Piston Compressors

Piston compressors are a common sight on many types of mobile equipment. For example, they are used to supply pressurized air in a pneumatic brake circuit.
Compressor
A pneumatic brake circuit
But what exactly are they doing? What is going on inside one of these things?
In this lesson we will first examine the basic structure of a piston-style air compressor. Then we will discuss the compression cycle, which is how the compressor transforms boring ol' regular air into fancy, usable, pressurized air.

The Structure

The piston compressor is made up of two main sections. The top section is known as the cylinder head and the lower section is the crankcase.
Cylinder Head
Crankcase
Air Discharge
Air Inlet
Coolant
Coolant
Governor Port
Side
Front

The cylinder head contains the porting needed draw in air and discharge it out again.

In addition there may be a mounting port used to attach a governor (unloading valve) and additional ports used to circulate coolant through the compressor.

Cylinder heads come with many different porting configurations, depending on the needs of the specific application.

Inlet Port
Inlet Valve
Discharge
Port
Discharge
Valve
Pistons
Crankshaft

The crankcase houses the pistons and crankshaft that do the actual pumping.

Crankcases also come in different configurations. These depend on the mounting and drive connections needed for the specific application.

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