Pneumatics and Pneumatic Systems Guide – Parts, Applications

Pneumatics and Pneumatic Systems Guide – Parts, Applications

Pneumatics is a very important field in engineering lots of kinds of practical systems depend on these systems. They are very useful and very different systems. We explain these systems in detail in this article. You can find this information about pneumatic systems here;

  • What is pneumatics? How does a pneumatic system work?
  • What are the general parts of these systems?
  • Applications of these systems.
  • Advantages and disadvantages.
  • General problems and breakdowns in pneumatic systems.
  • FAQs

These are the general topics that you can learn about these systems here. Read to take important information about these systems.

What is a Pneumatic System?

Pneumatic system.
An example of a pneumatic system.

Pneumatic systems are the systems where the high-pressure gases produce the motion of the machinery. There are lots of systems that work in this way. In these systems, there is very high-pressure air, and this air is transferred to pneumatic actuators to obtain movement. The same principle of hydraulic systems is also valid for these systems.

In a pneumatic system, there is always constant compressed air. And we use this compressed air to give the general motions. So, we use the energy of this high-pressure air.

We produce this high-pressure air with compressors. Compressors are the devices that we use to increase the pressure of gases. So, they have internal energy. And you can see that this internal energy can push pneumatic cylinders.

In general, the pressures and loads in these systems are lower than the hydraulic systems. The typical air pressure is around 6-10 bars. So, in general, we use these systems for more compact applications.

They may seem very basic. But after reading this detailed article about pneumatics, it is a very important and complex field of engineering. There are lots of engineers that deal with only pneumatic systems.

General Parts of a Pneumatic Systems

Pneumatic systems are somewhat complex systems to understand completely. There are lots of valves, controllers, and sensors in these systems. Also, electronic circuits can be very complex. We will talk about the general parts and components of pneumatic systems here.

Air Filters in Pneumatics

Pneumatic air filter.
Image Source: Cole-Parmer.

Air filters are very important components of these systems. Before the compressors, they filter the atmospheric air from pollutants and contaminants. These pollutants and contaminants can be very harmful to other components of pneumatic systems.

We need to make maintenance and cleaning of air filters in these systems. Because filters get clogged with pollutants and contaminants over time. In the user’s guide, you can see the general maintenance periods and procedures of the air filters. Because it is one of the most important parts of these systems.

Air Pressure Regulators in Pneumatics

Air pressure is a very important parameter in pneumatics. To obtain successful systems, we need to regulate air pressure accurately. So, we use air pressure regulators to control the air pressures downstream after the filtering operations.

There are lots of electronically controlled air pressure regulators that we actively use in these systems.

Air Lubricators

Air lubricators are the components that inject lubrication oil into compressed air to obtain more smooth and easy motions of air and the pneumatic components. Also, these systems are electronically controlled.

Also, there are combined systems of pressure, lubricators, and filters in the same units. We call these systems FRL combination units. The meaning of the acronym FRL is the filter, regulator, and lubrication. They are very useful systems in electronically controlled pneumatic systems.


Air compressor in pneumatic system.
Compressor(Image Source:

Compressors are the most renowned systems of pneumatics. Because they directly produce compressed air that we need in these systems. Compressors are systems that have rotating vanes or pistons that take and pressurize the air inside a container. And the power comes from a shaft that is directly connected to an electric motor.

So, you can understand that electric motors are the main power sources of pneumatic systems. Also, other systems work with internal combustion engines.

Also, the maintenance of compressors is very important. At different intervals, you need to check the lubrication of compressors. Also, it is very important to check the sealings of these systems once in a while.

Air Coolers in Pneumatics

As you know from the basic gas dynamics if you squeeze the gases, the temperature and the pressure of these gases increases. Because the internal energy of these gases is directly related to the temperature and pressure.

So in pneumatic systems, compressors compress the air and the pressure and temperature of the air increase. We need this pressure. But do not need the temperature. Also, high temperatures can be very harmful to the other components.

