Pneumatic Info

Pneumatics Information

Quick Note – For more information on pneumatics, check out the pneumatic_handbook

Wondering what compressor couplers you may have?  Check out common Air Coupler Types :air-coupler-types

Introduction to Basic Pneumatics: (text taken from DC Prop Builders Handbooks) Many people suggest using PVC pipe cylinders along with washing machine solenoid valves for pneumatic applications. I strongly disagree with the use of any pressurized PVC air cylinders and, taking into consideration the cost vs. time aspect, for only a couple dollars more, you can have the security of using high quality parts that were manufactured specifically for industrial applications. Here is a direct quote from Spears, a PVC fitting manufacturer, cautioning the use of PVC for air applications.

“WARNING: Do not use compressed air or gas to test any PVC or CPVC thermoplastic piping product or system, and do not use devices propelled by compressed air or gas to clear systems. These practices may result in explosive fragmentation of system piping and components causing serious or fatal body injury.”

So if polymer engineers and designers strongly discourage the use of PVC in compressed air applications, I think you will agree that this is a rule we should all abide by.

There are a ton of pneumatic products and suppliers out there, so this section will hopefully aid you in finding a high quality product at a reasonable price.

All of the below parts are from SMC, I do not have any ties with this company and I recommend them solely due to their high quality, reliability, acquirement ease, and reasonable cost. They also have excellent tech support and can be easily ordered from a multitude of sources. SMC stock numbers are listed at the end of this page to aid you in ordering the right product for your application.

The first product I will refer to are pneumatic cylinders. I have tried a ton of different cylinders from a wide variety of manufacturers and I was told (as well as have learned) that most cylinders are pretty much machined from the exact same material and follow the same set of standards in respect to tolerance,
power, and durability. Leaving the presentation, price and/or sizing as the only real difference that sets the manufacturers apart. This being said, the choice of a manufacturer is entirely up to you, but I would persuade you to using Bimba and or SMC’s products, due to their excellent online documentation, and acquirement ease.

Cylinders are sized using two measurements: the bore and the stroke. The bore is the diameter of the cylinder which varies from 1/4” – 3” (these are available in much bigger sizes, but don’t apply in most haunt related props). The bore sizes should be calculated using the approximate weight of the prop you will be moving. The next page shows a power table that will help you figure out what size cylinder you’ll need for any application.
Bore Size Power Factor
5/16” .007
7/16” .015
9/16” .025
3/4” .4
7/8” .6
1 1/16” .9
1 1/4” 1.2
1 1/2” 1.7
1 3/4” 2.4
2” 3.1
2 1/2” 5.0
3” 7.0

To calculate the size and PSI you will need to lift or move your prop, simply multiply the power factor times the PSI, so a 1 1/2” bore cylinder at 100 PSI would have the following equation: 1.7 x 100 = 170 lbs of force. This 170lbs is what is being exerted from the cylinder, but if the cylinder is not directly under the prop, actual weights need to be calculated. This applies mostly for horizontal scissor lifts, or with four bar linkages whose cylinder(s) are placed to close to the pivot points, greatly increasing the leverage weight on the cylinder.

The next measurement (stroke) is the length of the cylinder rod or the cylinders throw. These range greatly in size, but most manufacturers stock standard sizes such as 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 8, 10, 12, and can be special ordered up to 48”
(or greater in some cases). For most props a stroke length in the vicinity of 4-10” is most common.

The next important ordering option is the mounting availabilities. I strongly suggest using double end mounting (DXP or DX) (with rear pivot holes) cylinders for all your applications. These can be attached via the front or end of the cylinder, and add a lot of versatility to the application. The rear mount will have a hole drilled through the base threads that can be used as a pivot point if the cylinder requires any lateral tilt, which is necessary with most props in this book as well as most other prop related applications. By purchasing
this option it will offer you the greatest flexibility as well as be the easiest to implement.

