A Brief History of Compressed Air

So where exactly did compressed air come from? How did it become so widely used and where will it go? Both of these are great questions and the answers lie below.

Compressed air can be traced all the way back to the classic bellows that were used to fuel blacksmith fires and forges.  These started as hand pumped bellows, they then scaled up to foot pumped, multiple person pumped, oxen or horse driven and then eventually waterwheel driven.  All of these methods came about due to the demand for more and more compressed air. These bellows did not generate near the amount of air pressure or volume needed for modern day practices yet they worked in the times.  These early bellows pumps would even supply miners with air.

With the evolution of metallurgy and industry these bellows were replaced by wheel driven fans, then steam came about and began generating more industrial sources of power.  The main issue with steam was that it would lose its power over longer runs of pipe due to condensing in the pipes.  Thus the birth of the air compressor was born. One of the largest projects that is noted to first use compressed air was in 1861 during the build of the Mont Cenis Tunnel in Switzerland in which they used compressed air machinery.  From here the constant need and evolution for on-demand compressed air expanded.  The picture below showcases two air compressors from 1896.

compressed_air_28189629_281459402261829
Air Compressors from the old days.

The compressors evolved over time from single stage, to two-stage reciprocating, on to compound, rotary-screw compressors, rotary vane, scroll, turbo, and centrifugal compressors with variable frequency drives.  The efficiency of each evolution has continued to increase.  More output for the same amount of input.  Now we see a two-stage compressor, considered old technology, and wonder how the company can get any work done.

All of the technological advances in compressor technology were driven by the demand sides of the compressed air systems.  Companies needed to power more, go further, get more from less, ultimately increase production.  With this constant increase in demand, the supply of compressed air increased and more efficient products for using compressed air began to evolve so the air was used more efficiently.

Enter EXAIR, we evolved the blowoff to meet the increasing demands of industrial companies to get the same amount of work done with less compressed air. We have continually evolved our product offering since 1983.  It all started with just a few typed pages of part numbers and has evolved to a 208 page catalog offering of Intelligent Compressed Air Products® for industry.  We will also continue to evolve our product designs for continued improvement of compressed air usage.  This is all to better help companies retain their resources.

cat32_500p
EXAIR Catalog 32

If your company uses compressed air and you aren’t sure if it is efficiently being utilized, contact an Application Engineer.  Thanks for joining us for the brief history lesson, we look forward to hearing from you and seeing what the future brings.

Brian Farno
Application Engineer
@EXAIR_BF BrianFarno@EXAIR.com

 

Compressed air (1896) (14594022618).jpg – Wikimedia Commons – Internet Archive Book Images – Link

 

Something Old, Something New, be OSHA Compliant or They’ll Fine You!

I recently took on the task of getting a pair of 50 year old vintage bicycles up to snuff for riding once more.  They hadn’t moved in about 30 years, so I knew it was a tall order.  After replacing the tires, tubes and disassembling, cleaning and lubricating a 3 speed transmission (a mechanical wonder!), I decided to strip off some of the rusted old accessories.  One of these was a battery operated headlight.

IMG_4573

Aside from being damaged beyond repair, the headlight was outdated to say the least.  For comparison, a modern LED bicycle light is shown on the left.  These two lights have little to nothing in common.  The one of the left is powered by a rechargeable Li-Ion battery.  The one on the right uses disposable alkaline batteries.  The one on the left is made of weather resistant materials like aluminum and rubber.  The one on the right is made of steel (very pitted and rusty steel at this point…).  The one on the left is easy to mount on just about any tube of a bike frame and lightweight.  The one on the right has a special bracket that has to be mounted on the gooseneck and has enough mass to anchor a 60 foot yacht.

The point is that the old light wasn’t just rusted beyond repair, it wasn’t worth repairing even if it could have been.  Ever see that in your manufacturing environment? A blowgun that has a stuck trigger for instance.  Maybe it could be repaired, but what about that non-OSHA compliant nozzle it has attached to it?  Whatever meager savings you might get from trying to repair the old gun and continuing using an unsafe blowoff could quickly be offset by and OSHA fine.  Time to upgrade to an EXAIR Precision Safety Air Gun , Soft Grip Safety Air Gun or Heavy Duty Safety Air Gun!

Don’t get me wrong – I ABHOR the throw away society I see around me in the world today.  Why else would I bother to fix up two 50 year old bikes?  But sometimes it’s best to replace the old thing with something new that is safer and more efficient – like an LED bike light, or an OSHA compliant EXAIR Safety Air Gun.  Need help figuring out which Safety Air Gun to use? Our experienced Application Engineers are just a phone call away!

Dan Preston
Engineer-at-large
DanPreston@exair.com
@EXAIR_DP