaceutical, automotive, and food and beverage industries.


Get Your Ideal Air Compressor With Griffin

If you are looking for a new air compressor or looking to replace a current model, you can contact a member of our Griffin team to discuss your requirements. Our team of experts has over 50 years of experience providing compressed air solutions to a range of industries. We can provide advice, pointing you in the right direction as well as offering servicing and repairs on all of our models.

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