Pneumatics In Everyday Life

Post By: Luke West On: 17-03-2023 Read Time: 5 minutes - Guides

Pneumatics and compressed air technology sounds complicated, but you’d be surprised how often you meet pneumatics in everyday life. You’ll probably have seen all sorts of equipment powered by compressed air, without even being aware of it. Pneumatic systems work in two ways: pushing and pulling. Air is compressed to create a force that pushes, or it’s sucked out to create a vacuum that pulls. When you’re hoovering your home or pumping up your tyres, you’re using a pneumatic system.

You might have self-closing screen doors at home or at work that are powered by a small compressed air cylinder. You may have seen vacuum tube systems in films that are used to transport banknotes or mail. You’ll certainly have encountered pneumatic drills, whether it’s to dig a hole in the road, or in your tooth at the dentist.

Pneumatics In Everyday Life

Pneumatic Tools

Many power tools are electric, but it’s very likely that you’ll find a pneumatic version that will work just as well. Some examples include air hammers, wrenches, drills, screwdrivers and nail guns. In workshops and DIY projects, you’ll also find sandblasters, air sanders and staplers, spray guns and paint atomisers.

Pneumatic Delivery Tubes

Pneumatic mail systems used to be found in many large businesses, factories and department stores, for delivering papers through pressurised air tubes. They were also used in banks to transport cash. While some are still in use, it’s not a common system any more, and paper mail itself is at a much lower volume. However, it’s now a frequently used system in hospitals, for the rapid distribution and delivery of medications and medical samples.

Tyre Inflation

Handheld pneumatic pumps are still used to fill up flexible containers with air. These include footballs, basketballs, balloons and bicycle tyres. These pumps consist of a cylinder full of air, which you pull into the chamber when you extend the pump handle. When you push the handle, you’ll be compressing the air, decreasing its volume. Doing this will increase the pressure of the air in the chamber, forcing it to flow out through the nozzle into the tyre.

The same applies when you fill up your car tyres with air at a garage or service station. Instead of drawing the air in and out with a manual pump, you use a tool that opens and closes off the airflow from a compressor when you attach it to the valve. Valves are one of the first and most important features of any pneumatic system, and are used to control the airflow.

For both bikes and cars, you can use a manual pressure gauge to check the pressure, where the air travels out of the tyre into a chamber in the gauge. Inside this chamber is a small piston attached to a spring, which compresses under pressure from the incoming air. This forces a scale or needle to register the pressure measurement.

Construction

Jackhammers, or pneumatic drills, are a commonly seen item wherever rock or concrete needs to be broken. They require intense power, which they get from a compressor supplying compressed air. This pushes down a pile driver into the chisel-shaped bit used to break apart the concrete or stone.

For larger road construction jobs you might have come across road drillers. These much more powerful machines use compressed air to create the rotary motion of several diamond-hard chisel bits. In other applications, these machines are used for digging wells and mining.

Pneumatics In Everyday Life

Air Brakes and Doors

You might travel on a bus or train with pneumatic doors and brakes. Public transport often uses pneumatic doors as a safety feature. Air pressure keeps them closed until pressing a switch releases the pressure and the doors open. If there’s an accident, the doors are designed to open automatically.

Air brakes were originally designed for the railways, where they’re still used for safe and secure stopping of trains. Once road transport began to take over, air brakes successfully made the transition to trucks, lorries, buses and other large vehicles. Compressed air is generated by a compressor in the engine, and stored in a reservoir. When you press down on the brake, this compressed air pushes a piston down onto the brake assembly to stop the vehicle. This compressed air is vented once you apply the handbrake, and the reservoir is refilled from the compressor.

Medical

You’ll find all sorts of pneumatic systems in medical facilities, from the rubber armband that’s pumped up to take your blood pressure to portable oxygen tanks. We’ve already mentioned the pneumatic tube system used to deliver patient samples and drugs. More complex applications include oxygen concentrators, blood analysers, infusion pumps, breathable gas delivery systems, wound therapy, and medical bed surfaces.

A visit to the dentist isn’t anyone’s favourite thing, but pneumatic dental drills are relatively gentle compared to the alternative. You won’t get an electric shock or encounter anything toxic, and they don’t leak liquid as they run only on compressed air. Dentists also use pneumatics for drying, and for blasting out tiny particles, as well as for raising and lowering your chair.

Pipe Organs To Cable Jetters

These are only a few of the examples of pneumatics you might meet in everyday life. There are many others, including things like amusement park rides, animatronics, and exercise machines like elliptical and resistance trainers. Air guns can pack a punch, and even pneumatic Lego® sets are available. Old-fashioned instruments such as pipe organs provide early examples of pneumatic systems, while modern ones include cable jetters, which use compressed air to push wiring along pipes.

Chances are, you’ll also be using a vacuum pump in the kitchen to remove the air from a sealed container. You might also be vacuum-wrapping items for storage, sealing food in bags – or saving the rest of your bottle of wine for another day.