Different Types of Pneumatic Tools and Their Uses

Posted on: February 16, 2023

different types of pneumatic tools

Pneumatic tools are used to make manual jobs more efficient and effective. They’re often more reliable and versatile than standard tools and can even be more cost-efficient over time. As you explore pneumatic tools and options, you may wonder:

  • What is a pneumatic tool? Pneumatic tools, also called air tools, are power tools that operate using air instead of batteries or electricity.
  • What are pneumatic tools powered by? Pneumatic tools are powered by an air compressor, which provides highly pressurized air to run the tools.

man using pneumatic drill to screw in hardwood floors

You can find various pneumatic tools for numerous tasks, applications and needs. Whether you’re working around the house or need more efficient tools for work, discover different types of pneumatic tools and what you may use them for.

How Do Pneumatic Tools Work?

As mentioned above, pneumatic tools are powered by air, typically through a connection to an air compressor. The tool is mounted to the air compressor via a hose and regulator. The regulator allows you to set the air pressure to the required amount for the specific tool being used. The compressed air will be sent through the regulator and hose into the tool.

Air tools have pneumatic motors that convert the energy from compressed air into mechanical action. Generally, pneumatic tools are either linear- or rotary-action, which determines how the air moves the motor to generate the tool’s action.

For example, pneumatic nail guns and hammers are linear-action tools, which operate with a piston actuator. Rotary-action tools like pneumatic drills feature turbine-style or geared motors, allowing the tool to rotate. When you pull the tool’s trigger, the air is sent into the tool’s motor and operates.

As long as pneumatic tools have a constant air supply at the right pressure, they can run continuously. Different types of air tools require different volumes of air, which could require a larger air tank. For example, paint sprayers use large volumes of air at low pressure, while nail guns use smaller volumes of air at higher pressure.

The right size air compressor will depend on the tools you’re using and the duration they’re used at. Be sure to keep this in mind when considering your pneumatic tools and compressed air needs.

Types of Pneumatic Tools and Their Uses

Pneumatic tools are used across various industries and applications, including construction, agriculture and irrigation, automotive repair, industrial assembly, chemical plants, and food and beverage. Because they’re so widely used, numerous types of air tools exist. The type of pneumatic tools you need depends on the task you’re performing.

Here are several pneumatic tools examples and their uses and advantages.

1. Pneumatic Drills

pneumatic drill on wood

Pneumatic drills are often used for construction and woodworking where numerous holes are necessary with ultimate precision. Electric drills are often more limited in terms of how long it takes to drill a single hole, the materials they can drill through and how deep a hole they can drill.

Air drills offer increased precision and efficiency than electric drills. Air drills also offer more drilling capabilities, allowing you to drill holes at various depths in materials of various thicknesses. Pneumatic drills are also often favored because they can drill through metal without overheating like an electric drill.

Because air drills are more powerful in several ways, they can be used continuously without compromising effectiveness or hole quality.

2. Ratchets

Pneumatic rachets, or socket wrenches, are popular air tools in the automotive, metal and construction industries. Wrenches are the traditional tool used to bolt and unbolt nuts, though they require quite a bit of manual wrist and arm cranking. While ratchets reduce the amount of manual bolting, removing nuts and bolts can be extremely difficult when time and weather have worn down the materials.

Air socket wrenches allow you to bolt and unbolt with increased speed and effectiveness. Typically designed for use in tight spaces, air rachets are especially useful for fastening bolts in hard-to-reach places. These ratchets can increase your ability to handle tough bolts while reducing strain on your wrists and arms.

3. Impact Wrenches

Similar to air ratchets, pneumatic impact wrenches provide the necessary torque to remove inseparable fasteners. These air tools are commonly found in car repair shops and other applications where nuts may be screwed on too tight to get them off.

Pneumatic impact wrenches are ideal for handling even the toughest nuts and bolts with efficiency. For example, rather than struggle for several minutes with the nuts on a hubcap, you can use an air impact wrench to remove the hubcap in a matter of seconds.

4. Nailers

Nailers are another common type of pneumatic tool. Air nailers are necessary for construction, woodworking and furniture applications. Depending on your nailing needs, you may consider various types of nailers.

For example, here are two of the most common types of pneumatic nailers, each with a different use:

  • Framing nailer: A pneumatic framing nailer is often simply referred to as a nail gun. This heavy-duty tool is used to drive standard-sized and larger nails into wood. You’d use an air nail gun for framing and installing trim and deck boards.
  • Brad nailer: Air brad nailers are the light-duty version of the framing nailer. This tool uses brad nails, which are for smaller, more delicate applications. Model makers and craftsmen typically use this type of air nailer with thinner materials.

5. Air Hammers

Air hammers are commonly known as jackhammers. These air-powered tools are extremely powerful and often used to break material in demolition projects. For example, pneumatic hammers can easily break through large rocks, concrete and asphalt.

