A pneumatic cylinder is a device that converts compressed air power into mechanical energy. Also referred to as air cylinders or siłowniki pneumatyczne, they deliver force and linear or rotary motion to various machinery or automated systems.

Since they act as actuators in a pneumatic system, they are also referred to as pneumatic actuators in common terminology.

This article provides an insight into the basic mechanism of pneumatic cylinders and how they work.

The working of pneumatic cylinders

Generally, a pneumatic cylinder is an assembly of various components, including a piston and a piston rod, a barrel, a tie rod, a cap-end port and a rod-end port.

Here is how the components assembly works together to perform the requisite functions

The premise of the pneumatic cylinder’s working mechanism includes compressed air and the piston inside. Simply put, a pneumatic cylinder works when compressed air is forced to enter the cylinder to move the piston inside.

The main work is then performed by a mechanism integrated into the piston to convert the forced air into useful energy to perform a specific function, for instance, a factory automated processes like picking and placing system or load moving systems on the factory floor etc.

The pneumatic cylinder thus simply uses air to create force and create a linear or rotary motion which is handy in various instances and has real-time applications. The end application device is specific to the function requirement. It could be a clamp, a gripper or a vacuum cup.

Why use pneumatic cylinders

While pneumatic cylinders provide less force compared to an electric or hydraulic system, they are cost-effective. They are also quite lightweight and easy to maintain. They can also easily be used in environments that have challenging conditions, for instance, extreme temperatures.

They can improve the machine’s performance, and if you use the right kind of pneumatic cylinder, you can ensure the application’s success and its long-term role and contribution to the overall process.

So, for processes that require an economical alternative and do not require much force, pneumatic cylinders offer quite an efficient and long-term solution.

Types of pneumatic cylinders

Pneumatic cylinders have two main types.

  • Single-acting pneumatic cylinders have one port. The air pushes the piston in a single direction. There is a button on the side that operates the cylinder. When it is pushed, the air pushes the piston rod to move outwards. A spring causes the piston to resume its original position afterward. Single-acting pneumatic cylinders can be categorized as push-type and pull-type.
  • Double-acting pneumatic cylinders have two ports. These ports enable pressure to be applied to pull the piston in the direction opposite to the one that the first port forces it in. Thus the compressed air exerts force and moves the piston rod in two directions.