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Discussion

Advantages of using compressed air in control systems

Safe to use

Compressed air used in pneumatic systems is fire proof. Therefore it is less vulnerable to explosions and electrical hazards. Compressed air can withstand very high amounts of temperature fluctuations, and therefore, can safely be used under extreme weather conditions. The air used in pneumatic systems is not toxic; therefore it does not pose a threat to any living organisms. Since compressed air is very safe in operation, expensive safety extensions need not be used in parallel with these systems.

High in reliability

Pneumatic systems have fewer moving parts compared to mechanical systems, and generally wear very little. Compressed air is a good shock absorber. Therefore, the working fluid used in pneumatic systems cause less stress on the equipment used. All these factors result in the long lasting operation and low maintenance in pneumatic systems.

Simple in design and control

Control equipment can be easily manufactured using standard cylinders & other components. Controlling mechanism simply contains two ON-OFF states, so it’s easy to implement and understand. Pneumatic components can be easily installed and can be re-used later without difficulty. Installation time is less because of the simple design. Straight-line movements can be executed without extra mechanical parts such as levers, cams, eccentric disks, screw spindles and the like.

Light weight

Air is very light in weight, so supply hoses in pneumatic systems are not heavy. Also Pneumatic devices are usually much lighter when compared with electrical power units. This quality is highly advantageous in precision tools.

Over-load proof

Because air is compressible, the equipment is less likely to be damaged by shock. The air in pneumatics absorbs excessive force. Therefore, pneumatic systems can be over-loaded without damaging the equipment. If the pressure of air drops too much, work cannot be done, but there will be no damage to the network or its working elements.

Easy storage

Compressed air can be easily stored in tanks. Once compressed above a certain threshold value, air can be operated without further need of compressing. This allows a work cycle to be completed even when the electrical power system fails.

Easy transportation

Compressed air can be transported to long distances through pipelines. This quality enables the whole system to be controlled by a central generating station which provides consumption points with a high working pressure. Compressed air can easily be stored in sealed tanks or bottles and can be transported to places where there are no compressed air pipelines.

Clean

Some industries like food, cosmetics, pharmaceuticals and packaging require high standards of cleanliness. Pneumatic systems can provide this because the working fluid used is purified and compressed air. Even if there is a leak, it would not be toxic or harmful in any way.

Economical

Pneumatic components are cheaper than the equivalent hydraulic components. There is no need for regular medium changes, as with hydraulic equipment, for instance. This reduces costs and the servicing requirement, and increases operating times. The equipment are produced with relatively inexpensive material.

High speed working medium

Pneumatic power is faster, as air is lighter to move and produces less friction. The very high flow speeds allow rapid completion of work cycles. This provides short cut-in times and fast conversion of energy into work. Compressed air can achieve flow speeds of over 20 m/s. With pressures of less than 1bar it is even possible to obtain signal speeds of 200 to 300 m/s.

Disadvantages of using compressed air in control systems

Air is highly compressible so accurate speed control and position control is difficult when comparing with electrical and hydraulic actuators. It is also not possible to achieve uniform piston speeds.

Large space is needed to install a pneumatic control system when compared with electrical actuators.

Unable to work with heavy loads (commonly used working pressure of 7 bar, the required output force is economical only up to about 20 KN to 30 KN ) Unlike hydraulics or electrical system these cant be used for heavily loaded operation.