Small air cylinders are compact pneumatic actuators precision-built to maximize productivity within a limited amount of space. As with all air cylinders, these mechanisms utilize pressure differentials in order to convert compressed air energy into mechanical energy. This linear energy is used in a number of industrial and commercial applications. Though often much smaller than traditional industrial air cylinders, these alternative models offer significant space savings, often with little to no reduction in capability.
Linear and rotary cylinders are frequently used in machine loading, material handling, product assembly, welding, packing and clamping processes among others. Small air cylinders continue to expand the capabilities of linear actuators allowing for the easy integration and incorporation of units in pre-existing workspaces where space is at a premium.
Compact models are often as much as 60% smaller than comparable traditional cylinders. For this reason automotive, building, construction, electronics, food processing and packaging, metal working, mining, construction, textile and forestry industries use these air powered devices as actuators for valves, lift gates, and machine and engine components.
Because small air cylinders use only compressed air, they offer an economic and environmentally friendly solution to many mechanical operations. Unlike larger air cylinders, however, repairs can be difficult on styles that can be as small as 7/16″, making disposable small cylinders common, adding to cost and environmental impact.
The size, large or small, of an air cylinder is measured in several ways, such as diameter and length. The stroke, however, is often the most important measurement. This is the distance between fully extended and fully retracted piston positions. As many air cylinder systems rely on piston rods, the stroke length is often double that of the cylinder itself. In order to reduce size without sacrificing productivity and functionality, many smaller models are in fact rodless cylinders, though miniaturized piston rod options are also available.
The most common alternatives to small rod models are rack and pinion or cable cylinders. The basic construction of each type of small air cylinder is fairly similar. Precision machined aluminum, steel or stainless steel components include a circular or rectangular cylinder with an air valve for inlet and exhaust located at one or both ends. Single acting or unidirectional cylinders have one inlet, while double acting cylinders, which provide powered motion in two directions, have two valves.
No matter the directional capabilities, one or more pistons are located within the shaft. The piston is attached to a cable, rack or rod. When compressed air flows into the enclosed shaft, it acts upon the piston face, which moves the secondary implement creating linear motion. This motion is transferred to the tooling or load being handled in a specific application. As manufacturers offer a number of designs and styles it is important to carefully compare small air cylinder capabilities to the requirements of the industrial process at hand.