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Reciprocating Air Compressors Reciprocating air compressors are positive displacement machines, meaning that they increase the pressure of the air by reducing its volume. This means they are taking in successive volumes of air which is confined within a closed space and elevating this air to a higher pressure. The reciprocating air compressor accomplishes this by a piston within a cylinder as the compressing and displacing element. Single-stage and two-stage reciprocating compressors are commercially available. Single-stage compressors are generally used for pressures in the range of 70 psig to 100 psig. Two-stage compressors are generally used for higher pressures in the range of 100 psig to 250 psig.
Note that: 1 HP = 4 CFM @ 100 psi and that 1 to 50 HP are typically for reciprocating units. Compressors 100 hp and above are typically Rotary Screw . The reciprocating air compressor is single acting when the compressing is accomplished using only one side of the piston. A compressor using both sides of the piston is considered double acting. Load reduction is achieved by unloading individual cylinders. Typically this is accomplished by throttling the suction pressure to the cylinder or bypassing air either within or outside the compressor. Capacity control is achieved by varying speed in engine-driven units through fuel flow control. Reciprocating air compressors are available either as air-cooled or water-cooled in lubricated and non-lubricated configurations and provide a wide range of pressure and capacity selections.
 

Rotary Screw Compressors
Rotary air compressors are positive displacement compressors. The most common rotary air compressor is the single stage helical or spiral lobe oil flooded screw air compressor. These compressors consist of two rotors within a casing where the rotors compress the air internally. There are no valves. These units are basically oil cooled (with air cooled or water cooled oil coolers) where the oil seals the internal clearances. Since the cooling takes place right inside the compressor, the working parts never experience extreme operating temperatures. The rotary compressor, therefore, is a continuous duty, air cooled or water cooled compressor package.
Rotary screw air compressors are easy to maintain and operate. Capacity control for these compressors is accomplished by variable speed and variable compressor displacement. For the latter control technique, a slide valve is positioned in the casing. As the compressor capacity is reduced, the slide valve opens, bypassing a portion of the compressed air back to the suction. Advantages of the rotary screw compressor include smooth, pulse-free air output in a compact size with high output volume over a long life. The oil free rotary screw air compressor utilizes specially designed air ends to compress air without oil in the compression chamber yielding true oil free air. Oil free rotary screw air compressors are available air cooled and water cooled and provide the same flexibility as oil flooded rotaries when oil free air is required.
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