Pneumatic cylinders are classified as either single or double acting, depending on how the working fluid acts on the piston. In this article, MGA Controls explains more about the working principles, applications and advantages of single & double acting pneumatic cylinders.

What is a single acting pneumatic cylinder?

Single acting pneumatic cylinders only work on one end of the piston. These types of cylinder have one port that is used to supply and vent compressed air. They use the compressed air to actuate the piston in one direction and spring force to return to the base position, and work can be performed in the air driven direction.

Single acting pneumatic cylinder applications

Single-acting cylinders are a staple component of industrial process industries. They rely on an element, including springs or a foreign load to push the piston in the other direction, which creates the motion. Single acting pneumatic cylinders are also found in pumps and hydraulic rams, often for heavy duty lifting applications.

Advantages of single acting pneumatic cylinders

The main advantages of single acting pneumatic cylinders are:

  • Reduced air consumption.
  • Easy 3/2-way valve actuation.
  • Defined position at power failure.

What is a double acting pneumatic cylinder

Double acting pneumatic cylinders operate on both ends of the piston. One element is for the outstroke, while the other is used for instroke. A double-acting hydraulic cylinder has a port at each end, supplied with hydraulic fluid for both the retraction and extension of the piston.

Double acting pneumatic cylinder application

Double acting pistons can be found in external engines, such as machinery like steam engines. This is because double acting pneumatic cylinders produce force from both ends of the piston. Essentially, double acting cylinders are used where an external force is not available to retract the piston or where high force is required in both directions of travel.

Advantages of double acting pneumatic cylinder

The advantages of double acting pneumatic cylinders include:

  • Force builds up in both directions.
  • Strokes of several metres possible.
  • Constant force, depending on stroke.

MGA Controls are leading suppliers of ASCO solenoid valves. If you require more information about single or double acting pneumatic cylinders, or would like a quote, please contact us today on 01704 898980 or email