Rotary and Reciprocating Compressors: The Difference

Engineers with pipes behind themWhen shopping for a compressed air system, particularly for industrial applications, there are multiple decisions you have to make. These include choosing a system supplier, the brand of system, and the size of the system to acquire.

Another decision, which is a little more critical, is choosing between a reciprocating and a rotary compressor. Most people do not understand the difference between the two, and they end up making the wrong decision. Here’s how not to be like them:

The Compression

Apart from the fact that rotary compressors are available in two types — variable speed and fixed speed drives, other factors that differentiate these two types are:

Rotary compressors contain two adjacent rotors that move in parallel directions. For compression to take place, this compressor traps air between the rotors and compress it. Reciprocating compressors, on the other hand, contain pistons that operate in an upward and downward movement in the system cylinder, to compress air.

The Noise

The rotating screws in a rotary compressor move differently than pistons do. As such, this type of compressing system is quieter than of reciprocating compressors. The vibration is low and the rate of the release of heat into the surroundings is slow.

The Use

A reciprocating compressor system is ideal when you require minimal air. Therefore, you can use these systems in homes for small projects or construction projects. Rotary compressors deliver more air and are ideal for applications that demand continuous supply or air. By design, these types are robust and can operate smoothly for long periods of time.

Now that you understand the difference between a rotary screw and reciprocating compressor, make an informed decision that you deem will meet your application requirements. If you’re still unsure which to pick, consult with a system supplier for recommendations.