What are the Different Types of Pneumatic Valves?

A pneumatic valve, commonly referred to as a directional control valve blocks or diverts the flow of compressed air or other gases within a system. These valves are used to drive other components such as an actuator, gripper, hand tool or other device and are also used to pilot other valves. There are various types of valves offered all with different features in order to achieve the desired flow outcome. Which one is best for you and your application? Let us explain the basic differences between the different types of pneumatic valves.

Construction Type


One of the most common types of directional control valves has a spool design that can be shifted to two, three, or more positions in order to route the air between inlet and outlet ports. Spool valves are widely used when controlling actuators and, as a single valve, they can control extension, retraction, and neutral.


Poppet style valves have a simple design that use a face seal that opens and closes (often with a spring return) against a valve seat. These valves offer higher flow but can only be shifted to two positions. They are less common than spool type valves and are often used in more harsh environments.

Types of Pneumatic Valve Operators

Solenoid Operated

A solenoid valve is an electromechanically operated valve and consists of electric coil that converts electrical energy into linear motion in order to open or close a valve. Solenoid valves come in various design variations such as if the valve is normally open or normally closed, multiple positions, ways, voltages and ports. Solenoid valves are mainly used for controlling the flow of many liquids or gases of a huge temperature range and are easy to install. 

Multiple solenoid valves can be placed together on a manifold so that the manifold can direct the flow of a liquid or gas in multiple directions and destinations as well as reduce the potential for leaks in a system.

Air Operated 

Air operated valves are a type of power operated valve that uses air pressure against a piston or diaphragm to produce a linear or circular movement to operate a valve. Most air operated valves control single-acting or double-acting cylinders by directing or blocking airflow in a pneumatic circuit. Similar to solenoid valves, there are various designs such as 2-way, 3-way, and 4-way and the 2-way valves can be normally closed or normally opened.  

Mechanical & Manually Operated 

Mechanical pneumatic valves can be operated either by a mechanism or by an operator. These types of valves are strong, robust, and reliable with multiple uses which is probably why they are so popular. Common applications include: emergency stop button, ensuring machine safety, plunger valves to count the number of travels of a carriage in a repetitive process, a key operated valve can ensure that on removal of the key a process can continue in the operation (or be shut off) without unauthorized inference. 

And that’s just the start… There are a variety of other configurations such as check valves, shuttle valves, flow control valves and much more.’

Not sure what type of valve is the right solution for your application needs? Contact us today to receive information and guidance from our team of experts. We can also help you with piping, fittings, and actuators to connect the valves into the pneumatic system correctly