Because of these reasons, we use air coolers in pneumatic applications. We place the air coolers after the compressor systems to decrease the temperature of the compressed air. Air coolers are small heat exchangers that heat exchanger takes place in small passages.

You need to clean the intercooler systems for a specific period. There can be air filters in pneumatic systems but, the small channels and passages can get contaminated. So, this decreases the efficiency of the air cooling. And also, pressure loss takes place which will lead to a decrement in efficiency.

Storage Reservoir

In pneumatic systems, there are storage reservoirs where the filtered, compressed and cooled air is stored. These storage reservoirs are very important that we store the compressed air to supply to the systems.

All time, there is high-pressure air to supply to the pneumatic system. Also, there is a pressure switch that opens if the required pressure is obtained in the reservoir. So when the pressure switch opens, the reservoir will release the redundant air into the atmosphere.

Control Valves in Pneumatics

There are lots of kinds of valves in pneumatic systems but this one is the most important. Control valves are controlling the entering and exiting air to or from the pneumatic system. For example, think about a pneumatic cylinder. The cylinder will raise if we take pneumatic air inside the cylinder with a control valve. Also, the cylinder will lower if we take the pneumatic air.

If we take air from the system with the control valve, they exhaust this air into the atmosphere. But in hydraulic systems, we take this fluid into the reservoir back.

Also, sealing maintenance of control valves is very important. Because if there are air leakages from these control valves, the controlling system of the pneumatic system will not be efficient.

Manual and Mechanical Valves

They are the types of valves that we can apply manual press by a pedal or mechanical control. So, the air control takes place with the manual activation of these valves in pneumatic systems.

Selenoid Valves

Selenoid valves are also very common types of valves in these systems. There is an electrical selenoid system that activates with the application of current. And once the selenoid activates, the valve opens or closes to control the air.

Fluid Control Valves

They are also the same as the solenoid valves. But we can use the fluid control valves also in the fluid systems. The most important advantage of the fluid control valves is, that we can control the air in a very rapid sense.

Non-Return Valves

We know the non-return valves as check valves which we use to allow the fluids and gases to flow in one direction. So, we can prevent the possible backflows of fluids and gases in pneumatics.

Electric Motors in Pneumatics

In general, we use electric motors in pneumatics. Electric motors can be directly connected to the electric grid. And we can use them without any problem.

Electric motors are directly connected with the compressors in pneumatic systems. And if the electric motor works, the compressor will take air from the atmosphere to compress it.


Actuators are the end effectors of pneumatic systems that make the required work. For example in a pneumatic lifting system, there is a cylinder that fills with air. So, if we give extra high-pressure air to the cylinder, the platform will rise. Otherwise, it will come down. And this cylinder system is the actuator of the pneumatic system.

You can see a different kinds of pneumatic actuators both in daily life and industrial life. We will talk about them in the applications section.

Air Cylinders

In the pneumatic systems that make the push and pull actions, they are the cylinders that we use to push and pull the rod. There is a piston-cylinder mechanism that works with the air pressure in the cylinder.

Rotary Actuators

Rotary systems are also very common in pneumatic systems. The general working principles of rotary actuators, there is a cylinder and rod system that works in the same principle as air cylinders. And, the rod is connected with a rack and pinion system. So, the rack makes a reciprocating motion. And the actuator system which is connected to the gear makes the rotary action.

Electronic Circuits

Electronic circuits are also a very important part of pneumatic systems. Because in these systems, there are lots of sensors and electronic logic gates. They control the general working of all the systems in a pneumatic system. So, there are lots of electronic parts. And also, there is an electronic card that has relays and other controllers and processors. All the work is in harmony with the software.

The most important part of the electronic circuits is the pneumatic logic controllers. On these controllers, some relays control the different actuators and electromechanical systems on systems. And these controlling actions take place with the software inside it.

Other Important Auxilary Components in Pneumatic Systems

Maybe pneumatic systems may seem very basic systems that we are using high-pressure air to control different systems. But they are somewhat complex systems that have various electromechanical and mechanical components in them. You can find the other important components here.

