I never learned about pneumatic devices in college, and I never used them in any type of equipment. But they offer interesting alternatives to hydraulic and electronic devices. In sensitive equipment, the use of clean air eliminates problems from a hydraulic-fluid leak, or a short circuit from a broken wire or faulty connection. Air comes in an endless supply, and it seems fairly simple to route it to just about anywhere we need it. If oxygen could create a problem, pneumatic equipment could use an inert gas.
I have seen rotary and linear-slide positioners and two-jaw pneumatic grippers in pick-and-place equipment used to assemble electronic and electromechanical equipment. Pneumatic devices require maintenance, but they don't burn out. They don't dissipate energy (except from a bit of friction). Pressure regulators and fittings are off-the-shelf items, and designers don't face RFI or EMI issues with air lines. Granted, a pneumatic system requires a compressor or source of pressurized gas, valves (probably electric), and some sort of electronic controller.
Where can engineers learn about pneumatic controls and devices? I looked at the undergraduate course offerings at three engineering universities and found nothing that relates to pneumatics except for courses on the theory of compressible fluids. So it might seem like it's anyone's guess where engineers pick up the knowledge to apply pneumatics.
You can start with these sources of information:
The Fluid Power Educational Foundation lists colleges, technical schools, and universities that offer fluid-power courses.
The National Fluid Power Association Website includes a section titled, "What is pneumatics?" It includes information about pneumatics applications, fundamentals, training, and resources. A link on this page goes to a list of companies that offer training and additional information.
The International Fluid Power Society provides an extensive list of books and certification materials. It also certifies fluid-power technicians and engineers at several levels.
Parker-Hannifin Co. has an extensive training program. Look under "Technology Training."
Matrix Multimedia, a company in the UK, will soon have a pneumatics trainer and educational materials with the brand name Airways. This product line comprises about 100 rugged pneumatic components that mount on a stable aluminum platform. Each component has a label with the corresponding industry-standard pneumatic or electrical symbol. Students take the rugged components, mount them to the platform using plastic "t" bolts, and connect the components with nylon tubing to build working pneumatic circuits. They then use the curriculum provided to carry out experiments in pneumatic and electronic control. Sounds like a cool way to start.