Pneumatic Pressure Switches: Reliable Pressure Monitoring for Industrial Automation

Pneumatic Pressure Switches: Reliable Pressure Monitoring for Industrial Automation
From adjustable setpoints to robust piston or diaphragm designs, MasterMac2000 offers a comprehensive range of pneumatic pressure switches from top brands like Univer, Mack, and Tolomatic to suit any application.

Pneumatic pressure switches are versatile pressure control valves designed to monitor and respond to air pressure changes in pipelines, vessels, and process equipment. With adjustable setpoints and electrical outputs, they provide a cost-effective solution for detecting pressures and initiating control actions or alarms.

In this post, we’ll provide an overview of how pneumatic pressure switches work, their key capabilities, product range options, and guidance for selecting the right switch for your application. We’ll also highlight the expertise of MasterMac2000 when it comes to specifying and supplying pressure switches for the Australian industry.

The Mechanics of a Pneumatic Pressure Switch

A pneumatic pressure switch contains a sensing element connected to an enclosed spring mechanism. The sensing element, typically a diaphragm or piston, deflects proportionally to the process pressure applied. This movement compresses the spring until the preset threshold pressure (setpoint) is reached.

At this point, a switch contact connected to the spring mechanism abruptly changes state, either opening or closing an electrical circuit. This on/off output can then be used to activate alarms, shutdown equipment, open/close valves, control pumps, and myriad other functions.

Pneumatic switches provide highly reliable pressure monitoring as they contain no electronics and few moving parts. The switch contacts can handle up to 10 Amps at 250VAC, enabling direct control of electrical loads.

Why Are Pneumatic Pressure Switches Useful?

Pneumatic pressure switches offer many advantages that make them a popular solution:

  • Adjustable setpoints – Setpoints can be modified by turning a screw or changing springs
  • Compact size – Small footprint to fit tight spaces
  • High cycle life – Up to 10 million operations
  • Media compatibility – Wetted parts compatible with gases, fluids
  • Temperature range – Operational from -40°C to +120°C
  • Easy installation – Direct pipe thread mounting
  • Cost-effective – No electronics to fail

These capabilities make pneumatic switches ideal for diverse industrial pressure monitoring and control applications.

Types of Pneumatic Pressure Switches

There are two main varieties of pneumatic pressure switches:

Diaphragm Type

  • Lower pressure range capability
  • Lower switching differentials
  • Better precision and accuracy

Piston Type

  • Higher pressure ranges
  • Larger switching differentials
  • More ruggedness

Within these categories, pressure switches are further defined based on:

  • Pressure range (vacuum to 1000 bar)
  • Switching differential range
  • Number and type of switch contacts (SPDT, SPST-NO)
  • Electrical terminal types and orientation
  • Process fluid compatibility
  • Temperature range
  • Enclosure rating

With so many specifications, selecting the optimal switch for an application requires careful consideration.

Digital Pressure Switches: The Modern Alternative

While pneumatic pressure switches remain widely used, digital pressure switches are becoming an increasingly popular choice for industrial automation. Digital switches use electronic pressure sensors and microprocessors to provide advanced features and flexibility compared to mechanical switches.

Some key advantages of digital pressure switches include:

  • Programmable setpoints – Easily adjust setpoints and switch behaviour via software
  • Multiple switch outputs – Can have 2 or more independent switch outputs from one device
  • Analogue output options – 4-20mA or 0-10V outputs for continuous pressure monitoring
  • Digital communication – HART, Fieldbus protocols for remote configuration and diagnostics
  • Improved accuracy – High precision pressure sensors and digital calibration
  • Temperature compensation – Maintains accuracy over wide temperature ranges
  • Integrated digital display – Local indication of live pressure readings and settings

The programmability and multi-function capabilities of digital switches enable them to handle more complex pressure control schemes. One digital switch can often replace multiple mechanical switches.

However, digital pressure switches do have some limitations compared to mechanical versions:

  • Higher cost due to electronic components
  • Requires power supply (e.g. 24VDC)
  • More susceptible to electronic interference and failures
  • Shorter lifespan in high cycle applications

Selecting between a mechanical or digital pressure switch depends on the specific needs of the application, such as required features, cost constraints, and reliability concerns. MasterMac2000 can provide expert guidance on making this choice.

Top Pressure Switch Applications

Pneumatic pressure switches have extremely widespread use due to their versatility, but some typical applications include:

  • Compressor pressure regulation
  • Pump protection from deadheading
  • Conveyor vacuum monitoring
  • Process vessel pressure monitoring
  • Air pressure control in pneumatic systems
  • Liquid level control by sensing head pressure
  • HVAC duct pressure regulation
  • Cleanroom positive pressure monitoring

Whether the need is to detect positive pressure, vacuum, or differential pressure between two points, there is a pressure switch solution.

How to Select a Pressure Switch

Choosing the specifications of a pressure switch for an application depends on several factors:

Pressure Range

Determine the min/max pressures that will be monitored. Include a safety margin of at least 20%.

Switching Differential

The pressure range between switch open and closed points. This provides a degree of hysteresis to prevent chattering around the setpoint.

Temperature Rating

Ensure adequate temperature rating for process media and environment.

Electrical Rating

Switch contacts must handle the current/voltage of the controlled circuit.


Ease of accessing and changing setpoints without removing from installation.

Enclosure Rating

IP rating based on washdown level and exposure to moisture, dust, etc.

Termination Style

Threaded, cord grip, conduit for wiring connections.

Find Pneumatic Pressure Switches at MasterMac2000

With MasterMac2000, there is a healthy understanding of the basics of pressure control valves such as pneumatic pressure switches that give clients a wide array of ideas about what they need and what sort of work is to be done with compressed air-driven components. 

Get in touch with MasterMac2000’s team for personalised guidance on specifying the optimal pneumatic pressure switch for any industrial application. With access to top pneumatic brands and decades of industry experience, we make it easy to select the right monitoring and control solutions. This discussion goes beyond mere sales talk because our seasoned representatives will be there to ensure that you get everything you need to automate or work out even the most complicated workflows. 

For the right pressure switch or any other industrial pneumatic needs, contact us at (07) 3344 4711 or [email protected]. Our specialists make specifying process control components easy.

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