Air hammers deliver thousands of beats per minute at high force, allowing them to chip away at tough materials easily. Pneumatic hammers can also carve stones or shape metal. They can be equipped with different extensions, including splitters and chisels, for various applications.

These air tools require experienced operators, as they have the power to do significant damage if handled negligently.

6. Pneumatic Sanders

Sanding and polishing are some of the most tedious tasks, despite being necessary for creating smooth finishes on various materials. Pneumatic sanders help make sanding and polishing much less tedious and strenuous.

Air sanders can vary widely, especially in size and direction — you may use a hand-held pneumatic belt sander for a single plank of wood or an orbital floor sander for an entire room. Air sanders can also be used on wood and metal surfaces. For example, body shops often use pneumatic sanders to weld joints and blend metal sheets to achieve a smooth, seamless finish.

7. Air Sandblasters

Sandblasting is a method used to create an abrasive finish on a surface. The process involves blasting sand at a surface with high-pressure air to make the surface rough.

Sandblasters are air powered, allowing these tools to spray sand at the necessary pressure to achieve the desired abrasion. Pneumatic sandblasters are commonly used in the finishing and coating industry.

8. Pneumatic Saws

Air-powered saws have significantly improved how construction workers, carpenters and furniture industries cut materials. Much like performing jobs with other traditional tools, sawing is a time-consuming and strenuous manual task.

Pneumatic saws allow you to cut efficiently and precisely through various materials, including wood, drywall, fiberglass, sheet metal, tiles and pipes. These air tools are ideal for creating straight cuts quickly, saving you time and energy.

9. Grease Guns

Machines in various industries and applications require lubrication to prevent metal parts from grinding against each other. Grease offers lubrication, helping prevent corrosion and slowing wear and tear. Greasing equipment requires precision, getting the right amount of grease into hard-to-reach places.

A pneumatic grease gun simplifies this process, applying the perfect amount of grease. This air tool also helps you reach tight spaces with ease, ensuring the necessary parts are properly lubricated.

10. Riveters

Nails, nuts and bolts are primarily used for drywall and wood applications, as they’re less effective in metal. Metal panels are joined together with rivets, which are like short pins. A riveter is a tool used to push rivets into holes in the metal, securing the fasteners in place.

Manual riveters are inefficient and require substantial amounts of manual effort. Pneumatic riveters are significantly more effective and are often used in the sheet metal and automotive industries.

11. Tire Inflators

A car’s tires must be evenly inflated, or there’s a risk of damaging the tires, axles and other parts. Many people may be familiar with pneumatic tire inflators, as they’re typically available at gas stations. While general consumers can find basic tire inflation tools for car and bike tires, car repair and tire shops often require pressurized air for heavy workloads or large truck tires.

An air compressor tire inflator provides the necessary capacity for continuous use during a busy day at the shop. Typically equipped with a gauge, these air tools enable you to inflate tires to the necessary pressure quickly.

12. Paint Sprayers

Paint sprayers are extremely common across various industries, including automotive, construction and art. In these industries, a paint job needs to be as close to perfect as possible.

For example, consider the paint job on a car — visible streaks, brush strokes or imperfections would significantly impact the car’s appearance. The same goes for walls in houses or buildings.

A pneumatic paint sprayer allows you to apply even coats to large surface areas efficiently. Oil- and moisture-free compressed air is crucial here, as oil and moisture can cause impurities in the paint coat. With the right air compressor, users can save significant time and effort.

13. Blowers

Pneumatic blowers are relatively simple air tools, as their primary function is blowing pressurized air. These tools typically feature a long thin nozzle, providing precision and enabling you to blow air in hard-to-reach spaces. Blowers can be used in any application where dust and debris collect on or in machinery and equipment.

While you may be able to wipe the dust off the surfaces of your equipment, dust and dirt can collect on areas that need proper airflow. For example, say there’s a vent on the back of your machine, but you can’t move the machine to get to the vent. A pneumatic blower would allow you to efficiently and effectively blast these areas with air to clear debris.

14. Staple Guns

Staple guns, or pneumatic staplers, are used for various tasks, including repairing furniture, installing trim, laying shingles, working with wood and installing siding. This air tool is similar to a nailer, though it’s specific to staple fasteners. Pulling the trigger on this tool releases pressurized air that drives the staple into the surface.

Staple guns come in various sizes to accommodate different staple sizes. Staple guns are easy to use and can effectively drive staples into various materials with minimal effort on your part.

15. Car Lifts

Car repair shops perform many tasks that require vehicles to be completely or partially lifted off the ground. Rather than do this process by hand, auto shops rely on pneumatic car lifts. These car lifts can lift vehicles ranging in size and weight with the push of a button.

Pneumatic car lifts typically combine compressed air and hydraulics. The compressed air is used to move the hydraulic liquid, which then moves the hydraulic column and piston to lift the vehicle.

