The miracle of compressed air. “Miracle” you say? Well, perhaps not miraculous but certainly ingenious, even to this day, considering the multitude of uses it can be applied to, which is far too lengthy to list here.
We’ve all blown on our smoldering campfire in an effort to get it blazing again, and that simple action is putting compressed air to the task. Of course modern day air compressors are engineering masterworks of mechanical Art, but the basic principal is nearly the same. Smooshing a large volume of ambient air down to a small volume of pressurised air and controlling the release. I know, lungs don’t really “compress” the air but surely you grasp the concept. Perhaps the simple bicycle tire pump is a better example.
There is much history regarding the air compressors that we’re all familiar with today, and thankfully, human ingenuity has provided the masses with brilliant tools and uses for mechanically compressed air. For starters, it does blow, and we all know how important blowing is. It cools a mild burn; cools our coffee; clears dust off of our stuff and fills our balloons. However, the importance goes far beyond simple blowing.
Compressed air is power. The physics of which are super-duper interesting, but also super-duper complex. Applying the energy of compressed air to mechanical devices puts dramatic power in the palm of your hand. However, jamming the air into a tank is an interesting exercise in physics too.
The holding tank itself is an engineering feat. It’s a metal cylinder that can be made in many different sizes, and is crafted to withstand enormous pressure inside of it. They are cylindrical because the shape is the most efficient and strong. If you’ve ever wondered why carbonated beverages are never put into square bottles? Try it some day, but be careful. Then very cool little motors, either electric or gas powered, are fastened to the holding tank, and force regular ol’ air inside and hold it there until it can be released in a controlled way. You guessed it, by a hose with a nifty fitting at the end. Sounds simple, right?
It is simple and that’s the beauty of it. Compressed air can be applied to a myriad of tools and utilized in a myriad of applications. Again, too many to list here. However, the coolest applications are the air tools. Pneumatic marvels for use in creation itself. The creation of the products that we use; assisting in the chores that we do. No home or business should be without one. They power-wash our houses and cars for gosh sake.
Everyone knows the sound of the pneumatic air wrench when we take our cars in to have new tires installed. Perhaps one of the coolest sounds there is. That powerful impact wrench that can knock the most stubborn lug nuts loose is perhaps the coolest application. There is also the less commonly known air brush. A brilliant little device which can create some of the finest art around. And of course, the mighty power washer. And sand blasting; filling bicycle tires, basketballs etc.
Letting loose the power of compressed air is a time honored technology that shows no end of slowing, nor does there seem to be and equivalent or replacement on the horizon.
The industrial applications are advanced. Industrial air compressors include technology which dries the very air being compressed, so as not to degrade the interior components. Industrial applications of compressed air keep manufacturing operations producing many of the goods in the world today. The servicing of utilities, and the annual blasting out of lawn sprinkler systems. Industrial paint spraying, and even those amazing systems that can separate a single kernel of corn on a high speed conveyor belt with a tiny, focused puff of compressed air.
The mighty air compressor has come a long way from the days of the first bellows which squeezed air into hot forges many centuries ago, and no one knows where it will lead, but the possibilities are bound only by the imagination and so long as there are creative, industrious people out there, the fun and innovation will continue to please us all.
Construction has also enjoyed tremendous improvements in the tools used for carpentry. The nail gun has nearly replaced the million year old hammer; nearly. Also in construction is one of the earliest inventions powered by compressed air; the jackhammer. Early uses of the pneumatic air hammer were tunneling and perhaps the most famous application; Mount Rushmore. I’ve personally been in the construction business as a carpenter so I am fully aware of how important air tools have become. Swinging a hammer all day can get rather tiresome. Rolling out the dependable, easily mobile little compressor and starting it up; connecting the long hoses to the main valve; plugging in the ol’ nail gun and working away. Not only does the motor fill the tank, but it will shut off when the pressure reaches maximum. How the heck does it do that? I just know that it does and sometimes, that’s just fine.
We’ve all seen it’s power. We’ve all heard it at work (it is loud at times), and we all know how valuable it is. Perhaps we should all buy one from the incredibly skilled craftsman who make them for us. They are unsung heroes in my estimation. I certainly couldn’t fabricate one, and the crafting of a deceptively simple device is a true art form. From raw material to a finished product, the invention and creation, or fabrication of air compressors is as amazing as the the compressor itself. Not to mention the amazing tools that connect to it (I like the simple blowing nozzle myself, very handy.) Handy small units or monster machines towed with a truck, the winds of change are blowing.
So, as you can see, great things can come from the power of compressed air. It’s not just for breathing these days.