Guide to piston compressors

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Guide to piston compressors

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A piston compressor is one of the most common forms of air compressors on the market. A piston compressor is commonly the first air compressor you might be using when starting a business or activity. It doesn’t mean that it is not filling an important part. Quite the opposite, the piston compressor is a source of pressed air for all sizes of business. So regardless of your operation size, we offer a range of piston compressors to suit your needs. Explore our range below or stay on the website to learn more about piston compressor technology.

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Reciprocating (piston) air compressors

A piston compressor consists of one or more cylinders with pistons driven by a motor. The air is sucked into the cylinder and then compressed, in one or more stages to the operational pressure. After compression, the compressed air passes through the after-cooler and continues on to the air tank.

Mark Piston Compressor

Let’s get down to the basics: a reciprocating air compressor uses positive displacement to function. That means that they generate compressed air through a system of valves and pistons, much like the combustion engine in your car. The fact that pistons help compress the air is why the terms ‘piston compressor’ and ‘reciprocating compressor’ are used interchangeably. A rotary screw compressor, on the other hand, uses rotors instead of valves or pistons to function.

Reciprocating air compressors are the oldest air compressor system in use today. They are used in a wide array of applications. There are two types: 

High speed (separable) reciprocating compressors

These compressors are called ‘separable’ because they are separate from their driver (i.e. the energy source). They are driven by engines or motors. They are, on the whole:

  • Relatively low-cost;
  • Easy to move;
  • Available in a wide range of sizes.

You have to keep in mind, however, that these types of reciprocating compressors will need more maintenance and therefore require more maintenance costs than the integral ones. They are also called high-speed compressors because they operate on a speed between 900 and 1,800 rpm. 

Low speed (integral) reciprocating compressors

These types of reciprocating compressors are called ‘integral’ because their driver is mounted into the frame of the compressor. They are called ‘low speed’ because they operate at a speed between 200 and 600 rpm. Some specifications:

  • They are larger and heavier than high speed reciprocating compressors.
  • They often need additional installations, for example noise and pulse suppressors.
  • They require less maintenance than high speed compressors.

Everything depends on the purpose of your compressor. We’ll discuss a few of the industries that typically make use of reciprocating compressors. 

Using reciprocating compressors

Piston or reciprocating compressors are mostly used in these types of industrial settings:

  • Gas processing;
  • Chemical industries;
  • Oil plants and refineries;
  • Refrigeration technology.

However, due to the wide variety of reciprocating compressors, they are used in almost every work setting. Although they have more maintenance requirements, they are very energy-efficient. You still have a lot of choice regarding the size and volume of your compressor


What type of reciprocating compressor do I need?

As always, everything depends on the purpose of your air compressors. What kind of power would you like to generate? Does your compressor have to be moveable? What kind of maintenance would you prefer? It might be the case that a certain type of piston compressor or even rotary screw compressor is ideal for your purposes. 


Application areas of piston compressors

Piston compressors are suitable for small compressed air requirements; one-stage compressors for pressures up to about 8 bar, while several stage versions can produce up to 15 bar. Operation should be intermittent. An air-cooled piston compressor’s load level must not exceed 60-70%. After 2 minutes of compression, the compressor must rest for at least 1.5 minutes. We recommend keeping the total compression time per day to approximately 4 hours.

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Let us help you select the right piston compressor for you

Our website may help you chose the best piston compressor to fit your needs. However, you might have questions about your complete installation or specific question about one of our models of piston compressors. Feel free to contact us or request a quote. You can find your nearest office contact details in our contact section.

You can browse the selection of piston compressors here on the website and explore our other products such as compressed air dryers, filtration, and condensate management products like oil-water separators.

Visit our blog if you want to learn more about piston compressors, compressed air dryers and other compressed air topics.

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