Over the past year, I’ve run into lots of discussion around the pros and cons of pneumatic and hydraulic actuators versus electronic actuators. Both have their positives and negatives depending on the application. Of course, both also have a strong story on the green/sustainable front.
What I have not heard much about are air-powered motors. If compressed air power can stand on its own versus electric power in the actuator arena, why not with motors?
On one hand, there seems to a be a great deal of application examples for these air-powered motors in an array of light to heavy duty applications ranging from mixers, ventilators and winches to pump drives, coolers and conveyor belts. On the other hand, the energy density of air motors is significantly less than gas or even battery powered engines. So we’re not going to be seeing an air-powered car any time soon, but that doesn’t explain why I haven’t heard much about air-powered motors on the automation and control front.
As a matter of fact, the first piece of info I’ve received on air-powered motors that I can recall came recently from Deprag Schulz — a German company focusing on air motors and tools.
In support of air motors, Deprag Schulz notes that air motors are known for being compact and light weight, while only requiring one-third of the footprint and one-fifth of the mass of a standard electric motor while delivering equal power output.
So systems designers, what’s the knock on air motors? Do they not deliver as advertised? Is it an issue of end-user preference for electric motors? Or are things beginning to ramp up for air motors?