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What Are Pneumatic Cylinders And Actuators?

Pneumatic cylinders, also widely known as pneumatic actuators, are used to provide linear or rotary motion and force to automated machines, systems, and processes, mainly in industrial applications.

From the business viewpoint, pneumatic cylinders and actuators work when compressed air is forced directly into them in order to move a piston that is present within it. The work is done by a mechanism attached to the piston, converting the created energy into real-time use, for example, a picking and placing process in factory automation.

Pneumatic cylinders and actuators are an easy way to achieve force and generate precise linear and rotary motion and can be used in complex environments, such as adverse temperatures. Festo pneumatic cylinder, being lightweight, and requiring little maintenance, generally produce less force and a slower speed compared to hydraulic or electric systems, but remain a cost-effective alternative.

Actuators and cylinders are produced either to ‘house standards’ – likely to be unique to a particular manufacturer – or produced to widely adopted or international standards.

How Do Pneumatic Cylinders And Pneumatic Actuators Work?

The main components of a pneumatic actuator consist of an end cap, a piston rod, a piston,  a cylinder barrel, wiper seal, a cushion sleeve and a seal. In a simple circuit, a single acting pneumatic cylinder or actuator can be operated by a button. The air moves the piston rod outward, when this button is pushed.

Pneumatic systems use compressed air to create linear or rotary mechanical motion and power applications that perform work. The pneumatic actuator, with the help of the compressed air, acts on a piston inside the cylinder to create the required motion, for example, clamping, or moving a load along a linear path.  The end application can be as differentiated as a specific device like a gripper or clamp to a vacuum cup that is used to handle glass.

A single acting pneumatic cylinder or actuator consists of one port, through which the air enters and then pushes the piston in only one direction. It then regains its original position by a spring. These pneumatic cylinders have restricted stroke length and are useful for slower operations. Further, they use less air, which gives optimum efficiency and lesser operating costs.

A double acting pneumatic cylinder or actuator has two ports which allow pressure to be applied to pull the piston in a direction opposite to the one created by the first port, otherwise referred to as an instroke and an outstroke. Usually, the larger the cylinder’s bore, the greater will be the output in terms of force.


What are the Types of Pneumatic Cylinders or Pneumatic Actuators?

There are several different kinds of pneumatic cylinders and pneumatic actuators available, based on the type of the application they are needed for. These cylinders can be single acting or double acting. Here are some of the examples of the types of pneumatic cylinders and actuators available:

  • Roundline Cylinders
  • ISOLine Profile & Tie-Rod Cylinders
  • Rotary Actuators
  • Festo Compact Cylinder
  • Integrated Valve & Actuator (IVAC)
  • Rodless Cylinders
  • Stainless Steel Roundline Actuators and Stainless Steel ISO Tie-Rod Linear Actuators

What are the Applications of Pneumatic Cylinders or Actuators?

Pneumatic actuators and cylinders can be used in a wide range of applications and are most common in factory automation systems such as manufacturing, materials handling, and packaging to perform ‘pick and place’ tasks. Other operations include clamping and punching.  In the Food & Beverage industry, capping cylinders and pneumatic stretch actuators are used in PET perform in hot and cold fill processes.

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