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What Is a 3 Phase Compressor?

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  • Written By: Amy Rodriguez
  • Edited By: Jessica Seminara
  • Last Modified Date: 03 September 2016
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    Conjecture Corporation
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A 3 phase compressor is a machine that compacts air within a storage tank to generate power for attached air tools, such as grinders or nail guns. This specialized machine does not use a basic single winding motor; rather, it has three different electrical windings within one motor housing to create a steady power supply to the 3 phase compressor. Many large businesses use these compressor types for their durability and reliability.

These compressors use an alternating current (AC) electrical supply to power the motor, much like the power delivered from a common wall outlet; however, a 3 phase compressor must have a specialized AC supply in the form of three offset electrical pulses. Similar to waves in the ocean, three phase electricity uses the crests of three different electrical pulses to deliver a continuous power supply to the compressor. The machine never experiences a drop in power levels like a single phase motor would encounter with normal wall outlet electricity, effectively creating a steady power supply to the hard working compressor motor.

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Basic operation of the 3 phase compressor is similar to single phase machines. The compressor's motor forces outside air into the machine until the storage tank is densely filled with air molecules. A user attaches an air tool to the machine; the compressed air rushes into the tool to generate mechanical motion. Many businesses use compressors because their versatility allows them to be used with various tools so that employees do not become fatigued from heavy tools requiring individual motors.

One drawback to a 3 phase compressor is the particular electrical supply. Most home garages and small companies have normal single phase power that is received from the electrical company and pulses through each wall outlet. Larger businesses tend to have three phase power, especially if they run other three phase machines like welders and generators. A home hobbyist or small business would need to have three phase power circuits installed in the work room to run this compressor type.

The main benefit to a 3 phase compressor is the lifespan. Steady electrical power to the compressor's motor ensures that the mechanism remains in a stable state; the motor does not need to cycle on and off as it does with single phase power. As a result, the motor's lifespan is greatly enhanced. In addition, less current flows through the three electrical windings; this low current stream preserves the windings' operation to prevent premature failure and costly repairs.

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