Ingersoll Rand | Tool Tip: Air Compressor Impact on a Tool's Performance

Compressor, Type 30, Rotary Screw, Ingersoll Rand, Tool performance, air tool, impact, best
Air compressors are one of the most critical, yet often misunderstood, pieces of equipment in a shop. A good air compressor will allow a tool to operate at its full capabilities, but poor air supply in a shop can result in decreased tool performance. Taking the time to understand how air compressors can impact tool performance will pay dividends on how quickly and efficiently the job gets done.

Ingersoll Rand engineers have visited shops all over the world and found that many technicians are unaware of the true pressure being delivered to the tool. Ingersoll Rand runs all lab tests and tool comparisons at 90 psi, though that does not necessarily reflect other shops use on a continuous basis.

“Technicians will often increase pressure to 120 psi, but we typically like to stick with 90 psi,” said Ingersoll Rand Manager, Mark Krisa. “Truck shops consistently run at 120 or 140 PSI as a matter of habit. This will give the tool greater performance, but in the long run it’s not good for the tool because it can reduce the expected lifespan of an air tool.”

Air hogs, such as sanders, grinders, and cut-off tools typically have much higher CFM (cubic feet per minute – essentially the power that the compressor generates) requirements. The CFM output on the air compressor should be greater than the CFM requirement of the air tool.

“The relationship with pressure is linear,” Krisa said. “An air motor is going to have a torque that is linear with the air pressure. However, speed is a different matter, it is more complicated in how the tool responds, but it is fairly linear with air pressure.”

Ingersoll Rand has found many times that if a tool is not working properly, a good idea is to check the configuration between the tool and the air compressor. The difference between what you’re setting in your regulator and what pressure you’re getting in your tool depends on how you set your gauge.

For example, with a 117 psi system you might set your regulator at 90 psi. Out of that, 68 psi will make its way to the coupling, with only about 48 psi going into the tool — that’s 53 percent less psi than perceived.

Rather than turning up your pressure, there may be other things you can fix to address the problem of pressure loss at the tool. Here are some common problems to look for when your shop is having pressure issues:
• Look for and patch leaks where the tool connects, as this will have a significant impact on the pressure at the tool, causing more quality issues.
• Pay attention to the length of the hose that is connected, as it can also affect the air flow that is carried to the tool as the pressure drops.
• Make sure you follow hose-routing guidelines. This is a major determining factor in how much pressure the tool is receiving.
• Check to make sure the air is clean in the compressor.
• Turn down the limitation on your filter — filter performance is optimized at higher velocities.
• Check for dirt in the lines that can be pushed through along with condensation. This is critical as iron particles can get stuck in the vane and vane motor of the tool, which leads to performance degradation.
• Adjusting/adding to the regulator can enhance performance and air flow.

Air compressors are a crucial part in running a successful shop. Because they do most of the work behind-the-scenes, they commonly are the most underappreciated piece of equipment in the garage. It is imperative to do routine maintenance to your compressor to keep your tools running at their maximum capability.

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