Rotary Vs Piston Compressor: The Definition and Differences Between them

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When it’s the point of air compressors, there are varieties. You can find different types of compressors. The most common types are the rotary and the reciprocatory compressors. They are the main branches. They have different classifications as well. They come in different sizes, shapes, models, mechanisms.

When you’re deciding, which compressor will be the best choice for you, you might get confused by the varieties. But when you’re choosing between a rotary and a piston compressor, we surely can help you focus.

This article is a rotary vs piston compressor article. In this article, we’ll try to cover everything about both two compressors and what are the biggest differences between them.

So, let’s get started!

Rotary compressor

The compressor type rotary means a compressed airflow that’s made with a rotation system. This compression type is less complicated than a reciprocating air compressor or a piston compressor. The rotary compressor is designed to give you pulsation-free airflow.

What pulsation-free airflow is, you can get continuous air through the outlet of your compressor. This machine is designed for continuous air service. The operation speed of this machine is great and it works for lengthy projects well.

Rotary compressors are designed for extended service intervals. Besides, this compressor consumes low starting torque. If you talk about the good sides of the rotary compressor, you can find a lot. It’s lightweight. It’s small and the shape is decent. It works in a simple manner. The mechanical efficiency of a rotary compressor is simple.

It requires less lubrication and it’s made for heavy long-term projects. However, the working speed of this machine is great and it’s normally made for commercial heavy uses. The low torque consuming reason is the moving parts of this compressor have high mass when you compare them to other types of compressors. Most of them have frictions.

There are different types of rotary compressors. Among them, the main 5 types are:

  • Roots blower
  • Lysholm
  • Rotary screw type

Dynamic action or steady flow

  • Centrifugal compressor
  • Axial flow compressor

The working mechanisms for all these 5 types of compressors are different and they are made for different purposes. You can check our articles on each of them for a better understanding.

The main positive displacement type rotary compressor basically traps air and pushes it out to compress while the dynamic action type can give you a continuous flow of fluid.

Piston compressor

Piston compressors are also known as reciprocating compressors. They come up with a different way than a rotary compressor. The mechanism is a bit different as well. It’s told that the piston compressor method is one of the oldest compressing technology available right now.

It’s the most common industrial compressor type that you can find. A piston compressor comes up with a lot of variations and models. You can find a single-acting piston compressor while you can find a double-acting piston compressor as well. There are oil-free piston compressors and oil-lubricated piston compressors. You need to know the purposes of each of them to buy the right one for you.

The V configuration is set on tiny compressors. You can find L configuration on a double acting compressor and they’ll be large. The offerings of high-pressure horizontal compressors are many and they are the most common and most versatile type available right now.

  • Oil-lubricated piston compressors

Pistons are too much related to oils and lubes. They can’t work and operate without proper lubrication. They work with a pressure of lubrication or with a splash of lubrication. That’s why the outlet air from the compressor remains a little contaminated.

The compressors have a self-acting valve that opens and closes according to their needs and commands.

  • Oil-free piston compressors

Oil-free piston compressors are another type, they are made for reducing the contamination of fluid and oil. They contain high-quality piston rings. These rings are made of PTFE. Sometimes, the rings are made with carbon as well. This type of compressor seals the oil or lube inside so that the lubes can’t go to the chamber and contaminate.

Differences between a piston compressor and a rotary compressor

Rotary Vs Piston Compressor

  • The biggest and main difference between a piston and a rotary compressor is the pressure of your fluid or air. While the piston compressors are able to provide you with a huge 1000 bar air pressure, the rotary compressor can provide you with only 10.
  • The operation of a rotary compressor is continuous while the operation of the piston compressor is not. It works for the first stroke.
  • The compressed air quality for a piston compressor is contaminated most of the time while the rotary compressor provides you with clear and clean air.
  • The mechanical efficiency of a rotary compressor is high as there’s less friction inside the compressor because of having fewer parts inside. A piston compressor at the same time is mechanically low efficient.
  • Piston compressors require constant maintenance while the rotary compressors require a little maintenance.
  • The initial cost for a rotary compressor is lower than a piston compressor. The parts of the piston compressor are pricy as well.
  • The lubrication process of a piston compressor is pretty complicated while the lubrication of a rotary compressor is simple.
  • Both of them are made for industrial and commercial projects but it’s essential that you check out which compressor meets your requirements. For long-term projects, a rotary compressor is suggested.


So, these are the main differences between a rotary compressor and a piston compressor. If you’re thinking of buying one for yourself, you must check it out carefully. Study the compressors and go through everything step by step. Notice the differences carefully to make your purchase more specific.

In this Rotary vs Piston compressor article, we’ve tried to cover everything you need to know about these two types while you’re intending to buy one for your regular tasks. Make sure you read the whole article carefully. Visit our website for more articles. Feel free to leave a comment or contact us with questions.

RELATED POST: Reciprocatory Compressor vs Rotary Compressor

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