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10 technical characteristics of air motors

Bruno Martin
by Bruno Martin on Jan 2, 2016 9:00:00 AM

Using an easy-to-implement energy source, air motors (or compressed air motors) are flexible and effective alternatives to electric and hydraulic energy. Air motors are perfectly adapted to a wide range of industrial applications.

Maybe you already know some of their advantages, but together let’s take a look at 10 technical characteristics that will make the difference if you haven’t yet been convinced by all their positive aspects!

Ease of implementation

Air motors do not require a sophisticated control system. It is easy to vary the torque or rotation speed by limiting the supply pressure or the exhaust flow. While the implementation of a hydraulic motor requires a drip tank to be put in place in case there is any leaking, compressed air does not have this constraint. Compressed air networks are generally available at industrial sites, and no additional installation is required.

Operating flexibility

Air motors have the feature of being able to operate throughout the torque curve, from a no-load speed to a controlled stop, without being damaged.
Unlike an electric motor, an air motor adapts speed depending on the required torque. Motors evolve according to a power curve specific to each motor. The maximum power is reached at approximately 50% of the free running speed.

Compact design

Air motors are 4 to 5 times smaller and lighter than electric motors, with the same amount of power. Therefore, air motors are used in many portable applications and in those where space is limited.

No fire risk

Some applications require a great number of starts, sometimes at high frequencies. This type of operation limits the use of electric motors that have peaks of current upon starting, and hydraulic motors because the heating of the hydraulic network constitutes a major risk of malfunction and fire. As we have seen before, air motors can also stall indefinitely, without overheating or damage.

Reliable and durable

The motor is extremely durable, and it is continuously cooled by the air expansion, preventing it from overheating, even at very high speeds. So the air motor mechanics are protected from elevated temperatures, improving the durability of its parts.

Usable in both rotation directions

Air motors can be used in both rotation directions. Often reversible, it can be easily driven remotely or with a joystick mounted on the device. Changes in direction can be done on the fly without going through a shutdown phase, optimizing the cycle time.

Safe operation in flammable and/or explosive environments

Air motors don’t produce any heat or sparks, which allow them to be used in explosive environments. This prevents the need for an electric supply in the ATEX area. The motors can easily be ATEX-certified without any significant extra cost, and they can be used in hostile environments with no risk of explosion.

No electrical certification required

Air motor installation, use, and maintenance are simple and safe, and do not require an “electrical” certification for the operator.

Easy motor recycling

Air motors are strong, durable, and easy to maintain. Designed with recyclable materials (aluminum, steel, etc.), it is very simple to recycle them at the end of their life. 

Operation in extreme conditions

They are not sensitive to moisture, dust, heat, magnetic fields, or radiation and present no danger of explosion.
Air motors can operate in temperatures from -30°C to +150°C. Their usage adapts to any situation, in any environment.

Therefore, air motors are an excellent alternative to electric motors, as much for their ease of use and safety they provide, as for their durability and flexibility, and all this at an overall cost that remains competitive.

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