The last thing I should inform you about in regards to the cylinders is the action of the cylinder. I personally like the option of controlling the ascent as well as the descent, so I only use double acting cylinders. What this means is that the air is forced into one side of the cylinder which causes the opposing side’s air to exit and extend or retract the cylinder rod. When the air is reversed the same thing happens, but on the opposite side. You may wish to only use one port and have the weight of the prop retract the cylinder, but at least with
the option of two ports, if you do decide to have control over all movements, you won’t have to order another cylinder. Also the solenoid valves below are all two position single action, so they are perfect for this application.

The next product is the solenoid valve and manifold. The solenoid valves I suggest are 110v or 24v two position five port single acting valves (update: as of 2008 we begain using 12V for everything).
These are what will control the cylinders actions via an electrical charge. To be more precise, the valve and solenoid are connected and most commonly sold as a single unit. The solenoid is what accepts the electrical current and, when energized, magnetically pulls the valve rod and allows air to flow into different chambers within the valve. Most commonly these are referred to as just valves or solenoids, but they are one unit, so either term applies.

There are many different configuration options, but I will only discuss the basic options to control a double acting cylinder in this book.

Note: I will add that a five-port, three-position closed-center valve such as a NVFS2300-5FZ will allow you to stop the cylinder travel at any point throughout its travel. This is especially helpful for controlling neck movements or simulating walking.

The valve (as pictured to the right) is mounted to a manifold and switches the air flow via an electrical current. Air is hooked up to one side of the manifold into your pressure port (P) from your air source (compressor), and the two air lines are hooked up on the opposite side of the manifold to the normally open port (NO) and the normally closed port (NC) which are connected via push in fittings to your cylinder’s two inlet ports. The normally open port will have air flowing thru it freely when no electrical current is present,
this would be your port to keep the prop in a resting position. When pressurized the manifold works much like a door that swings two ways. With the power off the air will flow freely out of the normally open port (NO) and the second (normally closed or NC) would be connected to the non-pressurized side. When charged the
door switches to the opposite position and the other chamber fills with air which causes the extension of the cylinder. The air from the opposite side of the cylinder is forced back out of its inlet port and exits out of another port called the exhaust. There is normally one exhaust for each switched port in the manifold.

The manifold is the next item you will need in order to control a prop. The manifold is basically a block of steel that routes air into specific chambers. The manifold can be purchased as a single block, or multiple position interlocking blocks. Multiple position blocks work extremely well if you have a prop that
has more then one action and requires multiple valves. A multiple position valve is also extremely useful if you would like to control all of your props from a central area. You simply will just have to run a lot more airline to each prop, but will make adjusting and controlling a prop or series of props a lot easier. When ordering a manifold the main thing to look at (besides the valve type and size) is the port threads. Most commonly they come standard with 1/4″ NPT threads which I believe are the most convenient. If you do not plan to use push in fittings the 1/4″ ports will allow you to easily add brass nipples and compressor fittings that are easily found at most hardware stores, but trust me when I say that push in fittings are well worth the extra buck.

Now that you have the means of controlling the cylinders action, we will need to control the speed. The easiest way to accomplish this is by the use of flow controls. Flow controls are simple port regulators that will restrict the air from entering or exiting the cylinder by the adjustment of the screw. These are most commonly 1/8” NPT (National Pipe Tapered) threads (to match the small to medium sized cylinders) and the other sizing is the tubing diameter you’re using.

The flow controls can be screwed right into the cylinder or if you want to control the prop from a distance, be attached directly to the manifold, but this can be a pain to mount and adjust. You will need two of these for each cylinder, but if you plan to have the extension and retraction speed of the cylinder the same, one can be used. These can also be purchased in in-line versions, which are much easier to use and very convenient when you’re looking to adjust the speed from a distance. The picture above is a common screw in type, and
the picture to the right is of an inline version. In-line versions work in exactly the same way, but are connected by tapping into the airline instead of being screwed into the cylinder ports. They have push in fittings on each side for easy connection and are my personal preference and recommendation.

