The Long History of Air Compressors

The Long History of Air Compressors

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Various industries use air compressors for the provision of pressurized and compressed air. This type of air is used for many different applications. Air compressors, such as the ones from Gardner Denver Distributor, have become very useful in the powering of manufacturing and construction equipment. Pneumatic systems are also used to drive control system valves. However, earlier air compressors were far much versatile and did not have as many applications as the air compressors of today. Human beings, for thousands of years, have used compressors. In this article, we are going to discuss the history of air compressors and how they have evolved to the modern-day compressors.

The human lung was the earliest air compressor to have been devised by man. In the ancient times, people used their breath to stoke fires since the human body can exhale considerable amounts of oxygen. At around 3000 B.C the trend of using compressed air from our bodies slowly faded away. It was around this time that the practice and technology of metallurgy was discovered and became so widespread. Gold and copper were being smelted by metal smiths who soon realized that they were in dire need of high temperatures. You can only achieve pressures of between 0.02 and 0.08 bars from the lungs of a healthy human being. These amounts of pressure are very low for any metal working tasks. Moreover, the carbon dioxide content in human breath was not very helpful for sustaining flames since it acts as an extinguisher.

As time went by, the demand for stronger air pressure started to grow exponentially. A new type of air compressor was invented in 1500 B.C. The air compressor was known as bellows. At first, this device was held by hand and had a flexible band that produced a blast air that was focused on achieving high temperatures in fires. Centuries later, the father of the modern air compressor was born. The vacuum pump was invented by a German engineer and physicist, Otto Von Guericke in the year 1650. However, this invention was more academic than practical. Von Guericke used his invention to demonstrate to his associate’s the many applications of compressed air using a vacuum pump. His invention was critical as it provided a prototype that engineers would work on and develop to a functional air compressor.

John Wilkinson and John Smeaton, who were inventors from the United Kingdom, followed suit with more advanced devices almost 100 years later. Smeaton is credited for coming up with the hydro-powered blowing cylinder invention. The hydro-powered blowing cylinder is a large-scale bellows that is operated mechanically by an automated water wheel. Smeaton’s invention was documented in 1762. On the other hand, Wilkinson came up with a design that involved the use of a powerful engine that could produce highly compressed air with pressures of more than 14.5psi. Wilkinson’s invention was documented in 1776. Although Smeaton’s device had a high efficiency, Wilkinson’s machine replaced it in 1776 as it could compress higher amounts of air at even higher pressures. The blasting machine invented by Wilkinson became the prototype for the development of all modern compressors.