Wed. Jun 19th, 2024

There are multiple ways to classify an air compressor and there are multiple types for you to consider as well. However, there are 4 compressor types commonly used, while the rest are highly specific and often acquired for large production means.

Following guidance from, we have listed what these compressors are great for and how they work.

Reciprocating Compressors

This type of compressor is normally used in the gas and oil industries. This is because they compress fluids and gasses to a high pressure ready for storage.

For example, a common use in many businesses is to blow plastic bottles into specific shapes through the gas compression technique.

How It Works

Reciprocating compressors have reciprocating pistons. These pistons move in a cylinder in an axial composition. If the cylinder or axial position moves it can increase or decrease the volume of gas. This in turn changes the pressure.

Reciprocating compressors can have just one cylinder or they could host multiple.

When the crank is moved by one rotation, the suction and compression mechanisms are activated. This pulls in the air and pressures it. 

The pressure will be at the same rate every time, as each rotation will open up a value to bring in more air. Every time air is brought in, the pressure is released. To increase the pressure, your reciprocating design needs to have a multi-stage mechanism. 

Because of this, Two Stage reciprocating compressors have become the most popular version of this compressor type.

Rotary Compressors

Rotary Compressors are smaller than the others, and because of this reduced size, they often create less pressure by comparison. You can often see a rotary compressor in dentist offices, as they are of low power enough to clean up the water and spit, but will not harm your skin.

How It Works

The most common rotary compressor is known as the Screw Compressor. It gets its name from the screw shape within the mechanicals. There are two of these screws, which line up next to each other on different threads.

A motor engine is attached to the compressor, which allows the screws to move in synchronization. As they rotate, one screw pulls in air, while the other traps it. This trapping aspect is what causes the air pressure. 

Centrifugal Compressors

Also known as turbo compressors, they create less noise than their counterparts and fewer vibrations too. They are normally used in manufacturing plants as their main aim is to create a steady pressure for higher and longer flow.

How It Works

The increase in pressure comes from the change in momentum angle The spiraling container converts the angular momentum from a high speed into a static one. This means that the compressor created a high-speed pressure, which cannot maintain its pressure at this level. It then forces it through the spiral, allowing the speed to reduce at a steady rate.

This steady rate is what allows the pressure to last longer, produce less vibration and produce less noise.

Blades are involved in this compressor, to create the pressure, to begin with. The blade moves at a high speed which creates momentum to both create pressure and push the air through the spiral.

Axial Flow Compressors

For an axial flow compressor to work, the air needs to flow parallel to the axis. For that to happen the compressor needs several stages of blades and rotation, making the machine very large.

These types of compressors can be found in jet engines, power stations, and other large manufacturing sights.

They need around 1000 hp to operate, and a typical compressor will have around 5 stages for the air to compress through.

How It Works

First, the compressor accelerates the fluid or gas to a specific speed by the rotating blades. As the air gets pushed forwards, it will come across stationary blades, which diffuses the velocity of the gas and starts to pressurize it instead.

With more and more pressure this happens multiple times. It also allows for different amounts of pressure to be designed without changing every compression stage.


You most likely have a reciprocating compressor in your home, as they are normally used for small working sites or garages. The other compressors on this list are typically used for manufacturing warehouses or large-scale machines such as jets.

However, if you want a compressor with less power you may be after a rotary version. They are also common in workshops but are not as powerful. They are great for small jobs.

By admin