The last products that are commonly used are the push-in fittings and proper tubing. In regards to fittings, push-in fittings are by far the easiest way to hook up all of your pneumatic connections. They are as simple as pushing the tubing into the port hole until it stops and, to release to tubing, all you have to do is push down on the outer ring and pull on the tube. These can be ordered in a wide range of sizes, but the ones you’ll want if you follow my suggestions, are 1/8” NPT threads with 1/4” tubing ports. You can get these in straight body or 90 degree positions. I suggest the bent ones for use in the cylinders and the straight ones in the manifold. SMC also has “T” fittings with threaded body for hooking up multiple cylinders as well as push in “T” fittings which are much easier to use. The only problem with these fittings is that they are usually not cheap and sometimes must be bought in 10’s.

When using the push in fittings you will want to be familiar with the proper pneumatic tubing. The push in fittings require the tubing to be rigid enough to remain inside the ports, but hopefully flexible enough to route throughout your haunt. To accomplish this, the best tubing is by far polyethylene. Polyethylene tubing is comprised of the same material as your white cutting boards. The poly tubing is easily purchased from most hardware stores, or pneumatic retailers.
The only negative side of using this tubing is that due to its rigid build, it is often hard to hide if you’re running it over long distances (tries to recoil). This can be easily fixed by taping or tie wrapping multiple lengths together, or fastening the length down to base boards or awnings using cabling staples. There are multiple manufacturers of poly tubing, but personally I prefer Parker Pneumatics line and the SMC flexible polyurethane. SMC offers polyurethane tubing that is much more flexible, yet very strong. Both Parker and SMC offer their tubing in a wide range of colors and sizes, but remember that you’re paying a bit more for the name brand and colored tubing. The milky white tubing at your hardware store is pretty much the same as the rigid polyethylene, it’s half the price, and can be purchased by the foot instead of by the roll. I personally
no longer use this stuff, but have been told that it has a tendency to pull out of the push in fittings. So you may wish to experiment with both types and choose what works best for your application. Also if your going to be constructing a lot of pneumatic props I highly recommend purchasing 100-500 ft rolls of this stuff. Generally in 100′ rolls you will pay about $30.00, and 500′ will generally lower to about 25 cents per foot.

So now that you have a basic knowledge of the individual pneumatic parts its time to see how they all work together. The pictures below are of how you would hook up the solenoid valve to a manifold, the electrical hookups, and a double acting cylinder (the primary type of cylinder I use).

The picture on the previous page shows the valve cavities, and how they match perfectly to the ones on the manifold. The valve is screwed into the manifold with a gasket between the valve and the manifold, and all electrical connections are made on the screw-in terminals, so in the chance of a faulty valve, changing
them is as simple as removing three Allen wrench screws, and replacing the valve.
All electrical and airline connections stay attached, so there is no need to un-do the manifold or unhook any wiring. Just make sure you remove the air supply before making any modifications to the valve block. The valve can easily fly off if pressurized and the mounting screws are removed.

Once the valve hookup is complete and the push-in fittings are added to the manifold, the hookup is as simple as pushing in your tubing from one output of the manifold to an input on the cylinder. Repeat for the opposite side, and you’re done.

When you add air pressure to the pressure port (P) your cylinder will either retract or extend. When electrical current is applied, the cylinder will reverse.
If the cylinder is in the wrong position (open or closed) when current is not applied, simply switch the air tubes.
Normally a cylinder is retracted in its resting position, and opens when electrical current is applied, usually the # 2 port is connected to the front port on the cylinder, which will fill the front chamber and hold the cylinder closed. The # 4 part does the opposite.
Hopefully with all the above descriptions you have a better understanding of pneumatics and the ways they work. There is a list of SMC stock numbers in the appendix of this book that should aid you in finding the pneumatic product that suits your needs. I also suggest checking out their website at
and signing up for their free service “E-Tech”.

