Pneumatic cylinders

Pneumatic cylinders

Pneumatic cylinders are components that perform a movement using compressed air as the medium, which is why they are also referred to as compressed air cylinders. Pneumatic drives are a particularly cost-effective solution for a wide range of applications – even for the most difficult ambient conditions – and are characterized by particularly simple commissioning. Speeds of between 10 mm/s and 3 m/s can be achieved. Pneumatic cylinders are sturdy and flexible thanks to the compressibility of the air, which makes them resistant to the effects of high external forces.

Use of pneumatic cylinders

Pneumatic cylinders are used in numerous applications in automation technology/factory automation. Typical applications for pneumatic drives are tensioning, lifting, countersinking, pushing, pulling, feeding, turning, gripping, clamping and holding, joining, stopping, stamping, embossing and others.

Pneumatic cylinder from Festo

At Festo, the range of pneumatic cylinder drives includes piston rod cylinders and rodless cylinders (linear drive), swivel cylinders, tandem, multi-position and stopper cylinders as well as clamping and tensioning cylinders, drives with linear guidance, and bellows and diaphragm cylinders. In the range, we offer many standards-based cylinders with standardized dimensions and mounting interfaces. With regard to these dimensions, standards-based cylinders of the same standard are identical. There are standards for piston rod cylinders in round design (ISO 6432), in compact design (ISO 21287) and for profile and tie rod cylinders (ISO 15552).

Piston rod cylinders

Festo piston rod cylinders are pneumatic drives for carrying out linear movements. The energy applied to the piston is transmitted to the parts to be moved via a piston rod. Piston rod cylinders are available round cylinders, profile cylinders, compact cylinders, short-stroke cylinders, flat cylinders, miniature cylinders, cartridge cylinders or stainless steel cylinders.

Piston rod cylinders

Rodless cylinders

Rodless cylinders are pneumatic cylinders and – as the name suggests – do not require a piston rod. But even without a piston rod they perform a linear movement, which is why they are also called linear drives. Rodless cylinders are used primarily in applications with relatively long travel distances, e.g. as the basic drive in a multi-axis gantry or for feeding tasks.

Rodless cylinders

Semi-rotary drives

Pneumatic semi-rotary drives/rotary drives from Festo enable rotary movements up to a swivel angle of 270°. Whether with vane drive or gear rack drive: highest precision is just as characteristic as the high performance and variety of the drives. Our pneumatic drives are used in a wide range of industries for factory automation, for example.

Rotary actuators

Tandem cylinders, high-force cylinders and multi-position cylinders

Tandem cylinders are two identical profile barrel cylinders of the DNC type arranged in series for doubling the thrust force in both directions of movement. A high-force cylinder is a cylinder design defined by a series of compact pneumatic cylinders. Pneumatic multi-position drives are available as a version with two separate cylinders and as a version with two to five cylinders connected in series.

Specialty actuators

Guided cylinders

Festo guided cylinders – drives with guide rod and linear guides – are pneumatic drives and are among the "workhorses" of industrial automation. They are in widespread use in applications involving lifting, pressing, pulling, pushing, clamping, stopping, holding, cutting, separating, and much more. Both types of guided cylinders combine the advantages of linear motion with those of guidance, and are characterized by particularly high stability.

Guided cylinders

Stopper cylinders and feed separators

Festo offers solutions for handling technology worldwide with its feed separators. They facilitate the process of feeding workpieces and are used when continuously arriving workpieces have to be separated and individually transferred to a downstream device. Stopper cylinders are pneumatic cylinders used for damped or undamped stopping of movements in machines or workpiece carriers on transport systems. On transport systems, stopper cylinders with cushioning can stop loads of up to approx. 800 kg.

Stopper cylinder and feed separator

Clamp cylinders

Clamp cylinders hold or clamp workpieces either directly with a pneumatically operated clamping element or via kinematics. The clamping element is swiveled out of the working area in the inactive status. Using kinematics, very high holding forces can be achieved with low energy consumption.

Clamp cylinders

Diaphragm drives and bellows cylinders

Bellows and diaphragm drives form a class of their own in the world of pneumatics with special characteristics. For example, they have no stick-slip effect. They can be used as drive or air spring elements in a wide range of applications.

Diaphragm actuators and pneumatic spring actuators

Rotary indexing tables

Continuous rotary movements can be realized with pneumatic rotary indexing tables. Rotary indexing tables are used, for example, in assembly applications. A variable direction of rotation and freely selectable graduations allow a wide range of applications.

Rotary indexing table

Shock absorber

Shock absorbers absorb the energy of a moving drive. The movement of the drive piston is brought to a standstill by rubber elements and/or hydraulically. The relatively gentle stopping before the end position prevents a strong impact as well as springback and also protects the drive and the machine parts from wear or irreparable damage.

Industrial shock absorber

Cylinder mounting parts and accessories

Festo offers mounting elements for drives and sensors, piston rod attachments, linear guides, accessories for direct valve mounting, clamping elements, free wheel units, accessories for damping elements as well as drive-specific accessories as attachments and accessories for pneumatic cylinders.

Cylinder mounting parts and accessories

FAQs - frequently asked questions explained easily

How do pneumatic cylinders work?

In a pneumatic cylinder, compressed air is used to exert force on a cylinder piston and thus move it in a specific direction. The motion of the piston is transmitted to the parts to be moved via the piston rod or magnetic friction closure. A pneumatic cylinder is an actuator operated with compressed air usually up to a maximum of 12 bar to generate a linear or rotary motion. A distinction must be made between single-acting and double-acting cylinders (the work is performed only in one direction or in both directions).

What are single-acting pneumatic cylinders?

A single-acting pneumatic cylinder only has one compressed air connection. The incoming compressed air moves the piston in one direction, and the cylinder force is built up in this direction. If the piston needs to return to its initial position, the air is simply expelled from the cylinder. The mechanical spring pushes the piston back to its initial position. This part has a ventilation/exhaust hole so that no excess or low pressure is generated through the piston movement in the second cylinder chamber.


  • Defined position in the event of a power failure
  • Reduced air consumption
  • Easy actuation via 3/2-way valve


  • Cylinder has a longer construction length
  • Spring-dependent stroke length limits the maximum stroke length
  • Force is only built up in one direction
  • Force is reduced by the spring force
  • No constant force (stroke-dependent)

What are double-acting pneumatic cylinders?

The double-acting cylinder requires compressed air for every direction of movement. On this type of cylinder, the force both both the advancing and retracting direction is built up using compressed air. The simplest way of actuating a double-acting cylinder is by using a 5/2-way valve.


  • Force builds up in both directions of movement
  • Constant force (dependent on stroke)
  • Strokes of several meters are possible


  • Every movement uses compressed air
  • No defined position in case of compressed air failure