What Is A Reciprocating Air Compressor?

What Is A Reciprocating Air Compressor

Air compression finds immense use in industrial processes, but everything boils down to choosing the right kind of compressor. An air compressor is a mechanical device that increases air pressure by reducing its volume. While different kinds of compression devices are used for industrial applications, the reciprocating air compressor is the most popular among them. It is a positive-displacement compressor that uses a reciprocating piston to compress the gas sucked in a chamber. Let us explain how it works and why it is ideal for industrial use.

Working Principle

A reciprocating air compressor uses positive displacement to compress the air and increase the pressure. After the pressure reaches a specific limit, the discharge valve opens, and the compressed air flows through the storage tank. The variant is ideal for chemical, and oil and gas industries because the processes involve compression in intermittent cycles. Here are the components of the machine:

  • Piston– It compresses the air with a reciprocating motion.
  • Cylinder– It is the storage area where the air is compressed.
  • Crankshaft– It connects to the shaft of an electric motor and transmits the rotary motion to the piston.
  • Connection Rod– It connects the piston to the crankshaft.
  • Suction valve– The air gets sucked through it when the piston moves to the Bottom Dead Center (BDC)
  • Discharge valve– The compressed air gets discharged through it to the storage tank.

Working cycle

Now that you understand the working principle of the compressor, you can easily visualize how it actually works. Working principle of commercial air compressor is quite similar as compared to others. A Reciprocating Air Compressor runs on an electric motor, though you may choose the diesel/gas engine variant. The electric motor starts rotating when you turn on the power. The motor sets the crankshaft into action, which moves the piston in a to and fro motion. When the piston moves downward, the atmospheric air enters the storage chamber of the cylinder.

Once it reaches BDC, the piston starts moving upward towards Top Dead Center (TDC). At this stage, the Reciprocating Air Compressor, and pressure begin to increase. After reaching the limit, the pressure opens the discharge valve, and the compressed air reaches a storage tank where it can be used for work.


Reciprocating air compressors are ideal for industrial settings because they deliver extensive benefits. They are capable of producing higher pressures than other variants like rotary screw compressors. You can expect high efficiencies, even as they need less energy to run. They maintain high levels of efficiency when running intermittently. Another benefit you can avail of by choosing this variant is flexibility. This variant is available in oil-free and oil-flooded types. So, you have a safe option if oil contamination is a concern for your industrial application.

Reciprocating Air compressors make an excellent choice for processes with intermittent use and ones that require a small amount of air. Small projects, workshops, and construction work can rely on them because they do not cost a fortune yet fulfill the expected requirements. Understanding how they work gives you an advantage as you can choose the right kind for your business.

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