Pneumatic (or air) pressure is a common power source for shops, manufacturers, and other industrial settings. It’s inexpensive, and operating costs are low, it’s easy to use and even portable if need be, and it’s safer and cleaner than hydraulic systems. Still, there are times when you need more power than pneumatics can deliver – especially stopping or gripping power. What to do? The solution is often surprisingly simple – install an air/oil intensifier.
What Is An Air/Oil Intensifier?
An air-to-oil booster or intensifier is a device that converts standard shop air, which typically produces between 60-100 psi, into higher hydraulic pressure. Air/oil intensifiers are not intended for high volume hydraulic use but do provide on-demand pressure for certain operations where fluid displacement volume is relatively small such as hydraulic brakes or hydraulic vises. They are handy because they don’t require a full-on hydraulic system with tanks, pumps, hoses, etc. Instead, since only a small reservoir of oil is needed to pressurize, the intensifier is a compact box-like device that generates high power yet takes up little space.
Simple Yet Effective
The air/oil intensifier operates as a simple cylinder with two different chambers. One chamber is for air, the other for oil. When air pressure retracts the piston, the pressure forces hydraulic oil behind the smaller piston to pump throughout the circuit at the higher hydraulic pressure. The ratio of pressure change is based on the ratio of surface area of the pistons in each chamber. For example, a 10:1 Intensifier will have an air piston surface that is ten times that of the hydraulic piston surface. With this system, if air pressure is reduced, back pressure from the hydraulic circuit will retract the piston (sometimes with the assistance of an internal spring) until a pressure balance occurs or the piston is fully retracted.
When Should You Consider an Air-Over-Oil Intensifier?
- When shop air is your only power source. This is the case in many types of facilities. Yes, you could purchase and install a new hydraulic system, but that’s expensive upfront and not likely to be cost-effective down the road if you only have one or two tools or machines that require greater force.
- When your application is limited by brake size or quantity and upgrading to hydraulic brakes will provide the solution.
For example, hydraulic caliper disc brakes are well-known for their excellent clamping power that can slow, stop, and hold as needed even when great force is required. So they are commonly used in industrial applications as well as vehicles and elevators. But they require hydraulic pressure to do their job. With an air-over-oil intensifier, you can spec the best-choice brakes even for installations where there is no hydraulic power source available.
Another great use for air/oil intensifiers is in hydraulic vises where fluid displacement is relatively small and the intensifier used has proper fluid capacity.
By using an air/oil intensifier, you can:
- Achieve more precise control over speed, positioning, and direction
- Save money on operating costs without sacrificing performance or reliability
Typically, we recommend using air intensifiers to power a single device. However, they can be used for multiple devices working in unison. It is also possible to use multiple intensifiers in parallel to support sequencing.
How Much Boost Do You Need?
At W.C. Branham, we make air-to-oil intensifiers in several different ratios to accommodate different applications:
Want to know more about how air intensifiers can help you boost stopping force by converting low pneumatic pressure to higher hydraulic pressure? Just contact us by phone or email. W.C. Branham engineering experts are always ready to answer questions and recommend the right products so you can solve even the most challenging problems.