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Pneumatic motors or electric? Check which one best fits your needs

May 11, 2022

Air Motors Expert Corner

If you’re considering a new motor, the chances are that electric motors are your go-to option. However, did you know that they will not always provide the best solution? It is especially true for more challenging industrial environments where air motors can deliver superior performance. 


The advantages of air

In many applications pneumatic air motors can be more durable, efficient, versatile, and safe, ultimately enabling you to operate more productively. There are numerous benefits to air motors – let’s take a closer look: 

1. Reliable operation in heavy-duty applications

Air motors provide reliable operation in heavy-duty applications, where electric motors would otherwise fail. They are unaffected by extreme environments, working reliably in industy or humid settings; or in applications where moisture is present. These conditions would typically cause corrosion in electric motors but don’t pose any problem for air motors. They can also withstand vibrations and low and high temperatures (-30° to 150°).

What’s more, overloads that exceed stall torque would typically cause circuit breakers to trip and electric motors to stop. This results in unwanted costly downtime. Air motors don’t suffer from this issue; therefore, you can increase your uptime. Pneumatic motors also don’t overheat if stopped under load, and they are ideal for constant start-stop processes.

2. Improve the space around your equipment

Air motors are a smaller size than electric ones so you can save space surrounding your equipment, resulting in a neater work area with less clutter. These motors are more compact and lightweight (between 4 and 6 times smaller and lighter) than an electric motor of equivalent output power. They tend to have a higher power-to-weight ratio, meaning a smaller air motor can deliver the same power as an electric one of the same sizes.

The pneumatic motors are simpler than electric ones and easier to install. Since they do not have electrical wiring, there is no need for a qualified electrician to install it, reducing installation costs. You can easily connect and disconnect to the air supply as needed, and the output automatically adjusts to match the applied load. Additionally, air motors do not require a range of supporting components such as magnetic starters and overload protection.

They typically have lower operation and maintenance costs, consequently, you can reap the rewards here too.

3. Air motors are more versatile

Pneumatic motors are incredibly easy to use. They offer multiple operating speeds and torque spans, easy power adjustment, and the possibility of a progressive or immediate start. Moreover, air motors are straightforward to assemble in any structure or customer’s air motor design, and they do not need specific certification and accreditation, unlike electric motors.

4. Safety first

Electric motors and their switchgear have the potential to cause sparks. This would be devastating in hazardous areas with explosive and flammable atmospheres. There is no heat or risk of sparks with air motors, so they are ideal for these environments, and you can operate safely. Air motors are also available in ATEX and stainless-steel versions, ensuring that they will withstand harsh conditions.

The benefits of electric motors

While pneumatic motors offer many advantages over electric motors, there are some benefits to electric motors too. For example, if there is no suitable air source, the installation of electric motors will be more cost-effective than a complete pneumatic system (including compressor, controls, filters, etc.).

Electric motors are more precise, and their speed can be accurately controlled to within ±1%. This is because air motors can be vulnerable to fluctuations in the air system’s flow and pressure, resulting in slight speed and torque variations.

Finally, electrical motors can be linked with sensors, and programming is possible. Some electric motors can also alert operators when preventative maintenance is due.  

Consider all your options

Here’s a quick summary of where air motors outperform electric motors; therefore, you can select the best product for your needs:

  • Yellow - Pneumatic motor
  • Grey - Electric motor
  • A - Maintenance and installation costs
  • B - Price
  • C - Sensors adaptability 
  • D - Precision 
  • E - Weight/power to volume ratio 
  • F - Power, torque, speed versatility 
  • G - Robustness 
  • H - No employee certification costs 
  • I - MRI environment 
  • J - Harsh environment

Which air motor is right for me?

If your plant has an existing air network and a high level of precision and accurate speed control are not required, then air motors provide the perfect solution. Pneumatic motors have many advantages compared with electric motors, and you can easily integrate them into multiple applications and industries, including automotive, medical, chemical, food, power and machine building.

But with so many air motors available on the market, it can be hard to know where to start. Learn more about air motors on our Expert Corner How to choose the right air motor or using our Air motor selector – a tool to help you select the best motor for your needs in just three simple steps. 


Select the right air motor

Visit the online selector or get in touch with our experts if you'd like more information on how to properly select the right air motor.

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