Air Pressure Gauges

As we stated above, the pressure of the air in these systems is a very important parameter. To measure the pressure of the air, we use both the mechanical and electromechanical air pressure gauges in pneumatics.

Drip Leg Drains

In the atmospheric air, there is moisture. And condensation of this moisture can be a problematic issue for these systems. So, we use drip leg drain systems to catch the condensed water from the pressurized air.

Position Sensors

The position of the actuators is also very important information. Because the system acts as the position of the actuator automatically. So, position sensors on the actuators send a feedback signal to the pneumatic logic controller to adjust the position of the actuator. For example, the positions of the pneumatic cylinders are measured with position sensors placed on these systems.

Selenoid Coils

Also, solenoid valves are the most used electromechanical valves in pneumatic systems. So, we can change the selenoid coils. So, we can think of the selenoid coils as separate parts of pneumatic systems.

Air Valve Manifolds

If there are multiple actuators of pneumatic systems that are connected to one pneumatic controller and compressor, we use an air valve manifold to control the distribution of the air between the systems. So, there are different sub-sections of these manifolds that transfer the high-pressure air to the discrete actuators.

Distribution Blocks

They are the components in pneumatics that provides port locations for air preparation system. So, this is a very important part of transducers and other components.

Pneumatic Silencers

As we stated above, the excess gas from the actuator is exhausted from the air control valve. Naturally, this high-pressure gas makes noise. To prevent this noise, there are pneumatic silencer systems that we attach to the exhaust sections of the systems.

These are the general parts of modern pneumatic systems. You can see that there are lots of kinds of different parts that we need to use in these systems. And all these parts are essential parts that have different duties. So, we need to apply proper maintenance for these parts to obtain an optimum system that works well.

If you come in contact with industrial maintenance of pneumatic systems, you can see that they are changing these parts of the systems. So, these discrete parts are the main components of pneumatics that big industries are buying from the general sellers.

Applications of the Pneumatic Systems

There are different kinds of applications of pneumatic systems. Because the area was very common in lots of kinds of engineering applications.

Braking Systems

In braking systems of trains, buses, and trucks, the use of the pneumatic systems is very common. Because these systems can produce very high pressures on discs. When the driver pushes the brake pedal, the actuator of the air brake system comes in contact with the disc. You can hear the “psst” sound after the braking is complete.

Also, they use these brake systems in heavy machinery as you see. Because they are efficient in the high brake force requirements.

Industrial Moving Equipments

Industrial moving with pneumatics.
Industrial moving equipments.

Pneumatics are also very common in industrial applications. Because their movement abilities and load carrying abilities are very good. In the moving and handling systems in manufacturing sites, automatic pneumatic systems are very common.

For example, you can see vacuum robot handles that carry the middleweight of masses between the sections of the factory or manufacturing sites. They are working with these systems.

Dental Drilling Machines

Also, pneumatics apply to small systems such as dental drill machines. In dental drill machines, they use the power of high-pressure air to drill the human tooth accurately. The actuators of these systems are very small. But, the control of air gives the probability to use it.

Pneumatics in HVAC Systems

In HVAC systems, the use of air is a very common practice. Because, in thermodynamical cycles of HVAC systems, the air is the prime liquid that we use the deal with the heat energy. So, we use pneumatic systems in the HVAC systems where the management of high-pressure air is required.

Pipe Organs

Pipe organs.
Pipe organs in church.

The music industry is also a very important area in which we use these applications. For example in pipe organs in churches, we need a flow of air through the pipes to generate different notes. So, we need a system that provides high-pressure air to these organs. And also, this system must monitor the airflow to the discrete pipes to general music.

So, the use of pneumatic systems is very common in these musical instruments.

Player Piano

Another important musical application of these engineering systems is the player piano. Player pianos play the music by themselves. So the action of the piano buttons takes place by themselves. And they use pneumatic actuators to activate these buttons to generate the intended music.

