The first air compressors created were not machines, like many people may think. In fact they were actually people themselves. Humans used their lungs to blow oxygen onto fires, thus creating the first air compressors. The air compressors we know today are both stronger and more efficient. A healthy pair of human lungs can produce.02 to.08 bar, where one bar equals 14.5 pounds per square inch. Around 3,000 BC metallurgy had made its day view, and humans had turned over a new leaf in air compressors.
As metals were melted down, higher temperatures were needed, which lead to a need for more powerful compressors. Hand held bellows were soon created and in the 1,500 BC era foot bellows began to be produced. For 2,000 years bellows driven by foot were the primary choice when it came to compressed air. Soon blast furnaces were developed, which lead to John Smeaton's design of a water wheel-driven blowing cylinder in 1762. Hand held and foot operated bellows become obsolete, and the new Smeaton design was the blower system of choice.
Later inventor John Wilkinson came into the picture and created a much more efficient blasting machine. Invented in England during the year 1776, this new machine was an early prototype for all the mechanical compressors to come. Many of these new air compressors were used in mining and tunnel building. Particularly in the 1857 construction of the tunnel rail system that connected Italy to France. They were able to move large volumes of fresh air in to the tunnels for ventilation.
As word of tunnel development with compressed air machines spread international intrigue was sparked. Inventors soon realized compressed air could be used in many more industries than just mining. Leading this advance was Austrian engineer Viktor Popp, who created compressor plant in Paris. In 1888 Mr. Popp installed a 1,500 kW compressor plant and by the year 1891 the plant had grown to 18,000 kW.
As years passed more and more patents were handed out to inventors who were tweaking the designs of the original machines. Soon compressed air machines were being used in a number of different applications all around the world. Their versatility, reliability, and all around usability make them popular among many industries. Frequently air compressors are used in combination with hydraulics and electricity. The two compliment each other and have changed the way compressed air is used in industries around the world.