Why are pneumatic power systems so popular in such a wide range of work functions? Electronic systems certainly have a much faster response to control signals. Mechanical systems can be more economical. Hydraulic systems can be more powerful. The answer lies in the unusual combination of advantages pneumatic systems offer. A basic advantage is their high efficiency. For example, a relatively small compressor can fill a large storage tank to meet intermittent high demands for compressed air. Unlike hydraulic systems, no return lines are required. Other advantages include: high reliability, mainly because of fewer moving parts; compactness; forces, torques and speeds readily variable over a widely useful range; easy control and coordination with other machine/system functions; low cost; easy installation and maintenance; and the availability of a wide range of standard sizes and capacities. Another, often decisive, advantage in some applications is that air devices create no sparks in explosive atmospheres. They can also be used under wet conditions with no electrical shock hazard. It is often advantageous to add pneumatic power to machines that have electricity as their primary power source. This may be done to economically provide supplementary functions such as automatic clamping, locking, closing, opening, etc., of various components or devices. The design problems involved are usually not difficult to solve, and equipment selection procedures are simple and straightforward. Installation is simple, too. When the air compressor or vacuum pump is driven by a power takeoff from the machine it is being added to, the mounting location may be critical (although accessory air components may be placed almost anywhere). But if the unit is provided with its own drive motor, then virtually the entire system can be installed at any point—even away from the machine—as long as that point can be reached by a hose, pipe, or tube to transmit the pneumatic...
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