A Brief History of the Air Compressor

Essentially compressed air technology was first used with the knowledge of how to start a fire.  Humans learned that to get the fire started, blowing helped the process, healthy human lungs can generate approximately .02 to .08 bar or .3 to 1.2 PSI.

At the beginning of the metallurgical age (approximately 3000 B.C.) a higher volume of air than what human lungs could produce was required to the reach the temperatures required to melt and form metals such as copper, tin, lead, etc.  This need lead to the hand-operated bellows, the first mechanical air compressor.  Approximately 1500 years later the more efficient foot powered bellows was developed.

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The foot powered bellows was followed by water powered bellows and was the mainstay for more than 2000 years.  However as blast furnaces came into being the need for compressed air increased.  This lead John Smeaton in 1762 to design a water wheel that powered a blowing cylinder and this began to replace bellows.  In 1776 John Wilkinson developed an efficient blasting machine and this was the beginning for mechanically powered air compressors.

As time progressed the idea of transmitting energy via compressed air became acceptable.  This idea was demonstrated around 1800 when the newly invented pneumatic rock drill was used to tunnel 80 miles under Mt. Cenis to connect Italy & France by rail.  This was an extraordinary feat for the time and garnered global interest.  This event perpetuated great interest into pneumatic powered devices  and brought us the air powered motors, clocks and even beer dispensers!

While compressed air is capable of transmitting energy long distances and performing tremendous work it also referred to as the 4th utility in industrial plants due to its cost.  We at EXAIR have been promoting compressed air conservation and safety using highly engineered products for 35 years!  Our products wring the maximum of energy out of every SCFM fed to them by using air entrainment and the Coanda effect.  Not only are we conserving your compressed air we offer products that are quiet and can’t be dead ended which prevents air embolisms.

If you are interested in discussing conserving compressed air and/or compressed air safety, I would enjoy hearing from you.

Steve Harrison
Application Engineer

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