Air Compressor Systems: The Basics

Air compressor systems range from small, portable units to large-scale industrial machines capable of driving entire manufacturing facilities. Making a smart purchasing decision requires educating yourself about the basics of how a compressor works, what models are available, and to which application they are best suited. Read on to learn more about air compressor systems or contact a Quincy representative directly for additional information about any of our products.

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Understanding Air Compressors

The purpose of an air compressor system is simple: to pressurize air to a certain level and deliver it in a steady stream. This pressurized air is typically used to power tools and machines or perform certain industrial processes, such as petroleum coking, among many others. The size and configuration of the compressor will determine how you can use it. Quincy manufactures and sells the following types of air compressor systems:


  • Rotary screw: Rotary screw machines are a type of positive displacement compressor that feature a pair of matched helical screws. These screws drive air into a special chamber while at the same time shrinking the size of that chamber, forcing the air to compress.
  • Reciprocating/piston: Reciprocating compressors are another type of positive displacement machine. Unlike rotary screw compressors, they compress air by using a series of one-way valves to introduce it into a chamber, where the constant motion of a series of pistons compresses it.


  • Scroll: Both reciprocating and rotary screw compressors require lubrication to keep valves and pistons moving. The drawback of this design is that it has the potential to introduce contamination into the system and can lead to increased maintenance requirements. Oil-free compressors are specially designed to meet the working requirements of clean environments, such as pharmaceutical plants and food and beverage manufacturing facilities.
  • Rotary Tooth: The Quincy QOFT Series rotary tooth compressors deliver 100% oil-free air with Industry-leading reliability. Ideal applications include food and beverage processing, pharmaceutical manufacturing, chemical and petrochemical processing, fermentation, wastewater treatment, pneumatic conveying, non-woven textile manufacturing, and many more.
  • Rotary Screw: The Quincy QOF Series rotary screw compressors deliver 100% oil-free air with Industry-leading reliability. The Quincy QOF Series rotary screw compressors delivers advanced controls and networking capabilities along with a robust design that’s easy to service.

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What to Look for in an Industrial Air Compressor

Not all compressors are created equal. Once you’ve determined which type of machine is right for your application, you need to figure out which model is best. Comparing various models and manufacturers requires knowing what to look for and what makes a quality piece of equipment. Here are some key factors to consider when making a decision:

      • Power: Delivering enough compressed air to drive your tools, machines and processes is the key goal of any industrial compressor. Make sure you choose a machine that has the power necessary to get the job done.
      • Efficiency: More power requires more fuel, and fuel is an ongoing operating expense for any business. Keep costs — and your carbon footprint — low by choosing an energy-efficient machine.
      • Maintenance requirements: Any time a compressor is down for service is a time your team can’t maintain optimal productivity. A good air compressor system will require as little maintenance as possible, so you can keep your crew working and production lines running.
      • Warranty: Any good air compressor manufacturer will stand behind their products. Quincy compressors feature one of the best warranties in the business, with extended coverage available in select models for up to 10 years, covering the heart of the unit, the airend.

Need assistance choosing the right compressor for your application? Learn more about the various roles our products play in different sectors and contact us today!

Click here to learn more about air compressor horsepower in rotary screw models.

Learn how to properly maintain your reciprocating air compressor on our oil and maintenance page.