Pneumatic Air Guns or Air Softs

Airsoft and air guns get more common among people as a hobby. They are the guns that have small beads that are flung from the barrel of these guns at high speeds. But they are not fatal like the real guns To achieve these high speeds, the general systems of these guns are the small pneumatic systems.

In the air containers of these systems, there is very high-pressure air. And if you pull the trigger, the small portion of this high-pressure air is used to throw beads.

Pneumatic Cylinders

Also, there are different kinds of applications in which we use pneumatic cylinders. In push and pull activations in industrial or daily use, these cylinders are very common. For example, we are placing a product inside a package on an industrial basis. We use pneumatic systems to package them accordingly.

The working principles of these cylinder systems are very simple. We have a very basic air control system inside these cylinders.

Pneumatic Mail Systems

Do you remember the transparent tubes reaching between the different rooms of hospitals or other kinds of buildings? You place an object in a cylinder in these tubes and you can eject these cylinders to other portions of the rooms.

So, there are pneumatic systems in these systems. We use high-pressure air control to send these cylinders inside the tubes.



They are also very common applications of pneumatics. They consist of a system that reciprocating chisel that breaks and pierces the hard materials such as asphalt and concrete. Jackhammers are very common in construction applications.

So, there is a reciprocating hammer in their internal structure of them. And chisels are directly attached to these reciprocating hammers. And these hammers are working with a reciprocating pneumatic system that requires very high pressures of air.

Roller Coasters and Devices in Amusement Parks

Nearly all the devices and machines in amusement parks are pneumatic systems. For example, roller coasters are very common in these parks. The launching systems of roller coasters are using very high pressure of air to move the train. The control of this system is pneumatic electronic control.

For example, Gondol is very common in these parks. If you take a look at the beneath side of the Gondol ship, you can see an ejecting wheel that gives the swaying energy to the ship. And once you actuate this wheel, it comes into contact with the ship to give this power. So, this contact is take place with a pneumatic application.

Door Opening and Closing Systems

Also, pneumatic applications are very common in the door opening and closing systems of buses. You can see that the door opening and closing systems are automated by the driver. So, you can see the pneumatic engines that operate these doors. And also, you can hear the ‘psss’ sound once they are opening.

To hold the doors closed, there is high-pressure air in the system. And if the driver opens the doors, you can see the discharge sound in the air from the system.

Air Pumps

There are different kinds of pumps that we use in inflating the tires. To inflate the tires, we need high-pressure air. So, the use of pneumatic systems is very common in air pump applications. There is a compressor that provides very high-pressure air to the air accumulator. And by pressing the button of the pump, you take the high-pressure air and transfer it valve of the tire.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Pneumatics

Like the other mechanical systems, there are advantages and disadvantages to these systems in general. Before applying these systems to engineering applications, it is better to consider the advantages and disadvantages of these systems.

Advantages of Pneumatics

  • Pneumatic systems are very simple to operate and use. Because we use air which is not a special fluid or something. These systems can take air from the environment.
  • The control of the pneumatic systems is very simple. The total response times and accuracies of pneumatic systems are superior to the other systems.
  • Air compression systems are much safer if we compare them with the other systems. Because it is a lower chance of ignition or fire of pneumatic systems.
  • In the systems with very medium or little load applications where the accuracy is not critical, the use of these systems is very common.
  • Pneumatic systems are more compact if we compare them with hydraulic systems. Because the total pressures are lower than others. So general components are much smaller than the other systems. And we can use pneumatic systems in more compact applications.

Disadvantages of Pneumatics

  • The most important disadvantage of pneumatics is the accuracy. Because of the compressibility of air, attaining very high accuracies are not common in these systems if we compare with hydraulic systems.
  • Noise is also another problem of these systems. The working compressor and the air discharge sounds can provide problematic sound issues in different places.
  • In heavy applications, the use of pneumatic systems is not generally common. Because the total pressures of pneumatic systems are lower than others.
  • Air leakages are the most common problem in these systems. It is harder to find the air leakages if we compare them with the hydraulic systems.

General Breakdowns and Problems in Pneumatic Systems

Also, it is better to be aware of the general problems and breakdowns of pneumatic systems before making applications of them. You need to know which kinds of problems you will face while dealing with these systems.

