What Is Pneumatics?

Post By: Ryan King On: 21-12-2021 Read Time: 2 minutes - Guides - Pneumatics

Pneumatics, put simply, means compressing air (or gas), and applies also to the discipline of mechanical engineering that uses it. Pneumatics is a term derived from ancient Greek and means anything to do with the lungs or blowing air out forcibly, as when you pump a bellows at a fire. Modern pneumatic systems are widespread in industry and comprise a variety of major parts.

Air Preparation

Compressing air makes it hotter, and cooling it again produces contaminating condensation. Ordinary air is also full of dust, dirt, oil and other particulates. If these get into the system's working parts, some damage will ensue. Air preparation means filtering and lubricating your air supply and regulating its pressure to make sure no pressure is lost. This is most commonly done these days with a combined Filter-Regulator-Lubricator unit (FRL), although you can acquire each component separately.

What Is Pneumatics

Cylinders or Drives

The force of compressed air is converted by pneumatics into potential energy, which drives a cylinder with kinetic energy to move a piston rod. This can travel in a vertical or horizontal plane, and can be either a single or double-action stroke.

You can also find rodless cylinders, which can function by magnetic couplings, linear slides, rotary vane pumps or inflatable bellows.


Pneumatic valves come in many configurations, to direct and control the airflow by releasing the pressure at particular points. Common valve actions include starting up the system or controlling the airflow. Exhaust valves will vent your system and shut-off valves will close it down. Safety dump valves initiate an emergency system stop.

Modern pneumatics relies more on proportional solenoid valves, which alter the flow rate or air pressure electronically and are suited to more complex operations. Selecting appropriate valves is often quite complicated, and many systems have developed modular solutions to adapt.

Tubing and Hoses

Pneumatic hoses are usually reinforced for use in high-pressure applications, while tubing doesn't need reinforcing as it's used in lower pressure applications. There are many different types of both, including popular flexible varieties made with strong polymers. The main concern is to select the right size and type for your devices and ensure everything is compatible.


All the various parts of a pneumatic system have to be joined together with compatible fittings, from the major operational components to the tubes, hoses and seals. It's all under pressure, so everything must fit perfectly, with tight, leak-proof seals. Fittings comprise a myriad of materials and configurations, including metals and plastics, quick-connect push-in compression fittings, and traditional screw-in threads.


The operational noise levels of pneumatic applications can be high, and even damaging when high-pressure air is vented. Silencers do what they say, and work like the one on your car's exhaust. You can add an exhaust cleaner for environmental protection, and even manage the expelled airflow rate with adjustable throttle valves.

Vacuum Technology

Air pressure must be substantially reduced to create a vacuum, and all the air sucked out from a contained space (good for packaging). You can then use it to pick items up, or grip them for processing. Delicate applications use a suction pad or cup to retrieve items like small electronic components or plate glass.