Also check out Bimba’s website at and download and print their “Original Line” cylinder catalog. It contains stock numbers and a ton of other information to help you find the correct item for your project.

Pneumatics (retailers)
Motion Industries: SMC, Bimba, Mannessman Rexroth, and many others.


Steven Engineering:

Bimba Product Numbers

Bimba products can be found on the web at under their original
line cylinder catalog. Only commonly used cylinders are listed below, other
inch and half inch increments available.

Bore Stroke Action Mounting Stock Number Clevis Foot Bracket
¾” 1 Double Double End/Rear Pivot 04-1-dxp D-166-3 D-13498-A
¾” 2 Double Double End/Rear Pivot 04-1-dxp D-166-3 D-13498-A
¾” 3 Double Double End/Rear Pivot 04-3-dxp D-166-3 D-13498-A
¾” 4 Double Double End/Rear Pivot 04-4-dxp D-166-3 D-13498-A
¾” 5 Double Double End/Rear Pivot 04-5-dxp D-166-3 D-13498-A
¾” 6 Double Double End/Rear Pivot 04-6-dxp D-166-3 D-13498-A
¾” 8 Double Double End/Rear Pivot 04-8-dxp D-166-3 D-13498-A
¾” 10 Double Double End/Rear Pivot 04-10-dxp D-166-3 D-13498-A
¾” 11 Double Double End/Rear Pivot 04-11-dxp D-166-3 D-13498-A
¾” 12 Double Double End/Rear Pivot 04-12-dxp D-166-3 D-13498-A
¾” 12-32 avail Double Double End/Rear Pivot 04-( * )-dxp D-166-3
* insert required stroke length here
Bore Stroke Action Mounting Stock Number Clevis Foot Bracket
7/8” 1 Double Double End/Rear Pivot 06-1-dxp D-166-3 D-13498-A
7/8” 2 Double Double End/Rear Pivot 06-1-dxp D-166-3 D-13498-A
7/8” 3 Double Double End/Rear Pivot 06-3-dxp D-166-3 D-13498-A
7/8” 4 Double Double End/Rear Pivot 06-4-dxp D-166-3 D-13498-A
7/8” 5 Double Double End/Rear Pivot 06-5-dxp D-166-3 D-13498-A
7/8” 6 Double Double End/Rear Pivot 06-6-dxp D-166-3 D-13498-A
7/8” 8 Double Double End/Rear Pivot 06-8-dxp D-166-3 D-13498-A
7/8” 10 Double Double End/Rear Pivot 06-10-dxp D-166-3 D-13498-A
7/8” 11 Double Double End/Rear Pivot 06-11-dxp D-166-3 D-13498-A
7/8” 12 Double Double End/Rear Pivot 06-12-dxp D-166-3 D-13498-A
7/8” 12-32 avail Double Double End/Rear Pivot 06-( * )-dxp D-166-3 D-13498-A
* insert required stroke length here
Bore Stroke Action Mounting Stock Number Clevis Foot Bracket
1-1/16” 1 Double Double End/Rear Pivot 09-1-dxp D-166-1 D-13498-A
1-1/16” 2 Double Double End/Rear Pivot 09-1-dxp D-166-1 D-13498-A
