Pneumatic Tube Systems: What Makes it So Interesting

Pneumatic Tube Systems 1

The other major application of fluid power, apart from the hydraulic systems, is the pneumatic systems. And one interesting application of pneumatics is the Pneumatic Tube Systems. But what is it?

We know the pneumatic components turn pressurized air or gas into your desired action. These systems are widely used in production lines and different industrial applications. Pneumatic Tube is one such piece of equipment that eases the transportation of solid objects (documents, cash, small materials) across departments of an organization.

In this article, we’ll be learning about different aspects of this system and see how it can relate to our lives. Before that, we’ll find out where the overall pneumatic system excels against the hydraulic system.

pneumatic tube how it works

Pneumatic Systems: Things You Need to Know

What is Pneumatics

You must’ve seen those bicycle or ball pumps, in fact, you probably had your own one, while you were in the crazy teens!

It must’ve been fascinating to see the tire or the football getting pumped so easily. Or, you might’ve been amazed to see how smartly your mother used to clean the sofa or carpet with the vacuum cleaner. All these applications have one core mechanism behind them — the Pneumatics.

This is a particular part of physics that’s concerned with utilizing the energy in compressed air or gas to make anything move or work. It has been very handy for all of us in different ways.

Advantages of Pneumatics

How good is a Pneumatic system? Very much, for many reasons. Some of its advantages include

  • Cleanliness: Unlike hydraulics, it doesn’t use any oil or liquid mess up, hence uses air or compressed gas to keep it clean and tidy.
  • Safety: The chance of catching fire is way less with pneumatic systems than it’s with hydraulics.
  • Longevity: Requires little maintenance, has longer operating lives, and little downtime.
  • Backup: Pneumatic systems use the reservoir to continue the operation for some time even after a power outage.
  • Cost-Effective: Unlike hydraulics, pneumatic systems don’t require large compressors, rather come preinstalled with many buildings, incurring little additional cost.

pneumatic fluid evacuator

Pneumatic Fluid Evacuator

Let’s Discuss the Components

A pneumatic system is made up of the following components:

  • Solenoid Valves: Electrically operated valves to automate the system.
  • Pneumatic Cylinder: Transforms the pressurized gas into a linear auction.
  • Hand Valves: Allows manually controlling the valve to turn the gas pressure of the entire system to switch it on or off.
  • Press Regulators: Maintains consistent pressure in the entire system.
  • Reservoirs: Stores pressurized gas for later use in case of uneven gas flow.
  • Flow Control Valves: Stops backflow and controls airflow to travel in one direction.

Pneumatic Tube Systems:  Is the Market Dying?

Now let’s come to the main part the article is all about — Pneumatic Tube System. Some say it’s a product of the past. And they say the pneumatic tube market is dying. But is it? Let’s find out.

What is Pneumatic Tube Systems

The Pneumatic Tube System is equipment that uses compressed air or vacuum to propel cylindrical containers (or carriers) through a complex network made up of tubes. Unlike the conventional pipelines, the system transports solid objects, not fluid.

From the outside, you’ll feel like inserting an object to one end of the pipeline network (sending station) and someone receiving it to the other end (receiving station). Behind this network of transportation, you have the pneumatic mechanism working for you.

pneumatic tube

How it Works

Imagine those hot summer days, relaxing on your deck with a cold drink using a straw. Once you suck the whole drink and reach to the almost end, you create a vacuum in it. The last few drops of liquid will be sucked into your straw by this vacuum. 

If you gently blow down into it, you’ll see the liquid level in the straw is getting down again. Did you understand anything? If you have, then you understood how the pneumatic tube systems really work.

Practically, a tube in the system links the sending and receiving stations. The receiving station has an air compressor pump capable of sucking or blowing air. When the compressor sucks, it pulls objects (sent from sending station) along the tube toward it; when it blows, the system pushes the objects in the opposite direction.

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Advantages of a Pneumatic Tube Systems

The main purpose of the system is to transport objects from one point to other. This system is labeled old-fashioned as there are new means of transportation available now.

Now you have the email to send information and you won’t really use the system for that purpose. But what about sending objects within your organization, across departments. Well, the pneumatic tube system still has a vivid appeal for that.

It’s a much more elaborate, computer-controlled system that works as a highly effective intra-organization transportation method. This system includes many sending stations linking to many receiving stations to router and transfer objects in all complex manners. 

This is still a popular way of transportation in hospitals, industries, or any other sector requiring intra-organization transport. A large pneumatic tube system can consist of up to 500 sending and receiving stations, several transfer units to route and transfer packages, and dozens of compressor or blower units to produce the desired pneumatic power.

The pneumatic tube systems come with some great benefits that include:

  • Improving the speed of material delivery to a greater extent
  • Saving a lot of space and time
  • Increasing the efficiency of the entire workforce
  • Preventing damage of the sensitive items as a safe medium
  • More reliable than traditional work approach
  • Decreasing the median turnaround time
  • The entire pneumatic tube systems cost is reasonable than most other transportation systems

When you can manage a smart system like this pneumatic tube system why would you bother having the less effective, conventional workforce-based transport? 

pneumatic tube systems

Is the System Dying: Who Use it and Why

It isn’t, for sure, in fact, it still has a vibrant market to follow. The hospitals use computer-controller pneumatic tube systems to transport documents, drugs, and specimens from and to laboratories and nursing stations.

The drive-up banks use the pneumatic tubes to transport cash and official papers between cars and tellers. documents and specimens to and from laboratories and nurses’ stations.

Other sectors that use pneumatic tube systems include production plants, foundries, government buildings, and just about any other industry that requires to move product safely and quickly throughout buildings (plants) use (or can use) pneumatic tubes to improve the overall operational efficiency.

We say this has a future because you can integrate a high-speed microprocessor-based pneumatic transport system with your existing manufacturing system. Following are some of the cases where the pneumatic tube excels:

  • Safe and swift transportation of parts, materials, and documents across departments of any organization.
  • Accelerate product testing and production by decreasing travel time and lowering human errors.
  • Maximize operational facility and return on investment.

Disadvantages of Pneumatic Systems

Yeah, there are some drawbacks to this system including the pneumatic tubes. Some of these include:

  • Requires regular maintenance
  • The air layout and system pipeline faces malfunction more frequently compared to the other systems
  • Based on complex design

hydraulics and pneumatics

Comparison Between Pneumatic and Hydraulic Systems

Each of them has its own advantages and disadvantages. We’ve seen some of the advantages of the pneumatic system over hydraulics including safety, cleanliness, cost-effectiveness, longevity, etc.

However, there are some great advantages to the hydraulic system over the pneumatics. Like they can generate more force and are more capable of moving heavier loads than pneumatics. They are also easy to use with convenient buttons and require much less maintenance than pneumatics.

So it’s an evenly poised competition between hydraulic and pneumatic systems that don’t really have a winner. It’s you who need to make the choice according to your required application.

But for Pneumatic Tube Systems, our remark will be “A complex way to make the complex jobs simpler.” 

Conclusion

Pneumatics have their own benefits and people seem to prefer them in different industries over hydraulic systems (for small to medium scale applications) because they’re cheaper, cleaner, and quieter.

The pneumatic tube systems make one of the most fascinating examples of pressurized air. Especially when it comes to transporting small objects, it still makes a strong solution. And effectively combined with the advanced microprocessor, you can expect the pneumatic tube systems to grow big in the future as well!

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