Air Supply UK: Specialist Compressed Air Engineers

Published: 15/01/2021

Types of Air Compressors: From Reciprocating to Rotary Screw Compressors

As air compressors can be used as a power source for electric tools on construction sites, they are a vital appliance on any site. Compressed air is used because it provides a reliable and efficient high output, which can be used to power a range of air-operated tools required on construction sites. There are lots of benefits of using air-powered tools on a construction site; they’re lighter, safer and easier to use than electric-powered tools, and just one air compressor can be used to power each individual tool when required, rather than each tool requiring its own power source. In addition, air compressors generally have less parts and are often quieter.

Over the years, air compressors and air tools have evolved to play an important role in the home and for industrial applications too. As they provide clean, pressurised air that is contaminant-free, air compressors have a number of different uses and applications and are becoming increasingly integral to day-to-day life.

As there are a number of different ways to compress gas, lots of different types of compressors have been invented over the years, each providing a method to pressurise air. Air compressors are categorised as either positive displacement or dynamic displacement based on their internal mechanisms. Positive displacement compressors work with a constant flow regardless of outlet pressure, whereas dynamic compressors work at a constant pressure and are categorised based on their axial or radial design.

In this article, we’re going to take a look at three different types of air compressors: the rotary screw compressor, the reciprocating air compressor and the rotary centrifugal compressor. While there are lots of different air compressors, these are the most common.

Rotary screw air compressor

The rotary screw compressor is one of the most common types of displacement compressors; this simply means that the compressor boosts air pressure by decreasing its volume. Rotary screw compressors are typically the workhorses in manufacturing industries as they’re designed for continuous use; many factories and industries rely on these types of compressors for jobs such as powering machine tools and spray painting. They’re typically industrial-sized machines that can be lubricated with oil or they can be purchased as oil-free compressors. Rotary screw compressors are particularly easy to take care of as they have an internal cooling system and require little maintenance compared to other types of compressors.

Benefits of rotary screw compressors

  • Safety and convenience. Rotary screw compressors are designed to deliver air continuously, making them extremely convenient for various uses. As a rotary screw runs at a lower temperature, you don’t need to worry about overheating; instead, the machine can run for hours on end without wearing out critical components. They’re also incredibly safe to use.
  • Easy maintenance. Rotary screw compressors are easier to maintain than other types of compressors – but it’s important to note that they do still require some maintenance. They have less parts than other types of machines, which also helps to lower maintenance costs too.
  • Quiet operation. Regarded as quiet performers, lots of rotary screw compressors are equipped with noise reducing technologies. Rotary screw compressors typically aren’t any louder than a standard vacuum or dishwasher; unlike other machinery, they have significantly reduced noise output. If you’re looking for a quiet air compressor, rotary screw compressors are a good option.
  • Cleaner air. No matter what type of environment a rotary screw compressor operates in, you can expect cleaner and drier air compared to other types that demand low air moisture and the absence of oil. The male-female rotating screws seal in lubricating oil, resulting in an oil carryover that’s less than three parts per million.

Reciprocating air compressor

Reciprocating air compressors are usually more suitable for smaller applications, such as home construction projects or garages. Again, this type of compressor is very popular, but unlike rotary screw compressors, a reciprocating compressor is not designed for continuous use. Rotary air compressors are available as air-cooled or water-cooled in lubricated or non-lubricated configurations, in a range of different pressures and capacities.

A reciprocating air compressor has more moving parts than a rotary screw compressor and these parts are lubricated for smoother movement. These air compressors are typically used in environments where the air demand isn’t continuously needed or too high.

Benefits of reciprocating air compressors

  • Suitable for a range of applications. A reciprocating compressor can be used in many industrial applications involving the compression of gas, but they’re also suitable for everyday home uses too – they can even be found in air conditioners in your car or home.
  • Low installation and maintenance cost. A key advantage of using a reciprocating compressor is that the initial cost of installing it is typically lower than other types of compressors. They’re also relatively inexpensive and simple to maintain, again making them suitable for a range of uses.
  • Reciprocating air compressors are recognised for their durability. When looked after correctly, these types of air compressors can last two to five times longer than other compressors, meaning that they make up for their initial cost over time.

Rotary centrifugal compressor

Unlike rotary and reciprocating air compressors, a centrifugal air compressor is a dynamic system. Centrifugal compressors work by slowing and cooling the incoming air through a diffuser to build up potential energy. The rotary centrifugal compressor relies on energy transfer from the rotating impeller to the air. They’re able to produce a high amount of energy in a small machine and are typically used in demanding and busy construction sites, such as steel manufacturing centers and chemical plants, as they have the ability to reach up to 1,000 horsepower and are designed for higher capacity because flow through the compressor is continuous.

Benefits of rotary centrifugal compressors

  • High flow rate. Unlike positive displacement air compressors, rotary centrifugal compressors have a high flow rate. They produce a constant flow of high-pressured air to meet high demands, meaning that they’re typically a good fit for industrial settings. As well as handling large flow rates, rotary centrifugal compressors also usually operate at a high minimum speed.
  • Relatively efficient in terms of energy. Rotary centrifugal compressors are an energy efficient option and are oil-free in nature, making them an appealing option to a number of industries.
  • Low maintenance. Rotary centrifugal compressors are easy to maintain yet highly reliable, making them suitable for a range of applications. They have few rubbing parts and are low weight, easy to manufacture and design.

Air Supply Ltd: Industrial Air Compressor Maintenance and Repairs

At Air Supply Ltd, we specialise in industrial air compressor maintenance and repairs. If you’re looking for reliable air compressor services, look no further than us. We pride ourselves on our fantastic reputation and outstanding customer service in Yorkshire and across the North East of England. We’re also proud to supply our high-quality products to the rest of the UK.

Our team of experienced experts put their utmost care into each and every air compressor installation, and we’re also proud to specialise in the supply of quality used air compressors, holding one of the largest stocks in mainland UK.

To learn more about our services or to view our product range, don’t hesitate to visit our website or get in touch with us. If we don’t stock what you require, we will endeavour to source the equipment within our network of trading partners.

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