Understanding the Basics of Industrial Pneumatic Power Tools

The industrial work site is an exciting and busy place, full of all different types of tools and equipment. Where you find work happening in an industrial setting, you will also find pneumatic tools. These tools are safe, effective, and an indispensable part of the industrial tradesman tool kit.

Understanding the basics of how pneumatic tools work is a critical part of the job, particularly for those who use them every day. How do these tools get the job done?

What are Pneumatic Power Tools?

Shaun from industrial tools specialist Principal Power Tools said “Pneumatic power tools are powered by air. By leveraging the power of compressed air, they increase their power-to-weight-ratio substantially, making pneumatic tools preferable to strictly electric ones (for certain types of work).”

How Do Pneumatic Power Tools Work?

Pneumatic power tools use compressed air to increase their power while remaining relatively light. For this to happen, different systems work in conjunction with each other to create a dynamic and effective power delivery system that is used around the globe, every day. There are 3 main parts to a compressed air system that powers pneumatic tools.

Pneumatic Power Tools

  • The Compressor and Reservoir

For air to help in any type of work, it must first be harnessed. That is where a compressor comes in. The compressor (usually a gas or electric motor) takes in air from the outside and forces it into a small space (the reservoir), creating pressure. This pressure, once trapped in the reservoir, can be used to drive the pneumatic components throughout the air system, turning that stored energy into useful force.

  • Valves

There are a set of valves throughout any pneumatic air system that controls the flow of this compressed air. These valves are what dictates where the air can flow and when it can flow there. Valves also change the direction of the air in a pneumatic system if it is necessary.

  • Motor/Actuator

A motor or actuator is the component that enables the movement that is powered by the pressurized air. This takes stored energy and turns it into more useful and powerful kinetic energy. Often, air-powered pistons allow the air to move through them, letting the air deliver that kinetic energy, all to be reset and done again. For example, in a pneumatic air nail gun, the firing pin is powered by air, forcing the nail out of the gun and it automatically resets for the next nail, completing one full cycle from start to finish.

How Do Pneumatic Tools Compare to Electric Tools?

When you compare air-powered tools to electric tools pound for pound, pneumatic tools win. Using electrical energy to power your tools is effective, it can deliver a lot of power and for certain applications, electric may be the right choice.

However, when it comes to the best value for each dollar spent and best performance per ounce of tool weight, pneumatic tools come out on top. They also have fewer parts than their electric counterparts, requiring less maintenance over time, leading to a longer shelf life.

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