Motor-Compressor Breakdowns

This type of breakdown is not common but they are the most expensive breakdown in these systems. If there is a breakdown on the motor and compressors of the pneumatic systems, you need to generally call the service of this system to change the motor-compressor system.

Air Leaks in Pneumatic Systems

Air leaks are also a very common problem in pneumatic systems. Every time, it is possible to have air leaks. But with excessive air leaks, it is a problematic issue for the efficiency of the system. The system will start to consume more power and it will lose accuracy.

To prevent air leaks, it is better to control the possible leaks during the maintenance period of pneumatic systems. Also, you need to take care of the sealing systems to prevent possible air leaks. Because air leaks generally take place from the uniting points of different compartments.

Valve Breakdowns

Valve breakdowns on these systems show themselves as you are giving an order but the total air inside the actuator does not change. So, the actuator does not make the move. The reason can be a possible valve breakdown.

To solve these problems in electronic pneumatic systems, it is better to change the selenoid of the valve. This will solve the problems. Also, you can directly change the valve.

Sensor Problems

If there are problems or breakdowns with the sensors, the system will make unreasonable movements with reasonable commands. So, you can see that actuator makes different movements. And you can understand that there can be a problem with the feedback signal. You need to check the sensors.

If there is a sensor problem, you can repair or change the sensors.

Actuator Breakdowns

Actuators can break down or directly breaks because of the external load or damage. For example, a pneumatic cylinder system can break with very high loadings. And it can leak the high-pressure air. In this case, it is better to change the actuators.

Maintenance of Air Filter

This is not a breakdown. If the filter gets clogged with filth from the air, you need to clean it in regular periods. Because dirty filter does not make their work efficient and pollutants in the air can cause very big damage to the different components of pneumatic systems.


As you see above, pneumatic systems are very special systems that we use in different kinds of mechanical applications. They have various kinds of different types that we can use in the practices.

The general parts of pneumatic systems are also very wide in range. Knowing about all of these parts in pneumatics can be burdensome. But with the enhancing experience on these systems, you can learn all the important parts of these systems in deep.

Also, pneumatic systems are very common and complex systems that have very different professions inside them. So, some people and engineers call themselves pneumatic engineers or pneumatics experts.

From braking systems to pumping systems, pneumatic systems have lots of kinds of different applications. You can see one of these systems in both your daily life and occupational life.

Also, it is better to know the general advantages and disadvantages of these systems before applying them to practical applications.

There are common breakdowns and problems with pneumatic systems also.

Do not forget to leave your comments and questions below about the pneumatics.

Your precious feedbacks are so important to us!

FAQs About Pneumatics

What is the pneumatic system used for? 

In these systems, we use the high pressure of air to make practical things. Around them, are reciprocating cylinders, braking systems, pump systems, industrial movers, and so on. So, the use of pneumatic systems is very common in different areas of the profession.

What are the pneumatic system examples?

There are lots of kinds of practical applications of these systems. For example, we use these systems in the braking systems of trains, trucks, and buses. Also in industrial moving systems, we use pneumatics in so common way. And also, you can see these systems are the automatic doors of busses. If you hear the ‘psss’ sound, it is a pneumatic system.

What are the 3 advantages of pneumatics?

The 3 advantages are, that we can apply them in compact applications. We do not need to use a special fluid like hydraulics, the fluid is air. These systems are very basic systems to control. With very basic electronic circuits, we can efficiently control the pneumatic systems.

What are the 5 components of pneumatic systems?

If we need to state the 5 main components, Air valves, air compressors, actuators, high-pressure air, and electronic circuits are the main components. In addition to them, there are additional auxiliary components of pneumatic systems.

Why pneumatics is better than hydraulics?

This is because these systems are cheaper than hydraulics. We can take the air from the environment plentifully. We do not need to pay for special fluids like hydraulic fluids. And also, the pressure requirements of pneumatic systems are lower than the hydraulic systems.

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