A typical pneumatic system

Bits and Pieces: Fluid Power Fact #2

Get to know a typical pneumatic system

The schematic diagram of a typical pneumatic system is given in the accompanying figure. Basically the system is composed of a power source, control valves, and work elements.

The power source can broadly be classified into: compressed air generation, primary air treatment, storage, air distribution, and secondary air treatment. A compressor is a device for converting mechanical energy into pneumatic energy. The compressed air, as delivered by the compressor, is contaminated to a widely varying degree. The contamination consists of dust and humidity from the atmospheric air taken in by the compressor and the particles originating within the compressor, such as the residues of lubricants and mechanically abraded particles. The heat developed during the compression may lead to undesirable oxidation and combination of dirt particles in the air. It is essential to have high-quality compressed air in order to promote reliable and efficient operation of pneumatic components. In order to be suitable for any industrial use, the compressed air must be subjected to preparation using components such as an after-cooler, filters, a dryer, a receiver tank, and a Filter, Regulator, and Lubricator (FRL) unit. The distribution system of the compressed air must be properly sized and configured.


The after-cooler is intended to reduce the temperature of compressed air to approximately 15 to 25 0C above ambient. The filter units are installed in a graded manner for the removal of solid contaminants as well as moisture. The dryer is used for the dehydration of the compressed air. The air receiver tank assists in smoothening demand surges and provides further cooling of the compressed air and the consequent water collection. The ring main network ensures largely uniform pressure conditions towards the downstream side of the system. The FRL unit is used at the end of the power source to obtain compressed air, which is finely filtered and dried, regulated, and lubricated just before its entry into a machine or a tool.

A pneumatic actuator is an output device for the conversion of energy contained in the compressed air to produce a linear or rotary motion and/or apply a force. It is a device to make power and motion available to an automated system, machine, or process. The pneumatic system requires valves to control or regulate the flow of the pressurized air from the compressor to various actuators.

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