Compressed Air - Our Invisible Drive

We discuss compressed air and where it comes from

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December 15, 2020

What is Compressed Air and Where Does It Come From?

What is compressed air? The simplest answer is that compressed air is exactly what its name says: It is air that is compressed, which means that it is forced into a small space.

While that is certainly correct, it doesn’t help us understand what it does. To figure that out, we have to ask ourselves why anybody would want to force air into a small space.

The answer to that question is “to create energy.” Because when air is compressed, its molecules move much more quickly. This creates so-called “kinetic energy,” which can be stored and released later as needed.

If that still doesn’t sound like a big deal, then consider that our entire civilization made a big leap forward once humans figured out how useful compressed air could be – and how to harness it. 

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The Fourth Utility

Today, compressed air is as important to modern production processes as electricity, water and gas. That is why it is also referred to as the “fourth utility.”

Without compressed air, factories across the globe would have to shut down. However, it is not just used in the manufacturing sector – almost every industry relies on it in one way or another. Compressed air is essential to moving cargo and people in ships, trains and cars. For example, it is used in brake systems, suspensions or airbags. In addition, it powers tools from construction sites and car repair shops to dentist’s offices.

However, while water and gas are natural resources and electricity is available from many different sources, compressed air must be generated on site. For that, we need compressors. 

Compressors Make the World go Round

In our society, compressors have taken on the role that steam engines played during the industrial revolution. They are one of the driving forces that keep things going. Compressors now come in all shapes and sizes. There are small portable ones used to power handheld tools and huge industrial systems that supply the compressed air for entire manufacturing plants or gigantic ships. 

These compressors are not only distinguished by their size but also many other features, ranging from the method in which they compress air to the air quality they can produce. In addition, the technology of their motor makes some models particularly quiet and others very energy efficient

To find out more about the different types of compressors, you can go here.

While there is an incredibly wide range of compressors, each of which caters to a different demand, there are two main requirements for all of them: efficiency and reliability.

Compressors have to be extremely reliable because they are so essential to many operations that they simply cannot afford to break down. In addition, they often run all the time, especially in production settings. If a certain tool fails, only a part of the operation will be affected, but if a compressor breaks down, everything grinds to a halt.

Efficiency is a different story. In theory, compressors don’t have to be very efficient. In practice, however, it is absolutely essential that they are. Here is why: For all their benefits, compressors consume a lot of energy. In fact, about 10% of all of the energy consumed by the industrial sector is used for compressing air.

That alone shows why energy efficiency is an economic necessity. Certain types of compressors will allow companies to cut the energy needed for compressing air by half, which can very quickly add up to significant cost reductions. 

These direct savings are not the only reason why efficiency is so important. The high energy demand of compressors is also a strain on the environment, and making them more efficient also makes them more environment-friendly. But this type of greener production is not just the right thing to do, it is also increasingly being mandated. Because they consume so much energy, compressor efficiency is a good place for governments to impose tougher standards. 

Many Compressors for Many Applications

As you can see, even though we don’t often think about its importance, compressed air has become an essential part of our lives. Whether we use it to inflate the tires of our first bikes as kids or to keep the world economy running, there are so many applications for compressed air that life without it has become unimaginable.

Fortunately, the range of compressors that can generate this air for us has also become so diverse that there is now the right compressor for any application.

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