How Air Compressor Works [Everything about Air Compressor]

Ever wondered how the chief phenomenon of compressed air works? Well, you will learn here. As the name suggests, an air compressor works by condensing air into a container. It has been used for years and offers many services at industrial as well as nonindustrial levels.

How Air Compressor Works

For instance, air compressors can be used in the agriculture industry, construction, manufacturing, spray painting, pressure cleaning, and much more. Let us discuss in detail how air compressors work.

How Air Compressor Work

Air compressors are highly useful and portable machines that offer many uses in various fields of life, such as industries, agriculture, manufacturing, spray painting, and much more.

Think of air compressors: as encapsulated air which, when released, blows at very high pressure. They are also used as power tools in workshops allowing for a lot of conveniences.

How Air Compressor Work

Anatomy Of Air Compressor

The whole unit consists of a cylindrical container that holds all of the compressed air till the time it is released. Other than that, it includes a pressure switch, check valve, compressor pump, motor, pulley, fans, rotary screws, and belt. All of these components work together to blow out the compressed air at incredible pressure.


The working of an air compressor isn’t as complicated as it looks. Think of a deodorant spray bottle; it consists of compressed air mixed with perfume. As soon as you press the pump, the air in it finds a way to come out. Air compressors work in the same way, but air compressors use more advanced technologies.


In air compressors, the air is pressurized in various ways, and the accumulated air blows out of an opening where most of the pressure builds up. These air compressors are electrically powered in which energy conversion takes place.

For example, electrical energy is converted to kinetic energy in order to get pressurized air. There are two main types of air compressors that use two different modes of pressurized air that is positive displacement and dynamic displacement.

1. Positive Displacement

Positive displacement air compressors are the most common type that are used on an industrial level. They can also be used on a smaller level for some DIY projects. There are a few types of positive displacement air compressors that have a bit different anatomies, but all of them work by the same technology.

What positive displacement air compressors do is they take the air inside and force it into a chamber where the volume of air is decreased. There are three main types of positive displacement air compressors that are discussed below.

Positive Displacement

Rotary Screw

As the name suggests, these air compressors are equipped with two bigger screws that rotate and take the compressed air into the space to be blown out at pressure. The two internal screws rotate in opposite directions creating a vacuum. Air is forced inside these empty spaces where its volume decreases.

After that, the compressed air is transported with the motion of the screws to the outlet, where the pressure builds up. These air compressors are run by large engines and are ideal for industrial uses.

Rotary Vane

Rotary vane works on the same method as the rotary screw compressor; however, instead of screws, this compressor is equipped with a vane that rotates just like screws. There are empty chambers in the rotary vane compressors where the air is trapped and transported towards the outlet.

The volume of air decreases in these air chambers in the same way as the rotary screws. These air compressors are ideal for home-based projects because of their convenient usage and smaller size.

Piston Type

Piston-type air compressors are very popular in various workshops due to their effectiveness and easy usage. In such air compressors, there are two pistons that move up and down to let air in and out.

There is a rotor which when rotated, brings down the bigger piston, and one smaller piston opens to draw air in. The air gets trapped in this chamber. When the bigger piston moves up, the air is compressed, and the other piston opens to let the air out with pressure.

2. Dynamic Displacement

Dynamic displacement air compressors work converting electric energy into kinetic energy. Such air compressors are powered by massive engines that run multiple blades. The air is drawn inwards, which is then gathered to create pressure. Once the pressure is created, the blades transport the compressed air to the outlet, ready to be released.

Dynamic displacement air compressors are used on an industrial level, such as in agriculture plants, chemical plants, and much more. Lastly, there are two types of dynamic displacement air compressors i.e. axial compressor and centrifugal compressor.

Dynamic Displacement

Axial Compressor

Axial compressors have a basic operation, and it works by drawing in air through the fan which is electrically driven. This compressor converts electric energy into kinetic energy to blow air out with tremendous pressure. At one opening of this fan, there is a fan that runs at high speed to draw in air at high velocity.

Inside the tank, there are fan blades that don’t move, but their purpose is to direct the air towards the outlet. The air accumulates between the spaces of these fan blades, which increases the pressure. Lastly, the pressurized air is directed towards the outlet, where it blows out with extreme pressure.

Centrifugal Compressor

Centrifugal compressors also work almost the same way as the axial compressor; the only difference is the direction in which the air flows. In this air compressor, a large fan draws in air, and the fan uses centrifugal force to direct the air outwards where it hits the casing.

The centrifugal compressor is equipped with a diffuser from where the air passes which increases its pressure. After that, this compressed air is forced to go through a pipe from where it is blown out.

Frequently Asked Questions

How do air compressors fill up?

Air compressors come with an air tank that has low pressure. Naturally, air flows into the air tank, where it is compressed, and pressure is created. A hose is connected to the tank, which lets the air out when the trigger button is pushed. Air compressors are used as spray paints. Other than that, these air compressors are also used in commercial fields such as agriculture industries and many more.

Is it dangerous to work with an air compressor?

Air compressors are very useful and offer many services in different fields. However, we must not ignore the dangers it brings with it. Uncontrolled release of high-pressure air can affect your eyes, organs, and hearing. Moreover, the noise it makes can possibly damage your eardrums, and it can cause air embolism, which might result in a stroke.

How long does it take to fill the air compressor?

The time an air compressor takes to fill depends on its CFM. If the tank is smaller, it will take less time to fill because of the less volume. On the other hand, larger tanks take more time to fill due to the more surface area. Typically, an air compressor takes about 2 to 3 minutes to fill up completely.

What are the three basic types of air compressors?

There are three main types of air compressors that offer the same purpose, which is delivering air high pressure. Those types are reciprocating compressors, rotary screws, and centrifugal compressors. Reciprocating compressors work by opening and closing a piston when air pressure builds. Rotary screw compressors have rotating screws that draw in air and fill the empty spaces with it to increase its pressure. Lastly, centrifugal compressors draw in the air using centrifugal force.

What is the best air compressor?

There are many top-quality air compressors you can find online or in the stores. However, the top best air compressor has to be the California Air Tools 15020C. This air compressor is a jack-of-all-trades. It is made with the highest quality material and works optimally for many purposes.


Air compressors come in handy in many fords of life. They are used industrially, as well as for nonindustrial purposes. The air compressor works by drawing air in from a larger pressure area to the tanks where pressure is low. Once the air goes into that air compressor’s tank, it is compressed, and the volume is increased. Lastly, it blows out through a hosepipe when it’s needed.

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