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3 Common Types of Air Compressors

There are many ways to characterize air compressors, including size, application, and complexity. However, most are categorized based on how the air is pressurized. Three of the most common types include axial, scroll, and piston.


The method used in the axial compressor increases the air’s velocity and slows it down through fixed, curved blades that result in increasing pressure. With air compressor installation Jacksonville FL, this type of unit produces the highest volumes of air delivery which ranges from 8,000 to 13 million cubic feet per minute. These are used by jet engines to create wider-ranging volumes.


Through the use of orbiting and stationary spirals, the scroll compressor reduces the volume of space between the swirls resulting in pressurized air. No oil or lubricant is needed because the scrolls have no contact with each other, which makes it an oil-free device. However, because lubricants are not used to remove the heat of pressurization, the application of these types of units is limited to home air conditioners and other low-end uses.


The reciprocating action of at least one piston in a cylinder is used to produce pressurized air in this type of compressor before it is sent to a receiving tank. Packaged units that have tanks and compressors mounted together are common. The main use is to provide air for energy, but it can also be used to transmit natural gas.

The standard cubic feet per minute or flow rate and the number of pounds per square inch or pressure required typically determine how piston units are selected. Large industrial systems usually provide air with volumes from 30 to 2,500 cfm and pressure in the 90-110 psi range. Most commercial units can attain these ranges without customization.

Higher pressure can be created using two-stage compressor units because heat is removed from the air when it passes between the two stages. Because of the heat generated in production, piston units are not made to operate continuously.

Compressed air is used in numerous applications, from large, complex industrial units to small, simple units meant for residential use. Categorizing the units that produce such air is based upon the method of production rather than other considerations. The axial method uses curved blades to produce very high pressured air that can be used by jet engines. The scrolling technique uses spiral-shaped coils to create air suitable for residential applications, and the pistons moving within cylinders produce air that can be used in large industrial applications.