How Compressed Air Systems Evolved in the Last 20 Years

Compressed air systems are not a recent innovation. Society has utilized compressed air for centuries, from the foot-operated bellows used in metalworking in the 1500s to the vacuum pumps inventions for blast furnaces in 1650 and the first compressor plant built in 1888. The need for compressed air systems has evolved and changed to accommodate technologies constant forward evolutionary pace.

Main Types of Modern Air Compressors

Entering into the 20th century, tools and larger machines gained benefits from using compressed air. Airplanes, cars, trains, and construction equipment relied on air compressors in tools as manufacturers looked at how this technology could create more cost-effective processes. As the equipment and processes became more advanced and complex over the years, air compressors strived to keep pace.

Today, there are three types of air compressors in use today: rotary screw compressors, reciprocating compressors, and jet compressors.

Rotary Screw Compressors

The most common air compressor on the market, these systems are highly efficient and used throughout a range of industries such as food processing to pharmaceuticals. These compressors use helical screws to compress the air within a chamber as the chamber shrinks in size.

Reciprocating Compressors

Found in industries that use blast furnaces, such as natural gas refinement, reciprocating compressors has pistons and valves. Air is drawn into the chamber through intake valves as the piston compresses it. Then the compressed air moves through outlet valves.

Jet Compressors

Specialized industries utilize jet compressors in their processes due to their unique functions. A jet compressor has highly pressurized gas vapor or water. This water or vapor pushes the air into a diffuser. This is one of the more uncommon types of compressors on the market.

Adoption of Big Data

In the past 20 years, digital services and information has infiltrated throughout the technology industry. More equipment and systems are interconnected through network servers and over the cloud. The Fourth Industrial Revolution, also known as Industry 4.0, looks to create a marriage between innovative manufacturing techniques with the Internet of Things (IoT).

Through this merging of technologies, systems share data as well as communicate with each other. This communication without the need of human intervention may allow systems to analyze data and provide actionable choices for workers. Companies in many industries may make more proactive decisions for efficient and sustainable processes.

When it comes to the air compressor industry, an air compressor supplier may adapt their traditional products with advanced technologies that include compressor controls with web servers. They may also have monitoring systems that effortlessly link to cloud database servers. With monitoring and control systems accessed through network and cloud services, workers may connect remotely to systems to monitor and analyze processes. They may also receive alerts through mobile devices so workers take immediate action no matter where they are located in the facility.

Measuring systems are also a possible technology offered by air compressor suppliers. Measuring systems allow workers to track a range of system features. These measurements may analyze and monitor air flows, pressure rates, and even air quality. These instruments help workers identify anomalies that could be possible system issues and track operational trends that could indicate to workers when maintenance is required for systems.

One trend for manufacturing companies is the need to have “smart” compressor controls. With artificial intelligence, compressor controls to improve operational output as well as offer insights into selecting which compressor types and sizes to use for a facility that has multiple and variable compressors. When compressors are integrated into the control system, the control system and AI tech selects the right one based on the load.

Another technology that has entered the market are oil-free compressors. An air compressor supplier may offer these products for industries where pressurized air contaminated with oil could negatively impact products, such as for medical device and pharmaceutical manufacturing. By using these systems, companies can meet regulatory guidelines and improve the quality of their products.

What’s Next for Air Compressors?

The evolution of air compressors will continue to move forward and adapt to the changing needs of manufacturers. Newer trends on the horizon may focus on the need to make more energy efficient operations and air compressors. Any waste to compressed air can significantly raise the energy costs for companies. Demand-side efficiency may take center stage as the solution that needs to be solved. Ways to solve this would involve focusing on proactive maintenance and newer compressor designs that lower the amount of compressed air waste.

Air compressors have a very long history around the world. The manufacturing changes that have occurred within every century has caused for these systems to also adapt and change. What the future holds next for air compressors will be dependent on how advanced that manufacturing systems become and how air compressors fit into these operations.

Compressors from JHFOSTER

JHFOSTER is a leading distributor of industrial air compressors. We offer climate controlled compressors, medical and vacuum compressors, oil lubricated compressors and oil free/oil less compressors. We service most compressor brands even if we are not a distributor of that specific brand. If there is a type of industrial compressor that you are searching for, or a specific brand that you desire for your operations, contact our specialized team. We offer air compressor equipment, parts, and servicing. So if you require setup, installation or need repairs to fix a problem, JHFOSTER has the solutions for your company’s budget.