1-1/16” 3 Double Double End/Rear Pivot 09-3-dxp D-166-1 D-13498-A
1-1/16” 4 Double Double End/Rear Pivot 09-4-dxp D-166-1 D-13498-A
1-1/16” 5 Double Double End/Rear Pivot 09-5-dxp D-166-1 D-13498-A
1-1/16” 6 Double Double End/Rear Pivot 09-6-dxp D-166-1 D-13498-A
1-1/16” 8 Double Double End/Rear Pivot 09-8-dxp D-166-1 D-13498-A
1-1/16” 10 Double Double End/Rear Pivot 09-10-dxp D-166-1 D-13498-A
1-1/16” 11 Double Double End/Rear Pivot 09-11-dxp D-166-1 D-13498-A
1-1/16” 12 Double Double End/Rear Pivot 09-12-dxp D-166-1 D-13498-A
1-1/16” 12-32 avail Double Double End/Rear Pivot 09-( * )-dxp D-166-1
* insert required stroke length here
(1-1/4” bore may only be available in rear pivot, which would change the
stock numbers to 12-*-DP, but DXP is preferred)
Bore Stroke Action Mounting Stock Number Clevis Foot Bracket
1-1/4” 1 Double Double End/Rear Pivot 12-1-dxp D-231-1 D-1360
1-1/4” 2 Double Double End/Rear Pivot 12-1-dxp D-231-1 D-1360
1-1/4” 3 Double Double End/Rear Pivot 12-3-dxp D-231-1 D-1360
1-1/4” 4 Double Double End/Rear Pivot 12-4-dxp D-231-1 D-1360
1-1/4” 5 Double Double End/Rear Pivot 12-5-dxp D-231-1 D-1360
1-1/4” 6 Double Double End/Rear Pivot 12-6-dxp D-231-1 D-1360
1-1/4” 8 Double Double End/Rear Pivot 12-8-dxp D-231-1 D-1360
1-1/4” 10 Double Double End/Rear Pivot 12-10-dxp D-231-1 D-1360
1-1/4” 11 Double Double End/Rear Pivot 12-11-dxp D-231-1 D-1360
1-1/4” 12 Double Double End/Rear Pivot 12-12-dxp D-231-1 D-1360
1-1/4” 12-32 avail Double Double End/Rear Pivot 12-( * )-dxp D-231-1 D-1360
* insert required stroke length here
(1 ½” bore is not available in both rear pivot, and double end
mount. Rear pivot is most commonly used, so DP would be used. For rear mount,
use DX)
Bore Stroke Action Mounting Stock Number Clevis Foot Bracket
1-1/2” 1 Double Rear Pivot 17-1-dp D-231-1 D-229
1-1/2” 2 Double Rear Pivot 17-1-dp D-231-1 D-229
1-1/2” 3 Double Rear Pivot 17-3-dp D-231-1 D-229
1-1/2” 4 Double Rear Pivot 17-4-dp D-231-1 D-229
1-1/2” 5 Double Rear Pivot 17-5-dp D-231-1 D-229
1-1/2” 6 Double Rear Pivot 17-6-dp D-231-1 D-229
1-1/2” 8 Double Rear Pivot 17-8-dp D-231-1 D-229
1-1/2” 10 Double Rear Pivot 17-10-dp D-231-1 D-229
1-1/2” 11 Double Rear Pivot 17-11-dp D-231-1 D-229
1-1/2” 12 Double Rear Pivot 17-12-dp D-231-1 D-229
1-1/2” 12-32 avail Double Rear Pivot 17-( * )-dp D-231-1 D-229
* insert required stroke length here

