An Overview of Pneumatic Cylinders

While we’ve had a “Support and Training Center” section on the main FrightProps site for a while now, we’ve recently decided that blogging all of our stuff might be a more effective way to help people out. Today, we’re going to provide a quick overview of how pneumatic cylinders work so you can get a better understanding how some of your favorite Halloween props are made.

Quick Things to Know About Pneumatic Cylinders:

– Pneumatic cylinders provide linear motion – they can push things like a zombie halloween prop forwards and backwards.
– The “stroke” is how far the shaft extends from the cylinder. It is measured in inches.
– The “bore” is the capacity inside the cylinder body: the bigger the bore, the more force it can exert.
– As the bore size increases, so does the size of the extending shaft.


There are three main types of pneumatic cylinders: double-acting, single-acting, and reverse-acting.


Double Acting Pneumatic Cylinders:


The most common and also, usually, the least expensive type of pneumatic cylinder. Air pushes the cylinder out and in using air from both sides of the cylinder. Air goes into one port and forces it out. Air goes into the other port and forces it back in. In most cases, if you don’t know what to use, you probably need a double acting cylinder.


Single Acting Pneumatic Cylinders:


Single acting cylinders only have one air port. Air comes into the port and forces the cylinder out. A spring inside sends the shaft snapping back into the cylinder.


Reverse Acting Cylinders:


Reverse-acting cylinders have the spring in the opposite direction. The shaft is naturally out and when air enters the cylinder, it pushes the shaft in. When air is released, the spring sends the shaft out.


Mounting Options of Pneumatic Cylinders:

Cylinders also come with mounting options – how you’re going to attach the cylinder to the object. Universal mounts can be mounted from the bottom, the top, or both. Each side has threads (with the exception of 1.5″ Bore Cylinders and above, which typically have no rear threads). All of the cylinders pictured above are universal mounts. There are also nose mount cylinders which only have threads on the top for mounting.

We’ll cover cylinder mounting options in an upcoming post!

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