Whether seeking to improve the performance of construction equipment, or hoping to enhance the functionality of medical facilities, pneumatic cylinders are a mainstay in many of the machinery that we see today. Commonly used for mechanical equipment, pneumatic cylinders are an easy, simple, and relatively cheaper alternative compared to many of the other options available in the market.

What is a Pneumatic Cylinder?

The basic structure of a pneumatic cylinder is made up of a hollow shaft or tube which contains a plate of the same diameter that usually comes equipped with a long rod or piston. Motion is generated by use of pressurized gas which pushes on the plate to drive the rod to its function.

pneumatic cylinders

A pneumatic cylinder is used to generate mechanical motion that starts, continues, or ends a cycle. Depending on the mechanisms involved, there are numerous types of pneumatic cylinders available that suit different functions for a variety of machines.

Types of Pneumatic Cylinders

1.    Compact Cylinders – For machines and equipment that are smaller in size, the compact cylinder is the ideal addition. This particular type of pneumatic cylinder is the smallest of all versions and is ideally used for mechanisms that require just a short stroke. Traditionally, the compact cylinder is a style reserved solely for single-acting styles which feature just one rod, but double-acting variants are also available.

2.    Guided Cylinders – When the rod attached to a pneumatic cylinder exceeds a certain length, it becomes difficult to drive it accurately to its target. That’s why guided cylinders were developed. This type of pneumatic cylinder features a much longer rod which can reach up to double the length of the cylinder itself.

But for the purpose of accuracy, several guide rods and blocks are placed around the rod to ensure that it doesn’t steer away from its intended course for a smooth, straight, linear motion.

3.    Rack and Pinion – This pneumatic cylinder type allows the production of angular motion via the same pressured gas mechanism. The addition of rotary actuators make the range of motion possible, and are often capable of creating motions that exceed 360 degrees.

4.    Bellows – Featuring elastomeric walls reinforced by two metal end plates, the bellow can create much greater force thanks to its flexible structure. The cylinder can be bent to a certain degree, making it an ideal addition for structures that do not follow a single, straight path.

5.    Rodless Cylinders – A space saving alternative, the rodless cylinder generates the same force as many of its piston-bearing counterparts which allows users to save space thanks to the mechanism’s intuitive design.

Guide to Choosing Pneumatic Cylinders

1.    Space Restrictions – Because some pneumatic cylinders might take up a significant amount of space, it’s important to understand how much of you’re willing to allot for it. As a general rule, you should be able to take accurate measurements before you go and shop for pneumatic cylinders to ensure that the one you’ve purchased will fit the rig.

2.    Motion Requirements – What type of motion does your mechanism require? Will the short stroke of a compact cylinder be enough to aptly perform the task, or do you need something as long as a guided cylinder? When choosing a pneumatic cylinder, it’s essential that you select one that can perform the exact purpose you’re hoping to fulfil as this will greatly affect the efficiency of your machine.

3.    Power and Force – There are some machines that require a force just strong enough to pull a button, then there are those that necessitate the displacement of hundreds of pounds worth of metal.

Once you go to shop for pneumatic cylinders, you will find that not all of them can generate the same power and force. Now, depending on the task you want it to perform, you will have to choose something that can create a motion strong enough for seamless performance.

It would be wise to select a pneumatic cylinder that generates more force than you require as this can be calibrated later on. After all, you don’t want to overwork your cylinder by making it work at its limit every time. Buying a model that can perform stronger than what you actually need will allow you to calibrate it at lower than its maximum, saving it from the onslaught of wear and tear.