Since the compound air compressor was patented in 1829, people have been coming up with new and amazing ways to use this technology. The first pneumatic cylinder came onto the scene in 1872.
Here we will explain everything you need to know about the pneumatic cylinder. You will learn what pneumatic cylinders are used for. And, you will read about how they work as well.
What Does Pneumatic Mean?
At its core, the word pneumatic comes from a Greek word, pneumatikos, which is combining the words for breathe and wind, resulting in the meaning “air”. Air is the least expensive and most common type of gas to work with and doesn’t pose a danger like some other gases do.
Air is drawn in. Then it is compressed to refill the pneumatic system. This powers the functionality of the different applications of the pneumatic cylinder.
All the way back in the first century, the Greek mathematician called the Hero of Alexandria wrote about inventions powered by steam and wind. He concluded that the air must be filled with unseen particles. Today we know these particles as molecules.
Hero figured that if he could create an empty space, like that of a vacuum, these particles would quickly rush in to fill it and that pressure could be used to push an object placed in front of them.
These discoveries were used to create things like a primitive steam engine and a singing toy bird.
Pneumatics Is Born in Germany
Pneumatics, however, wasn’t officially born until the German physicist Otto von Guericke took things a little further than his Greek predecessors.
He was the first to invent a vacuum pump that drew air out of an attached vessel and produced energy from that air. These small handheld devices have become massive pieces of machinery that have implications across a large variety of industries and applications.
How Does a Pneumatic Cylinder Work?
Think of an engine inside of a car. The mechanisms force gas into a cylinder to combust and fuel the engine. Similarly, a pneumatic cylinder also forces air into a cylinder to perform a machine function.
A pneumatic cylinder is a metal cylinder that utilizes air pressure and a piston to perform a job.
Heat energy is created when a piston in a car’s engine is guided in a reciprocating movement. The air from the compressor is responsible for turning that heat energy into mechanical energy expanding in the engine cylinder, increasing the pressure.
There are two different types of pneumatic cylinders. A single-acting cylinder has only one valve for the air that pushes the piston. Once the air pressure has been removed, The piston is then pushed back in the opposite direction again by a spring mechanism, or a load-bearing down on the piston.
The second type is a double-acting pneumatic cylinder. These have multiple air valves. Air is forced into the cylinder. This acts on a piston by pushing it in one direction.
But, because of the multiple valves, the piston doesn’t have to go back the same way it came in. If the air is removed from a different valve, it creates a vacuum that sucks the piston in the opposite direction.
The majority of industries use the double-acting pneumatic cylinder because of its additional applications and flexibility. You get more value for your money.
Uses for Pneumatic Cylinders
These mechanisms are used throughout a variety of different industries and perform lots of different jobs. Let’s break down the usefulness by industry to make it simpler to follow along.
Industrial Uses and Applications
By using a double-action cylinder you can do a job faster and more efficiently. They are used in a variety of different ways.
Pneumatic cylinders are responsible for opening and closing doors and different valves. They are used to take things off conveyor belts along with the people running an assembly line.
They can also put things back on conveyor belts once they’ve gone through a different part of the machine. Pneumatic cylinders are also extremely effective at lifting merchandise and moving merchandise that is too heavy for a human to handle.
Any industry that utilizes presses or punches as part of their production process will also be taking advantage of the convenience provided by single or double-acting pneumatic cylinders.
Uses in The Robotics Industry
It was only a short time ago that robots seemed to be a thing far into the future. Now, robots are part of our every day lives. Now, they may not be the robot we envisioned in The Jetsons but, there are robots performing tasks throughout our world.
To understand the implications of pneumatic cylinders in robotics you have to understand a little more about McKibben artificial muscles.
McKibbon Artificial Muscles, or Pneumatic Air Muscles
Joseph Laws McKibbon invented artificial muscle systems as a way to help his daughter Karen. She had been diagnosed with polio in the early 1950s.
When she became ill, she also became paralyzed from the neck down. To help her, she was placed into an iron lung at the age of 13. The doctors knew McKibbon was an inventor. So they suggested he invent a way to help her use her fingers again.
He created the mechanical muscle to function using air pressure. He discovered a design that was made of a tube and used the pressure to inflate a bellows. This compressed the muscles of the arm and created the pinching motion needed from the fingers.
They fit the instrument onto his daughter along her paralyzed arm. And, they attached it with a moving splint to the thumb, first, and her second fingers. Using a lever, the machine got to work and caused her arm muscles to contract and her fingers to pinch.
They touched the lever again to relax her fingers back into the normal position.
Since this worked for this little girl, the implications became many in the robotics and orthotics industries. Today, these ideas are still in use.
Other Uses for Pneumatic Cylinders
Double-acting cylinders are also used in a variety of different transportation applications. For example, automobiles, motorcycles, ATVs, and even airplane landing gear suspension systems rely on these to react quickly.
Bumps come rapidly and the vehicle needs to react just as fast in order to protect the rig.
Drilling applications and log splitting also use cylinders. And large equipment employs them in construction. To see a pneumatic cylinder in action, take a close look at an elevator, garbage truck, trash compactor, forklift, or cement jack.
The Future of Pneumatic Cylinders
In recent years, the use of these mechanisms has been gaining popularity in the space program. They are efficiently opening and closing bay doors to keep astronauts safe in the zero-G environment.
These make more sense in space because of the high radiation levels. It is dangerous to use electric motors. Instead, they replace them with pneumatic and hydraulic systems. Radiation does not affect these systems so they continue to run even when the levels are high.
Other future uses for pneumatic devices like these will be in keeping technology running seamlessly and allowing for smart sensing tech.
These fluid power systems allow for much more sophisticated built-in diagnostics that can monitor current, voltage, temperature, cycle counts, and more. These types of sensors will revolutionize the way factories operate and manage their equipment. They can also save huge amounts of money in breakdown and management costs.
How Will You Use The Pneumatic Cylinder?
Could your business benefit from a pneumatic system upgrade? How much more could you do effectively with this type of system on your side?
Here at TPC Automation, we specialize in making your business more efficient, And we help make your engineering dreams a reality. We will take your ideas and give you a realistic quote on what it would take to make that system work.
Request a quote today and see how the pneumatic cylinder can take your company to the next level in efficiency and technology.
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Click here to access our store and explore all the offerings we have to keep your pneumatic devices running at their highest levels.
With competitive prices, TPC Automation has your business and your machines in mind. So, let us help you take care of your investment and push your productivity and efficiency even further.