What Is an Industrial Compressor?

B. Turner

An industrial compressor is a piece of heavy-duty machinery used to squeeze or compress materials like air, gas, oil, and water. Compressors serve as a critical component in many industrial operating systems, including air conditioners and refrigeration equipment. They are also needed to run major industrial and manufacturing equipment, such as those that incorporate hydraulic or pneumatic operating components. While small compressors are found in homes and small garages, an industrial compressor is generally much larger and capable of generating much greater pressure to power large-scale, complex systems.

A sandblaster with an industrial compressor.
A sandblaster with an industrial compressor.

Manufacturers rely on three basic types of operating systems when developing industrial compressors. Basic centrifugal units incorporate a drum or cylinder, which rotates very rapidly when the machine is switched on. This generates a centrifugal force, which can then be used to compress air or gas for use in nearby equipment. For applications where an extreme rate of compression is required, buyers may require a reciprocating compressor. These machines feature a series of interconnected cylinders, like those found on a car engine, which compress and release gas in controlled stages.

Large auto repair facilities typically have an industrial compressor to power pneumatic tools.
Large auto repair facilities typically have an industrial compressor to power pneumatic tools.

Perhaps the most common type of industrial compressor is the rotary screw unit. This type of system features a large metal screw enclosed within a larger metal tube or cylinder. As the screw is turned, it forces air or fluid along its length, resulting in compression and power. Rotary screw compressors are often found in industrial cooling systems.

An industrial compressor can be found in many types of commercial or industrial buildings. Any structure with a large cooling system will require one of these units, while those with special refrigeration needs, like grocers or ice rinks, often require a series of compressors. Compressors are used to power industrial equipment, including basic manufacturing equipment and machines used in power production. Even tools like a paint sprayer or a sandblaster often require the power of an industrial compressor. Major drilling and mining operations may use these compressors to power hydraulic or pneumatic drilling equipment.

While industrial compressors share many features with smaller air compressors, they are typically constructed on a much larger scale. They tend to be much more powerful than basic air compressors used in the home, and are capable of generating much higher rates of pressure. This added power and force generally comes from the larger size of the machine. Compared to smaller compressor, which are relatively low in cost, industrial compressors often cost thousands of dollars.

Industrial pneumatic compressors power the tools used in each workstation along an assembly line.
Industrial pneumatic compressors power the tools used in each workstation along an assembly line.

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