A Quick History of the Air Compressor

Air compressor history

Air compressors are used in a variety of settings for multiple purposes. Today, compressors are used in agricultural, power engines, medical, mining, oil & gas and manufacturing industries. These compressors help in an array of ways, but back in the day they weren’t as versatile. They required a lot more manual activity than they do now. 

The earliest recorded air compressors are the human lungs. The oxygen we exhale can take out small fires and help in small, marginal tasks. With that concept in mind, the Bellows air compressor was invented in 1500 B.C. As seen above, it was a hand-held device that provided a concentrated blast of air. 

In 1762, engineer John Smeaton designed the first water wheel-driven blowing cylinder that would go on to replace the Bellows. After the water-wheel, the blasting machine invented by John Wilkinson in 1776 became the go-to industrial air compressor.  The blasting machine would actually go on to become the archetype for future mechanical air compressors. 

In 1857, compressors were used to move large air volumes for the Italy-France rail system. It was this event that helped people see more ways to utilize the compressor. In 1888, Vikto Popp, an Austrian engineer, created the first compressor plant in Paris. Paris then became the epicenter of raging debate regarding the future of power systems, with arguments that air compressors would overtake electricity. Shortly after Vikto’s first compressor plant, other inventors were moving towards creating and patenting a number of accessories that ran on compressed air. 

In the 20th century, the automotive and aircraft industries were able to have major overhauls as air compressor technology was growing. Assembly lines became efficient and people were able to assemble heavier items much faster. Simultaneously, buildings were growing and air compressors made it possible for big projects to happen, such as the Empire State Building. 

Today we see a variety of ways air compressors are used and an abundance of the different types, manufacturers, and uses. At 3C Industrial, we make it simple and easy to choose your next air compressor. Check out our product catalog and let us know how we can help you today!

Today we see a variety of air compressors used in different industries for various purposes.