Instrumentation

Pneumatic Cylinder

In this lesson, we will study the pneumatic cylinder.

Pneumatic cylinders are mechanical devices that use the power of compressed air to produce a force in a reciprocating linear motion. Like hydraulic cylinders, something forces a piston to move in the desired direction. The piston is a disc or cylinder, and the piston rod transfers the force it develops to the object to be moved.  Engineers sometimes prefer to use pneumatics because they are quieter, cleaner, and do not require large amounts of space for fluid storage.

      Types

Although pneumatic cylinders will vary in appearance, size, and function, they generally fall into one of the specific categories shown below. However, there are also numerous other types of pneumatic cylinders available, many of which are designed to fulfill specific and specialized functions.

  • Single-acting cylinders

Single-acting cylinders, accept pressurized fluid on only one side of the piston; volume on the other side of the piston is vented to the atmosphere or returns to the tank. Depending on whether it is routed to the cap end or rod end, the pressurized fluid may extend or retract the cylinder, respectively. In either case, the force generated by gravity or a spring returns the piston rod to its original state.

Single-acting cylinders (SAC) use the pressure imparted by compressed air to create a driving force in one direction (usually out), and a spring to return to the “home” position. More often than not, this type of cylinder has limited extension due to the space the compressed spring takes up. Another downside to SACs is that part of the force produced by the cylinder is lost as it tries to push against the spring.

Double-acting cylinders

The most common cylinder configuration is double-acting.  Routing pressurized fluid into the rod end of a double-acting cylinder causes the piston rod to retract. Conversely, routing pressurized fluid into the cap end causes the rod to extend.

Double-acting cylinders (DAC) use the force of air to move in both extend and retract strokes. They have two ports to allow air in, one for outstroke and one for in stroke.

pneumatic cylinder
pneumatic cylinder

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