The 101 On Air Tools

On November 5, 2019 by Himanshu Shah

Electric Air Compressor

An air tool is a type of power tool that is powered by compressed air via an air compressor, unlike conventional tools that rely on either a battery or a power supply. They are popular as they are portable, lightweight, and easy to use. They are often the preferred tools for tasks like sanding, drilling, painting, or even spray paint.

What Is An Air Compressor?

The air compressor can be described as a device that can squeeze air to a fraction of its actual volume. As the volume of the air is reduced by eight to ten times, the pressure also increases proportionally. This is described by Boyle’s law, “At constant temperature, the pressure of an ideal gas is inversely proportional to the volume.”

An air compressor often comprises a piston and a cylinder, driven by a motor or engine to compress the air. The compressed air is stored in a storage tank, from where it is taken as required.

Power Tools Powered By Air

Several kinds of tools can be powered by air. Some of the more popular ones include:

  • Drills
  • Angle grinders
  • Sanders
  • Nail Guns
  • Saws
  • Spray Guns
  • Hipping Hammers
  • Air Ratchet
  • Tire Inflators
  • Impact Wrench
  • Needle Scaler
  • Pop Riveter
  • Air Shears
  • Sand Blasting Gun
  • Air Gun

Although some of these tools can also be powered by electric motors, there are a few that can work optimally only when it is powered by an air compressor.

Benefits Offered By Air Tools powered by Air Compressor:

Let’s take a look at some of the various benefits of switching to airpower tools from traditional tools:

  • Lightweight: Air tools are considerably lighter than the ones powered by batteries or the main power supply. This makes it easier to work with, especially for assembly workers who might be using the air tools all day long.
  • Simple to use: Air tools have fewer working parts than an electric tool. This reduces the number of errors that may occur. When a tool is easier to use, it makes it easier for workers to master the tool as well.
  • Can be stalled indefinitely: Unlike electrically powered tools, air tools can be stalled indefinitely, as the current is not continuously flowing through the motor. This is one of the main reasons why electrically powered tools burn out quickly. Before purchasing the air compressor, figure out the CFM requirement for the air tool.
  • No sparks: Electric tools which have an AC or DC motor tends to produce sparks when the brushes come in contact with the commutator. Fortunately, air tools are spark-less, making it a safer option in dangerous and hazardous work environments, especially when in the presence of gas or flammable substances. It is no wonder that air tools are more popular over electric tools.
  • No risk of electrocution: As air tools are not powered by the main power supply, there is no risk of electrocution, unlike other electric-powered tools.
  • Smaller in size: Electric tools are generally bulky in size, as they have to incorporate the motors as well. In comparison, air tools are a lot slimmer and can be used in cramped spaces like underneath a car and so on.

Building An Air System In A Workshop

To build an air system in a workshop, you will require the following components:

  • Air Compressor

This component is responsible for compressing the air and storing it in a storage tank. You will be able to find different models based on the sizes and capacities in the market. You will need to consider the horsepower of the compressor, the tank capacity, and the delivery rate of the air compressor before deciding on a model. Tools that have a low duty cycle won’t face this problem, but quality air tools like angle grinders, blowers, and so on can drain a tank rapidly. The delivery rate of the compressor needs to match the flow rate demand of the tool you plan on using. In case it doesn’t, you will be forced to wait until the tank refills each time.

  • Filter, Regulator, and Lubricator

The filter is responsible for removing the dust and water present in the air. This is critical, as the dust and water can cause serious damage to the working parts of the air tools you are using. It will also lead to clogging up, which will ultimately result in the wear and tear of the air tool. As the air gets compressed, the water gets condensed. This water ultimately causes the tools to corrode slowly. This is why a filter is a critical part of an air system. A regulator is more or less like a faucet that can be used to control the air pressure by turning it up and down depending on the requirement of the tool you are using. A good quality regulator will be able to provide constant pressure, independent of the tool’s air demand.

A lubricator is responsible for creating a tiny must of oil drops within the airflow. This helps lubricate the moving surfaces of the tool. However, a lubricator is required only in certain air tools, where the oil will not alter the work carried out by the air tool. In such cases, the tool can be lubricated by dropping a few drops of oil into the intake port.

A filter, regulator, and lubricator are available as a single unit, making your job easier. However, they are also available as separate modules. Using these components will help extend the life of your air system considerably.

  • Air Hose

The air hose is connected between the compressor and the filter/regulator/lubricator unit. The hose is finally connected to the tool you plan on using. You can find coiled hoses in the market. These are easier to manage. The air hoses are often made from plastic or rubber. Unfortunately, plastic hoses are more rigid and can crack sooner rather than later. According to the experts in the industry, a long hose can cause the pressure to drop, making the air compressor useless.

  • Air Tool

The air tool that you plan on using also forms a part of the air system.

Adding Adaptors To Air Tools

Air hose adaptors and other similar connectors follow a system known as the NTP fitting standard. This means that if you choose the right air tool equipment that follows the standard air fitting types, it will be compatible with the other fittings as well as pre-installed couplings on the air compressor.

While replacing a connector or fitting a new hose, it is essential to know the size of the air compressor fitting. When the size does not conform to the standards, it can be difficult to connect the new hose. You can find the size of the air compressor fitting by measuring the diameter of the opening across the center of the port. The measurement in inches will give you the pipe size. These can be used to purchase replacement parts or a new connector.

While you are replacing parts or fixing anew connector, you need to ensure that a strong seal is created to prevent any loss of air. Experts in the industry recommend using Teflon tape to achieve an airtight seal. You need to avoid using excess tape, as it will then extend beyond the end of the connector, which might cause it to get dislodged and lead further blockages in the hose, inside the air tool, or within other connectors.

In case your air tools are not working up to mark, you need to check on a few key factors like

  • Check the power management switch
  • Check the pressure of the tool.
  • Check the size of the hose, connectors, filters, fittings, etc.
  • Confirm the CFM of the air compressor.
  • Upgrade your tools.

Importance Of Using The Right Pressure For Your Air Tools

The pound per square inch or PSI is a unit of air pressure. Here are a few reasons why you need to use the right PSI for your air tools to get the most out of them:

  • Reduce repairs: When you use too much pressure, it will cause the air tools to breakdown or wear out sooner rather than later. Some of the common repairs required as a result of using too much pressure include clown seals, anvil breakage, bearing failure, and vane motor breakdowns.
  • Prevent buying new tools frequently: By taking care to sue the right pressure, you will be able to extend the lifespan of your air tools and avoid having to replace them regularly.
  • Prevent accidents: Using too much pressure in some cases can cause air tools to burst, resulting in serious injury to people in close proximity. By sticking to the recommended pressure guidelines, you can keep everyone safe.
  • Low fuel consumption: The biggest benefit of using the right pressure for your air tools is the fact that you can save a lot by lowering your fuel consumption. A higher air pressure requires more energy. So if your air tool does not require high pressure, you are ultimately wasting fuel.

The apt air tool and air compressor with proper safety measures will help your workshop do wonders!

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