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Compressed Air in the Automotive Industry

The automotive industry comprises a wide, varying range of application areas, which includes the manufacture of individual parts up to the production of complete vehicles and including repair works in workshops. Accordingly the fields of application for compressed air are also different. Among other things, compressed air is used for generating a vacuum to grip parts. This so-called Pick and Place Technology is utilised, for example, in the production process for transporting and installing windscreens.

The demands on the compressed air utilised also vary considerably: The highest quality standards apply e.g. for spray painting in vehicle spraying lines or when welding with lasers. A reduced compressed air quality is sufficient in workshops or for some applications in the body shop.

An individual design of the compressed air processing and treatment is therefore necessary, depending on the application and ambient conditions of the compressed air station. This can be therefore be utilised in automotive manufacturing for reducing the operating costs e.g. with energy savings, or preventing product rejection by complying with the required product quality.

Applications in the automotive industry

robot assembly

Compressed air for tools

Non-automated compressed air tools
Compressed air with low pressures is exclusively utilised in the private motor vehicle industry. So that multiple workstations in one workshop can be simultaneously and efficiently provided with compressed air, the plant or system must be designed in such a way that the pressure is optimally distributed throughout the whole workshop. Compressed air tools are often preferred compared to electrical tools because of their ease of use and their lower weight.

Robotics with pneumatic components
The automotive industry without robotics is unthinkable today. Robots assist, for example, in the press shop with clamping and induction. They are also an integral part of the automotive production in other processes, such as for painting, welding and assembly. Pneumatic components are often required on stationary or mobile handling robots for the procedures. This therefore makes compressed air an important medium in the production process for the automotive industry to control and operate the robot.


Surface treatment

There are different surface treatments during the vehicle manufacture process, such as plasma activation, ionisation, sand blasting, shot blasting and painting. Compressed air is required in all these applications and it is an important integral element for the production process for high-quality products.

The various applications create different requirements for the compressed air. The quality of the compressed air is very important for colour application with compressed air in spray booths or with spray guns. Particles, oil-aerosols and vapour, silicone-containing fluids as well as condensate are the main causes for faults in the paint shop. These applications must guarantee a lack of paint-wetting impairment substances (PWIS).

Dry and dust-free compressed air is required for ionisation. These requirements are also specified for non-contact surface cleaning systems for the manufacture of high-performance electronics. The compressed air must also still be absolutely oil free.

Reliable compressed air processing and treatment in order to comply with the compressed air quality can prevent faulty production and therefore minimise product rejection. For example, a reduction in throughput times with multi-layered colour structure can be achieved during painting because heated up compressed air can reduce drying times when using water-based colours.

Car body
car factory

Car body

The blank chassis is created with the help of various joining processes, such as laser welding, spot welding, plasma welding, crimping or clinching. Compressed air can be necessary for all these methods e.g. as a pneumatic drive unit technology, dust protection and sealing air. Compressed air is also required for many additional points for pneumatic clamping elements, pneumatic swivel and linear axes, compressed air supply systems for pins, rivets, bolts and screws.

Many of the applications only need the compressed air as a drive unit. This does not require high compressed air quality, the installation of a refrigeration dryer and filter is often sufficient. The correct design for the processing and treatment is however important, otherwise unnecessary energy costs will result.

A small part of the compressed air is required directly in the process e.g. for laser welding. In one laser welding method, the scanner welding, the laser beam guidance is executed via a mirror, whereby a scattering of the beam reduces the performance of the plant. In order to guarantee a clean, not fogged mirror and to prevent a scattering of the CO2 laser, the laser channel must be charged with processed and depressurised compressed air.


Application Reports


Compressed air as transport and operating medium

At GF Automotive, sand is transported by means of conveying air. Moisture would cause clumping in the pipes. Also control valves are operated with compressed air as control air. A DRYPOINT RA refrigerant dryer from BEKO TECHNOLOGIES ensures their dry air.


Surface cleaning at HELLA KGaA Hueck & Co.

For the implementation of sensitive components, the surface cleaning at the company HELLA KGaA Hueck & Co. is particularly important. The compressed air is purificated by BEKOKAT and used as process air to blow away dirt and dust.


Use Case: An investment in the future

A global, independent supplier in the automotive industry set up a fuel cell test stand for a customer, which is to be operated safely with compressed air class 1 (ISO8573-1).


Compressed air preparation as a process chain concept

Absolutely oil-free and dry compressed air is needed by Flender in Mussum. Particularly in complex coupling production, the air must meet all the requirements of every application of process air to barrier air.