16. Die Grinders

Die grinders are also called angle grinders, and these tools are used for various metal needs.

Pneumatic die grinders can perform various tasks, including widening holes in metal materials, defining curves on metal pieces and filling in and polishing metal edges. The angled grinder and various tip attachments allow you to use a die grinder to achieve various effects on your metal materials.

Pneumatic die grinders can also be used on wood and plastic materials. They’re compact tools you can use with several different attachments for various needs. An air die grinder makes cutting and grinding metal materials more efficient and effective.

17. Pneumatic Shears

This powerful tool is designed to cut through sheet metal and other tough materials, as scissors cut through paper. Whether you’re trimming sheet metal to a specific size or creating a cut-out for a project, pneumatic shears are one of the most effective ways to make precise cuts in various metals, aluminum or plastic.

Pneumatic shears are primarily used in metalworking and related industries. An industrial version of pneumatic shears is what firefighters and other first responders use to cut through metal car parts to rescue trapped victims in car accidents.

18. Caulk Guns

Caulking is a vital step in plumbing and construction applications, creating a seal to prevent moisture and other debris from seeping into walls, floors and other surfaces. Standard caulk guns are easy to operate, though they’re inefficient for large caulking jobs.

Pneumatic caulk guns allow you to quickly caulk large areas with minimal effort. Rather than using manual effort to squeeze the caulk out of the gun forcefully, pressurized air pushes out the caulk seamlessly. You can also get more caulk out of a tube with a pneumatic tool.

19. Needle Scalers

A pneumatic needle scaler is the equivalent of a sander for metal surfaces. You may use a needle scaler to sand metal surfaces to restore the material’s sleek surface.

For example, metal is subject to buildup and corrosion over time. Whether it’s rust, paint, soot, barnacles or other crusted residues, a pneumatic needle scaler can cut through these tough materials to reveal the original smooth metal.

Pneumatic needle scalers use pressurized air to move long needle bristles in a reciprocating motion. These needles scrape away encrusted residue on metal, essentially sanding it away.

How to Safely Work With Pneumatic Tools

While pneumatic tools are extremely beneficial and offer more power than standard tools, they also present unique safety risks. The most prominent concern when working with pneumatic tools is the risk associated with highly pressurized air.

High-pressure air can easily propel objects at high velocities, potentially causing severe damage or injury. For example, if a drill attachment is unsecured, the high-pressure air could send it flying, creating an airborne hazard.

Because this risk exists, OSHA outlines various pneumatic power tool regulations to help ensure your safety when using these tools in the workplace. Whether you’re using pneumatic tools for work or jobs around the house, safety should be a priority.

Here are a few tips to help you and others stay safe when working with and around pneumatic tools.

Pneumatic Tool Safety Tips

While you should consider the specific tool you’re working with, here are a few general pneumatic tool safety tips to remember when working with any air tool:

  • Wear appropriate PPE: Personal protective equipment (PPE) should be worn when operating any power equipment, especially air tools. Pneumatic tools can be loud, especially in smaller spaces, so hearing protection is a necessity. Safety glasses are also a must, along with a dust mask to prevent yourself from inhaling dust and other debris when working. Gloves, a hard hat and safety boots are also recommended.
  • Regularly inspect your tools: Do a quick visual inspection before using your pneumatic tools to ensure connections are secure and nothing is visibly wrong with your setup. Regularly inspect your tools and hoses for holes, cuts or wear and tear that could cause more damage, and make replacements immediately.
  • Follow the owner’s manual: Each tool should come with an owner’s manual that outlines how to use and care for your specific tool properly. Following the information in the manual, like the manufacturer’s rating, helps ensure you’re using the equipment safely.
  • Designate specific areas for pneumatic tool use: Communicating with people around you about when and where you’ll be using pneumatic tools can help keep others safe. One way to do so is by designating a specific area for pneumatic tool use so others know what to expect.

Compressed Air Safety Tips

Because air compressors are the primary way to power pneumatic tools, it’s important to understand compressed air safety, too. Keep these tips in mind when running an air compressor with your pneumatic tools:

  • Ensure compressed air is clean and dry. Moisture or debris in your air lines could damage your tools and affect their performance. For example, moisture in the lines of a paint sprayer will result in inconsistencies in the paint job.
  • Avoid placing objects on or against the air compressor. Air compressors require adequate airflow and venting to prevent overheating. Impeding the airflow can cause damage.
  • Keep the air shut-off valve within reach. If an accident were to occur, you want to be able to turn the compressor off immediately.

Power Your Pneumatic Tools With a Quincy Air Compressor

A quality air compressor can make a significant difference when using your pneumatic tools. At Quincy Compressor, our inventory includes high-quality air compressors for various compressed air needs.

From rotary screw air compressors to reciprocating piston air compressors and more, our network of knowledgeable air experts can help you find the right air compressor to use with your pneumatic tools.

Contact us to learn more about finding the right air compressor for your application.