Reciprocating air compressors are positive displacement machines. Positive displacement happens when you increase air pressure by reducing the air volume. They take in successive volumes of air which is confined within a closed space and elevate this air to a higher pressure. Reciprocating compressors accomplish this with a piston within a cylinder as the compressing and displacing element.
The reciprocating compressor is single acting when the compressing is accomplished using only one side of the piston. A compressor that uses both sides of the piston is considered double acting.
Reciprocating air compressors are available as air-cooled or water-cooled in lubricated and non-lubricated configurations and provide a wide range of pressure and capacity selection.