From the Bellows and Beyond: Pneumatics Achieves Greatness in Air Compression Technology

From the Bellows and BeyondWhen most people think about air compressors, they generally think of the devices that they use to air up tires or those large cumbersome pieces of equipment used at industrial worksites. Seldom does someone stop to think about the origin of ‘air compression’ or the extent to which the process has since been developed. Air compression technology has come a long way since the days of using good old-fashioned lungpower and manual strength to transfer air from one place to another.

Imagine kneeling in front of a stack of sticks and twigs, frantically blowing in an attempt to turn a small smolder of smoke into a full-blown campfire. The first manually operated bellows were used by blacksmith to stoke their fires, first by hand, and later, by foot. It would be much later before the manual bellows were replaced by a water wheel driven cylinder and then to a more mechanically driven device. The process of compressing air was as much driven by need as most technologies have been driven by the growth and development of human society.

Today, professional pneumatics extends to the application and utilization of compressed air and gases. The technology is used in such a variety of ways, from dentistry to industrial construction. The uses for air compressors seem endless and are no longer used only by large industrial businesses, but are found in many common households and small businesses.Air compressors now come in all shapes, sizes, and can be driven by different power sources; not to mention oil-lubricated or oil-free.

The diversification of these devices continues to expand, as society remains the driving force behind the need for adaptive technology. There is a wide array of air tools available on the market today. They range from nail guns, staplers, drills, and grinders to screwdrivers, sanders, impact wrenches, and paint sprayers.  The technology of air compression has far exceeded the expectations of those who first initiated its development. Derived from society’s desire to push the boundaries of the law of physics, pneumatic professionals remain dedicated to providing products that meet the needs of the consumer.

In order to operate all of these wonderful air-powered tools, the advancement of a variety of air compressors was necessary. This sparked the development of Reciprocating or Piston compressors and Screw Compressors. Along with this, the need to power these devices in a variety of ways also became somewhat of a design instigator. From electric powered compressors to gas-powered and oil-less or oil-free compressors; from portable compressors to stationary compressors, power became an important component to the design and development of air compressors.

You simply cannot overlook the sometimes-comical design of some of these air compressors. A favorite for many households is the Pancake or Hotdog compressor, known for its small size and lightweight. The Twin-Tank compressor looks more like something you would see in a 1950s science fiction movie strapped to an astronaut’s back, where the Wheelbarrow compressor is more befitting of its name.

Overall, the history of the air compressor is truly one to consider the next time you are airing up that basketball or watching your neighbor air up one of his tires in the driveway. Just remember, when you next reach for that nifty air-powered screwdriver, consider the fact that you are using only a smaller version of the power source used out in the construction field. From the dark ages when man first discovered fire, using their own lungpower as a means of stoking the flames, to the ancient ages of the bellows, man has strived to control and direct the force of air.

Author Bio: Simon has always had a soft spot for technology and gadgetry. When he is not busy with the S&L Air Compressors team, he spends his time writing and sharing his passion for innovative uses of technology with others.

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