Common automotive applications of air compressors include surface finishing, airbrush painting, parts cleaning, and tire inflation. Their counterpart, gas stations, use air compressors to power gas pumps.
Meanwhile, homes and offices alike may be painted using air compressor tools. Building-related projects, along with a number of surfaces, may also be serviced with power tools that use compressors, such as staplers, sandblasters, sanders, spray guns, nail guns, and drills.
In sports and recreation, air compressors power paintball gun canisters.
Heavy-duty construction activities may employ rock drills, needle scalers, air chisels, chipping hammers, tuggers/winches, jacklegs, and jackhammers. Power tools like these use either permanent or portable air compressors.
Commercial artists frequently require the air compression power channeled through airbrush tools.
Industrial air compressors supply air for atmosphere control systems such as blast forges, air purification systems, temperature control systems, and air lock systems.
Also, air compressors allow for deep sea swimming and research by filling the oxygen tanks used by deep sea divers.
The two main components of all compressors are the compressing mechanism and the power source of the compressing mechanism. Mechanisms commonly used, the choice of which depends on the compressor configuration, include impellers, pistons, and vanes. Possible compression energy sources include: gas-powered motors, electrical motors and power takeoffs. Electric air compressors are available either with rechargeable 12 volt batteries or with a power cord, while gas air compressors exclusively operate with the assistance of a gasoline-run motor.
The three main air compressor configurations available for purchase are rotary screw compressors, centrifugal compressors, and reciprocating compressors.
Rotary screw compressors may be portable or they may operate as central facility units. They use two meshed helical screws that rotate rapidly in opposite directions. In this way, they extract air in small doses and compress it as it cycles through the rotating screws. In addition, the internal parts of rotary screw compressors are usually lubricated. Usually, they are designed with oil separators attached downstream to filter out contaminating lubricants. Sometimes, though less commonly, rotary screw work as oil-free devices.
Centrifugal compressors, on the other hand, are always oil-free. Oilless compressors are advantageous for applications that require a guaranteed pure airstream. Not only can filters not be counted on to catch contaminants 100% of the time, but downstream filtration components may add maintenance costs.
Centrifugal compressors, sometimes also called radial compressors, are dynamic air compressors that work by converting introduced kinetic energy into increased potential energy. Using a rotating impeller, the centrifugal compressor creates air velocity (kinetic energy), which it then pushes through a diffuser, thus slowing flow and compressing air. This compressed air is then either released immediately into a pressure system, ready to work, or stored in a holding tank.
Finally, reciprocating air compressors generate air compression through the use of pistons. These pistons enter and exit a cylindrical mouth, allowing air in and out of the compressor only when its useful, and without changing its compression process. Because they are cost-effective and have broad output capabilities, reciprocating compressors enjoy an established popularity. Like rotary screw compressors, reciprocating compressors may be portable or permanent.
For the convenience and specification matching of the air compressor customer, air compressors are available in a variety of styles, sizes, and methods of power. In addition to more common power methods, air compressors may be designed so that they can be driven by natural gas. This is an excellent option for a customer looking to reduce energy consumption and costs. Customers also have the option of buying a used air compressor, rather than a new one. Used air compressors sold by reputable suppliers are generally in excellent shape and can be counted on to provide years of service.