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Pneumatics and Pneumatic Systems

impact wrenchThe majority of us will likely encounter pneumatic systems regularly. We are all familiar with inflatables such as balloons and bounce houses; they are inflated with a gas- air, helium, nitrogen or hydrogen, the pressure of the gas is what keeps the structure inflated. 

Pneumatics as an industrial term is the use of pressurized air used in various applications from inflating the air in your tires to the air impact wrench used to remove or install those same tires.  Pneumatics (pressurized air) is used for maintenance daily in the petrochemical, oilfield marine, etc. industries.


How do Pneumatic Systems work?

air compressorPneumatic systems in a fixed location, such as an assembly shop generally transfer the pressurized air from the air compressor to the workstations through piping which connects to an air hose to allow for flexibility at the workstation.  For convenience works stations can be equipped with a hose reel, so the hose can be stored neatly and out of the way when not in use.  All work stations of this manner should also be equipped with filters, regulators and lubricators (FRL’s).  Filters are used to filter out any contaminants that may harm the air tool.  Air compressors generally deliver air to the pneumatic system anywhere between 150 psi and 200 psi, with some systems possibly be higher, so the use of a regulator is necessary. A Regulator regulates the compressed air to optimal pressure suggested for a particular air tool, so as not to damage the tool due to be exposed to the higher than recommended pressures.  Some air tools require lubrication, such as air tool oil to keep the air tool operating at its maximum potential and prolonging the tools life. 

portable air compressorThere are some situations where compressed air is delivered from a portable air compressor that provides pressurized air to air tools or equipment.  These portable compressors or portable pneumatic systems operate much the same as those in assembly shops but provide the pressurized air from air hoses connected directly to the air compressor using a manifold.  This manifold allows multiple users to operate from the same compressor at once.  Air hose from the manifold to the operator’s tool is generally called a Jackhammer hose.  These jackhammer hoses can be 3/4” or 1” in inside diameter.  The length can vary, but the standard is 50 foot long.  The pneumatic couplings on a traditional Jackhammer hose are commonly called a 2-Lug Crowsfoot Coupling.  Portable pneumatic systems also use air hose terms as Bull Hose.  Bull Hoses are higher pressure hose assemblies (300 psi to 600 psi) with 4-Lug Crowsfoot Couplings.  These assemblies range in size from 1-1/4” to 4” inside diameter and usually 50 to 100 feet in length. 

How do you maintain a Pneumatic System?

air hoseIt is essential to maintain a pneumatic system properly; this includes regular checkups and inspections.  With all pneumatic systems, routine maintenance on the compressors is critical, visually inspect your air hoses for signs of wear and or abuse.  Also, make sure your connections are secure and do not leak.  Leaking connections could result in reduced air tool performance. Without proper maintenance pneumatic systems can break down and become damaged, leading to a decrease in the system life and increased costs to repair and replace the system.  When performing routine inspections on your pneumatic systems, make sure to look at the pipes, pneumatic valves, pneumatic timers, and pneumatic cylinders.  Anything that is not correctly working should be attended to immediately. 

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