Have you ever observed the working principle of a basic car?

Its internal mechanism causes gas combustion, providing fuel to the engine and causing the car to move. The basic working mechanism of a pneumatic cylinder is somewhat similar. However, instead of gas, it relies on compressed air for the provision of force.

This article provides a brief insight into the working principle of pneumatic cylinders and how it is useful.

The working principle of pneumatic cylinders

Pneumatic cylinders are metal cylinders with a piston inside. Compressed air is forced inside the cylinder, causing the piston to move, as a result of which, the heat energy is converted into mechanical energy. The piston thus moves in a linear path and, depending on the end device attachment, performs the requisite function for the application and then retracts.

Also known as actuators or air cylinders, siłowniki pneumatyczne are used in various industries in multiple capacities. Unlike hydraulic systems, where there is water and associated risk of leakage, pneumatic cylinders rely on air only and hence do not present the risk of leakage or cross-contamination.

Types and classifications

Pneumatic cylinders come in varying sizes and designs to cater to varying needs across numerous industries. Common design examples include the profile and tie-rod cylinders, round body cylinders, compact cylinders and telescopic cylinders.

A generic pneumatic cylinder design entails an enclosed cylinder with a piston rod moving inside. Based on that design principle, the pneumatic cylinder has two major categories, single-acting and double-acting cylinders.

In a single-acting cylinder, there is one port that allows compressed air to enter and forces the piston to extend while a spring pulls it back to the base.

A double-acting cylinder has two outlets. The piston moves in one direction and then backward through alternating the ports receiving the compressed air pressures.

In a basic application, the cylinder’s body is attached to a support frame, and the piston rod’s end is attached to a machine component that moves to perform the function. A control valve diverts the compressed air into one port and opens the retracting port into the surroundings. As an effect of the pressure difference between the two piston sides, the resulting force is equivalent to the pressure difference multiplied by the piston’s surface area.

As a result of the force, the piston rod extends to move the machine component and perform the required action. Once the action is performed, the valve is reversed, and the flow of compressed air causes the rod to move back in its original position.

Pneumatic cylinders uses

Pneumatic cylinders are made of plastic, stainless steel, steel or aluminum and are safe, lightweight, mostly customizable and more economical than hydraulic or electric systems. Therefore, they present cost-efficient and quick solutions for various industrial applications that require linear motion.

Some of the industries that feature the use of pneumatic cylinders include the robotics industry, manufacturing industry, food and beverages etc. They are available in a range of designs and styles and can be configured for use in various applications to perform actions like clamping, gripping, picking and placing, pressing, pushing or pulling etc.