Industrial facilities use compressed air for a multitude of operations. Almost every industrial facility has at least two compressors, and in a medium-sized plant there may be hundreds of different uses of compressed air.
Uses include powering pneumatic tools, packaging and automation equipment and conveyors. Pneumatic tools tend to be smaller, lighter and more maneuverable than electric motor-driven tools. They also deliver smooth power and are not damaged by overloading. Air-powered tools have the capability for infinitely variable speed and torque control, and can reach a desired speed and torque very quickly. In addition, they are often selected for safety reasons because they do not produce sparks and have low heat build-up. Although they have many advantages, pneumatic tools are generally much less energy-efficient than electric tools. Many manufacturing industries also use compressed air and gas for combustion and process operations such as oxidation, fractionation, cryogenics, refrigeration, filtration, dehydration and aeration. Table 1: Industrial sector uses of compressed air lists some major manufacturing industries and the tools, conveying and process operations requiring compressed air. For some of these applications, however, other sources of power may be more cost-effective.
Compressed air also plays a vital role in many non-manufacturing sectors, including the transportation, construction, mining, agriculture, recreation and service industries. Examples of some of these applications are shown in Table 2: Non-manufacturing sector uses of compressed air.
|Industry||Example Compressed Air Uses|
|Apparel||Conveying, clamping, tool powering, controls and actuators, automated equipment|
|Automotive||Tool powering, stamping, controls and actuators, forming, conveying|
|Chemicals||Conveying, controls and actuators|
|Food||Dehydration, bottling, controls and actuators, conveying, spraying coatings, cleaning, vacuum packing|
|Furniture||Air piston powering, tool powering and cleaning, controls and actuators|
|General manufacturing||Clamping, stamping, tool powering and cleaning, controls and actuators|
|Lumber and wood||Sawing, hoisting, clamping, pressure treatment, controls and actuators|
|Metals fabrication||Assembly station powering, tool powering, controls and actuators, injection molding, spraying|
|Petroleum||Process gas compressing, controls and actuators|
|Primary metals||Vacuum melting, controls and actuators, hoisting|
|Pulp and paper||Conveying, controls and actuators|
|Rubber and Plastics||Tool powering, clamping, controls and actuators, glass blowing and molding, cooling|
|Stone, Clay and Glass||Conveying, blending, mixing, controls and actuators, glass blowing and molding, cooling|
|Textiles||Agitating liquids, clamping, conveying, automated equipment, controls and actuators, loom jet weaving, spinning, texturizing|
|Industry||Example Compressed Air Uses|
|Agriculture||Farm equipment, materials handling, spraying of crops, dairy machines|
|Mining||Pneumatic tools, hoists, pumps, controls and actuators|
|Power generation||Starting gas turbines, automatic control, emissions controls|
|Recreation||Amusement parks – air brakes
Golf courses – seeding, fertilizing, sprinkler systems
Hotels – elevators, sewage disposal
Ski resorts – snow making
Theaters – projector cleaning
Underwater exploration – air tanks
|Service industries||Pneumatic tools, hoists, air brake systems, garment pressing machines, hospital respiration systems, climate control|
|Transportation||Pneumatic tools, hoists, air brake systems|
|Wastewater treatment||Vacuum filters, conveying|
Based on the tables above, which are only a snapshot into the many uses of compressed air, it is often easier to identify applications or situations that do not use compressed air than those that do use compressed air. Contact your local compressed air expert to learn if an air compressor is right for your facility.