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How a Single Acting Cylinder Works

A pneumatic air cylinder is a type of air cylinder that uses pneumatic air pressure to power a device, machine, or spring. Pneumatic air cylinders are used in a variety of tools and industrial machines, including nail guns, injection molding machines, industrial cranes, and many other products. Most pneumatic air cylinders come in two varieties, singleacting and double acting. A single acting pneumatic cylinder is the simplest form of pneumatic cylinders and is useful for low-impact and low stroke applications.

A single acting pneumatic cylinder works by using compressed air to pressure a trigger, spring, or other mechanical process to make changes to another part. Most single acting cylinders push the force from the cylinder in an outward motion, such as when releasing a product from a container. Telescope tubes are sometimes powered with single acting cylinders. The air pressure from the cylinder pushes the pieces of the telescoping tube into the extended position. A spring then returns the pieces of the part back into the “home” position to ready the cylinder for the next time it is needed.

In general, single acting cylinders are considered less effective than double acting cylinders, mainly due to their low power and the problems that can occur with the spring mechanism that resets the air cylinder. A double acting cylinder can bring air pressure both in and out of the cylinder, which eliminates the need for additional springs or parts to rest the cylinder. Double cylinders are also better able to handle higher-pressure processes than single acting cylinders.

Single acting cylinders have a variety of uses in industrial processes where a spring, gravity, or the weight of an object can help return the cylinder to the “home” position. Many industrial companies use single acting cylinders to power ventilation dampers and lift heavy objects.