What Is an Air Screwdriver?

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  • Written By: Jay Leone
  • Edited By: A. Joseph
  • Last Modified Date: 13 December 2019
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Air screwdrivers are also referred to as pneumatic screwdrivers. An air screwdriver employs compressed air as a power source instead of electricity. Pneumatic screwdrivers are just as powerful and reliable, if not more so, than other types of screwdrivers, such as corded electric screwdrivers, battery-powered screwdrivers and hydraulic screwdrivers. Air screwdrivers offer high torque output and can withstand demanding environments.

To operate an air screwdriver, the user must have the screwdriver linked in with an air compressor and special hosing. Air compressors are used to power pneumatic equipment such as pneumatic screwdrivers. Although these components can be bulky, they provide a level of portability to air screwdrivers. Air compressors can be delivered to remote locations where electricity is not readily available, allowing the air screwdriver to be used there.

The hosing recommended for use in pneumatic systems must be crush-resistant. It also must be resistant to abrasion. Air compressors operate at very high pressures, and if the hosing is damaged in an air screwdriver pneumatic system, the screwdriver's performance will be compromised. A pinhole leak in pneumatic hosing can release enough pressure to easily cut through skin.


Air screwdriver manufacturers offer many models that can be used for almost any application. Pneumatic screwdrivers are manufactured to offer different torque ranges. Some air screwdrivers are designed to offer as little as 1.5 foot-pounds (0.20 kilogram meters) of torque, and others are designed to offer torque output as high as 22.1 foot-pounds (3.06 kilogram meters). Air screwdrivers are available that can turn at a rate of more than 14,000 rotations per minute.

There are many applications for air screwdrivers. Many models are engineered for general production work and dismantling. Air screwdrivers with fixed torque settings are ideal for slow-working delicate projects. Some are angled, and others are straight. Angled air screwdrivers are often used in plastic, wooden, electronic and toy assembly on assembly lines.

Before operating an air screwdriver, the user should make sure that all components within the pneumatic system are undamaged and properly connected. A loose connection can leak compressed air into the environment. Air screwdrivers must be well-lubricated to work properly; a non-lubricated air screwdriver is likely to jam or seize up during operation. Debris can become airborne while screws are being screwed into workpieces with an air screwdriver. Wearing eye protection while operating pneumatic screwdrivers can lower the risk of eye injury.


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