Pneumatics – history and application in today’s technology

Pneumatics - history and application in today's technology

Pneumatics is a science that has allowed us to use the air energy to propel and move objects for thousands of years. Since ancient times, we have been using ideas related to pneumatics. Inventions such as the vacuum pump and the air compressor allowed this field of technology to develop rapidly. In the 19th century, during the Industrial Revolution, pneumatics became increasingly popular. It began to appear in various industries such as transportation, communications and manufacturing. Today, pneumatics is indispensable in many fields and products, and even in such an aspect as environmental protection. In this article we will learn about the history and development of pneumatics and its application in today’s technology.

History of technology - discoveries and inventions related to pneumatics in the ancient times

The history of pneumatics begins in the ancient era, where the first discoveries and inventions related to it gave rise to the development of the field. One of the most important figures associated with pneumatics of that time is Heron of Alexandria, who lived in the first century AD. He was a mathematician (the formula for the area of a triangle), engineer and philosopher, but also a designer. It was he who described in his works many inventions that used wind to generate energy and move objects. The most important of these is the aeolipile – a prototype of today’s steam turbine. These inventions laid the groundwork for subsequent designs and had a huge impact on the development of pneumatics in ancient times.

Heron described and designed many devices that used air pressure for various purposes. Some drove mill wheels, others generated the motion of automatons (Heron’s Fountain). Many of his concepts were related to machines that were shown as curiosities at various exhibitions and festivals.

It is worth noting that the Alexandrian’s inventions, although they did not find any commercial application at the time, were an important step in the development of pneumatics as we know it today. His work was and still is an inspiration for many scientists and technologists who attempted to develop his ideas in later centuries.

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Pneumatic systems - the history of the vacuum pump and other inventions from the 17th century

Pneumatics-related inventions in ancient times provided an important foundation for the further development of this field of science. The breakthrough came with the work of 17th century German physicist Otto von Guericke, who, using vacuum, invented the vacuum pump – two copper hemispheres sealed with leather soaked in turpentine and wax. They allowed air to be drawn out of them and create a vacuum. It was the first device that allowed generating such an environment. It is also one of the most important inventions related to pneumatics at the time.

Magdeburg Mayor Guericke began his research on vacuum as early as 1650, when he built the first hand-powered vacuum pump. Later, in 1654, he constructed the first air compression model that allowed the generation of vacuum. Another breakthrough came in 1672 with a demonstration in which the force of 50 men could not prevent atmospheric pressure from pushing a piston inside a metal vessel. Otto’s invention was the beginning of a new chapter in the history of pneumatics, paving the way for further research into pressure and vacuum.

Development and application of pneumatics in the 19th century - the industrial revolution

The 19th century was an important period in the history of pneumatics. The development of this field accelerated with the industrial revolution. New inventions and technologies emerged, so crucial to the rapid transformation of industry and transportation.

One of the most important inventions related to pneumatics that appeared in the 19th century was the complex air compressor. It allowed air to be compressed in cylinders and was the first device to generate high gas pressure. The air compressor was patented in 1892 and became a key component in industry, especially in the transportation and communication industries.

The 19th century also brought other important inventions related to pneumatics, such as the pneumatic engine (the work of Ludwik Mękarski), which allowed movement to be generated through air pressure and powered Paris streetcars. The first air brakes were invented as well, which were used in railroad vehicles.

The Industrial Revolution began and spread the use of pneumatics in various industries: machinery, aerospace, automotive, as well as in the chemical industry, mining and construction. The introduction of pneumatic tools and machines accelerated the production process and increased labor efficiency. The use of pressure and the application of pneumatics components have become an important element in the development of industry and new technologies.

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Modern pneumatics - which industries and technologies it is used in today

Today, pneumatics is widely used in many industries. First of all, it has wide range of applications in heavy industry. Production machinery such as presses, compressors, production lines and specialized tools. Its components are used in the aerospace, automotive and railroad industries. It is used to drive motors, brakes or control systems. There would be no automation and robotics today without pneumatics used to control and power modern robotic stations.

It is used in the construction industry in machines such as excavators, loaders or forklifts. It’s used to power machinery and tools in the mining industry, such as harvesters, settling machines and pneumatic hammers. In transportation, pneumatics is used in vehicle braking and has applications in air compression systems in rail vehicles.

It is also encountered in the chemical industry, where it helps transport bulk substances, such as in plastics processing. For safety purposes, it is also used in firefighting systems and emergency medical services. It is widely used in medicine in equipment such as respirators and pneumatic massagers used in physiotherapy.

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Use of high pressures helps with protecting environment and sustainability

  1. Increased energy efficiency: Allows compressed air energy to be converted to increase energy efficiency and reduce electricity consumption.
  2. Reduced exhaust emissions: Equipment using high pressure can be an alternative to machinery and equipment powered by internal combustion engines. This makes it possible to significantly reduce exhaust emissions.
  3. Preservation of natural resources: Pneumatics components are used in machinery and equipment related to the mining and quarrying industries. This has implications for more efficient use of natural resources, energy efficiency and environmental protection.
  4. Recycling and responsible waste management: In these processes, pneumatics can be used, for example, to assist in the transportation of dry waste or bulk materials, without the unnecessary use of electricity or internal combustion engines.
  5. Sustainable transportation: Pneumatic solutions are also present in transportation. They have long had a key impact on increasing driving safety and reducing fuel consumption.
  6. Support for renewable energy sources: RES, too, can rely on pneumatics. Windmills, photovoltaic farms and pneumatic actuators can be found everywhere. They control the movement and position of the elements of machines that acquire renewable energy.


Since ancient times, people have used ideas related to air and pressure. Inventions such as the vacuum pump and gas compressor are milestones in the development and commercialization of this field of science. Thanks to its designers and inventors, pneumatics has developed strongly over the centuries. It is also an indispensable component in many industries.

Examples from this text show that pneumatics has a wide range of applications and proves itself as a tool in environmental protection and sustainable development. It increases energy efficiency and reduces emissions. It conserves natural resources, promotes efficient recycling and supports responsible waste management. It also supports our operations in the skillful use and processing of available natural energy sources.

Today, companies like ours are focusing on developing their products and services. This expands the use of pneumatic technology in many industries. The energy-saving solutions we have introduced using compressed air. They will make it possible to meet increasingly stringent environmental standards in the future and will play an important role in many engineering projects.