Starter (engine) - Pneumatic


Some gas turbine engines and Diesel engines, particularly on trucks, use a pneumatic self-starter. In ground vehicles the system consists of a geared turbine, an air compressor and a pressure tank. Compressed air released from the tank is used to spin the turbine, and through a set of reduction gears, engages the ring gear on the flywheel, much like an electric starter. The engine, once running, drives the compressor to recharge the tank.

Aircraft with large gas turbine engines are typically started using a large volume of low-pressure compressed air, supplied from a very small engine referred to as an auxiliary power unit, located elsewhere in the aircraft. Alternately, aircraft gas turbine engines can be rapidly started using a mobile ground-based pneumatic starting engine, referred to as a start cart or air start cart.

On larger diesel generators found in large shore installations and especially on ships, a pneumatic starting gear is used. The air motor is normally powered by compressed air at pressures of 10–30 bar. The air motor is made up of a center drum about the size of a soup can with four or more slots cut into it to allow for the vanes to be placed radially on the drum to form chambers around the drum. The drum is offset inside a round casing so that the inlet air for starting is admitted at the area where the drum and vanes form a small chamber compared to the others. The compressed air can only expand by rotating the drum, which allows the small chamber to become larger and puts another one of the cambers in the air inlet. The air motor spins much too fast to be used directly on the flywheel of the engine; instead a large gearing reduction, such as a planetary gear, is used to lower the output speed. A Bendix gear is used to engage the flywheel.

Large Diesel generators and almost all Diesel engines used as the prime mover of ships use compressed air acting directly on the cylinder head. This is not ideal for smaller Diesels, as it provides too much cooling on starting. Also, the cylinder head needs to have enough space to support an extra valve for the air start system. The air start system is conceptually very similar to a distributor in a car. There is an air distributor that is geared to the camshaft of the Diesel engine; on the top of the air distributor is a single lobe similar to what is found on a camshaft. Arranged radially around this lobe are roller tip followers for every cylinder. When the lobe of the air distributor hits one of the followers it will send an air signal that acts upon the back of the air start valve located in the cylinder head, causing it to open. Compressed air is provided from a large reservoir that feeds into a header located along the engine. As soon as the air start valve is opened, the compressed air is admitted and the engine will begin turning. It can be used on 2-cycle and 4-cycle engines and on reversing engines. On large 2-stroke engines less than one revolution of the crankshaft is needed for starting.

Since large trucks typically use air brakes, the system does double duty, supplying compressed air to the brake system. Pneumatic starters have the advantages of delivering high torque, mechanical simplicity and reliability. They eliminate the need for oversized, heavy storage batteries in prime mover electrical systems.

Read more about this topic:  Starter (engine)

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