1-3/4”, 2”, 2-1/2”, and 3” bore sizes also available.

Bore Part Number Clevis Foot Bracket Avail Sizes
1 3/4” 24-*-DP D-231-3 D-620-1 ½”-12”
2” 31-*-DXP D-231-3 D-620 ½”-32”
2 ½” 50-*-DXP D-231-3 D-620 ½”-32”
3” 70-*-DXP D-8314-A D-13512-A ½”-32”
* insert required stroke length here

SMC Product Numbers

SMC valves are more expensive, harder to find and in most cases metric, so DC advises using Bimba cylinders and SMC valves and fittings.

SMC Double Acting, Double End mounting cylinders

Stock Number Bore Stroke Stock Number Bore Stroke
NCME075-0200 Pneumatic Cylinder 3/4in X 2in
NCME075-0400 Pneumatic Cylinder 3/4in X 4in
NCME075-0600 Pneumatic Cylinder 3/4in X 6in
NCME075-0800 Pneumatic Cylinder 3/4in X 8in
NCME075-1000 Pneumatic Cylinder 3/4in X 10in
NCME106-0200 Pneumatic Cylinder 1.16in X 4in
NCME106-0400 Pneumatic Cylinder 1.16in X 6in
NCME106-0600 Pneumatic Cylinder 1.16in X 6in
NCME106-0800 Pneumatic Cylinder 1.16in X 8in
NCME106-1000 Pneumatic Cylinder 1.16in X 10in
NCME106-1200 Pneumatic Cylinder 1.16in X 12in
NCME106-1800 Pneumatic Cylinder 1.16in X 18in
NCME106-2400 Pneumatic Cylinder 1.16in X 24in
NCME106-3600 Pneumatic Cylinder 1.16in X 36in
NCME125-0200 Pneumatic Cylinder 1.25in X 2in
NCME125-0400 Pneumatic Cylinder 1.25in X 4in
NCME125-0600 Pneumatic Cylinder 1.25in X 6in
NCME125-0800 Pneumatic Cylinder 1.25in X 8in
NCME125-1000 Pneumatic Cylinder 1.25in X 10in
NCME125-1200 Pneumatic Cylinder 1.25in X 12in
NCME125-1800 Pneumatic Cylinder 1.25in X 18in
NCME125-2400 Pneumatic Cylinder 1.25in X 24in
NCME125-3600 Pneumatic Cylinder 1.25in X 36in
NCME150-0600 Pneumatic Cylinder 1.5in X 6in
NCME150-0800 Pneumatic Cylinder 1.5in X 8in
NCME150-1000 Pneumatic Cylinder 1.5in X 10in
NCME150-1200 Pneumatic Cylinder 1.5in X 12in
NCME150-1800 Pneumatic Cylinder 1.5in X 18in
NCME150-2400 Pneumatic Cylinder 1.5in X 24in
NCME150-3600 Pneumatic Cylinder 1.5in X 36in
* Note, the SMC NCME 150 cylinders no longer come with rear pivot holes, so
if you need this option, go with the NCMC150 series (rear pivot mount).

SMC’s polyurethane tubing: Available in the following colors: Black (B), Blue
(BU), White (W), Red (R), Yellow (Y), Green (G), Clear (C), Orange (YR), Neon
Green (G3), Purple (PU1), Neon Yellow (Y3), and Neon Orange (YR2)

Sizes available: 1/8″ (01), 1/4″(07), 3/8″ (11), and 1/2″

Lengths available: 66ft (20), 100ft (33), 500ft (153), 1000ft (305)

To order the tubing here is the main stock number: TIUB (size code)-(color)-(length)
So a 100′ roll of orange 1/4″ OD tubing would be part number: TIUB-07-YR-33

SMC Valves, Fittings, and Manifolds
110v Valve

NVFS2100-3FZ-01T (valve and manifold combo w/ 1/8” NPT threads)

NVFS2100-3FZ-02T (valve and manifold combo w/ 1/4” NPT threads) 24v Valve

NVFS2100-5FZ-01T (valve and manifold combo w/ 1/8” NPT threads)

NVFS2100-5FZ-02T (valve and manifold combo w/ 1/4” NPT threads)

(1/8 NPT threads)
(1/4 NPT threads)

Stackable Manifold
* The “XX” is the number of stations you need
Available from 2-16
Flow Controls (screw in)
(1/8 NPT threads – 1/4” tubing)

Inline flow controls (1/4” tubing)
Push-In fittings
Straight = KQ2HO7-34S (1/8″ NPT to 1/4″ tube)
Straight = KQ2HO7-35S (1/4″ NPT to 1/4″ tube)
90 degree = KQ2L01-34S (1/8″ NPT to 1/4″ tube)
Rotary Actuator


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