Compressor

A compressor, abbreviated as COMPR, is a mechanical device used to increase the pressure of a gas or air by reducing its volume.  Compressors are used in a wide range of applications, such as in refrigeration systems, air conditioning systems, natural gas processing, and industrial processes.  Compressors can be powered by various sources, such as electric motors, internal combustion engines, or steam turbines.  They can also be lubricated or oil-free, depending on the specific application and requirements.  Compressors play a critical role in many industries and applications, such as in manufacturing, transportation, and energy production.  They must be designed, installed, and maintained properly to ensure their safe and efficient operation.

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Compressor Index

 

Compressor Design Classification

  • Dynamic Compressor  -  The gas is first accelerated to high velocity, and then it passed through a diffuser.  The kinetic energy of the air is converted to pressure energy at the diffuser before it leaves through the outlet.
    • Axial Compressor  -  Used where continuous flow and large amount of air is required.  There are a series of blades on a shaft, the shaft having a number rows.  The number of rows is referenced as a 10 stage, 15 stage and so on.  The shaft is inside a tapered housing which compresses the air as it flows through.  As the blades turn the air is pulled in the front, being compressed tighter as it exits.
    • Centrifugal Compressor  -  Often used offshore for field gas compression and are often used in gas plant applications.  These are used when there is limited space available, when vibrations could be a problem (offshore) or a low weight to horsepower ratio is required.
  • Positive Displacement  -  Air is drawn into a chamber.  The trapped air is then compressed, physically reducing the volume of the chamber.

    • Reciprocating Compressor  -  Uses a crankshaft driven piston and cylinder to compress the air.  Primarily used in field gas compression and have a very large range of capacity and horsepower characteristics.
      • Single Acting  -  This compressor only have valves on top of the cylinder, so there is one compression cycle for every turn of the crankshaft.
      • Double Acting  -  This compressor is similar to single-action, but they have inlet and discharge valves on both sides of the cylinder.  This gives you two compression cycles for every turn of the crankshaft.
      • Diaphragm  -  Compression of air is by the forward and backward movement of a crankshaft which brings about the movement of a special membrane inside the compression box.  They are useful in processes where leaks through packing cannot be tolerated. 
    • Rotary Compressor  -  Compression system that includes a pair of matching helical screws.
      • Liquid Ring  -  An offset rotar is placed in a cylindrical housing and the liquid is fed into the housing.  As the rotar spins, the water is thrown by centrifugal force to the outside.  The void created in the center holds gas drawn in through the inlet port of the pump.  As gas travels around the pocket of air in the center, it is compressed, then fed back out the discharge port.
      • Lobe  -  They have two intermeshing rotors mounted on parallel shafts.  In a twin-lobe compressor, each rotor has two lobes, four lobes per compressor. In a tri-lobe machine each rotor has three lobes, six lobes per compressor.
      • Screw  -  The twin elements include male and female parts rotating in opposite directions.  Air fills the space between the rotors and, as they rotate, the volume between them and the surrounding housing decreases, squeezing or compressing the air into a smaller space.  The length, pitch of the screw, and the form of the discharge port collectively determine the pressure ratio.
      • Scroll  -  Uses two interleaved spiral-like vanes to pump or compress the gas.  One of the scrolls is fixed, while the other orbits eccentrically without rotating, thereby trapping and pumping or compressing pockets of gas between the scrolls.  They operate more smoothly, quietly, and reliably than other types of compressors.  These compressors are usually operated in the lower volume range.
      • Vane  -  Often used in tank vapor recovery (TVR) operations.  These compressors take gas at very low suction pressures and raise them to pressures required for gas sales.  If they cannot get them to the high pressures, they will often discharge into another compressor that can.

 

Compressor Advantages and Disadvantages

AdvantagesDisadvantages
  • Compressors are designed to increase the pressure of gases, making them suitable for a wide range of applications where high pressure gas is required
  • Compressors can be used with different gases, allowing for versatility in applications such as air compression, refrigeration, and industrial processes.
  • Compressors can deliver high levels of power, making them suitable for demanding applications where significant pressure differentials are required.
  • Modern compressors are often designed to be compact, allowing for easy integration into various systems and processes.
  • Advances in compressor technology have led to more energy efficient designs, reducing energy consumption and operating costs.
  • Compressors can provide a controlled flow rate of compressed gas, allowing for precise control in various processes.
  • Compressors come in different types, offering flexibility for different applications and performance requirements.
  • The initial cost of purchasing and installing compressors, especially larger and more sophisticated models, can be significant.
  • Compressors require regular maintenance to ensure optimal performance and reliability.  This may include checking and replacing components like filters, lubricants, and valves.
  • Some compressors can generate noise and vibration during operation, which may require additional measures for noise reduction and vibration control.
  • Compressors can generate heat during operation, and effective cooling systems are often required to prevent overheating and maintain efficiency.
  • In oil lubricated compressors, there is a risk of oil contamination in the compressed gas, which may be undesirable in certain applications.
  • Compressors that use certain refrigerants or gases may have environmental considerations, especially if the substances used are environmentally harmful or contribute to global warming.
  • Some advanced compressors require complex control systems for efficient operation and may involve a learning curve for operators.
  • While modern compressors are designed to be more energy efficient, they still consume energy, and the energy costs associated with compressor operation can be a significant factor.

 

Compressor Installation

Installing an industrial compressor involves more complex steps compared to a smaller, portable compressor.  The exact process may vary based on the specific make and model of the industrial compressor, as well as the requirements of your facility.

  • Site Preparation  -  Choose an appropriate location for the compressor, considering factors like ventilation, accessibility, and noise.  Ensure the floor is level and can support the weight of the compressor.  Comply with local codes and regulations regarding installation.
  • Foundation and Anchoring  -  For larger industrial compressors, it may be necessary to install a concrete foundation.  Anchor the compressor securely to the foundation to prevent vibrations and movement and acts as a mass dampener.  The cement foundation is usually very large and very well reinforced.
  • Alignment  -  If alignment this is done hap hazardously, the skid or piping can become deformed and can affect the operation of the equipment.  Alignment of the compressor with respect to the driver absolutely must be done before grouting the unit.
  • Electrical Installation  -  Hire a qualified electrician to handle the electrical installation.  Ensure the power supply meets the specifications of the compressor.  Connect power cables following the manufacturer's guidelines.
  • Cooling System  -  Install any required cooling systems, such as fans or water cooling, to maintain optimal operating temperatures.  Ensure proper ventilation to prevent overheating.
  • Piping Installation  -  Install the compressed air piping system, considering the layout and size of the facility.  Use proper materials and fittings to minimize pressure drop and prevent leaks.  Install isolation valves, pressure regulators, and other necessary components.
  • Air Intake and Filtration  -  Connect the air intake system, including filters, to ensure clean air is supplied to the compressor.  Follow the manufacturer's recommendations for filter maintenance.
  • Exhaust System  -  Install an exhaust system to channel hot air away from the compressor.  Ensure the exhaust system meets safety and environmental regulations.
  • Control Panel Installation  -  Mount and wire the control panel according to the manufacturer's specifications.  Connect control devices such as pressure switches, temperature sensors, and safety interlocks.
  • Start-Up and Testing  -  Conduct a thorough pre-start inspection, checking for loose connections, leaks, and other potential issues.  Start the compressor and monitor its operation.  Verify that safety systems are functioning correctly.  Adjust settings, such as pressure and temperature, as needed.
  • Training and Documentation  -  Provide training for personnel responsible for operating and maintaining the compressor.  Keep detailed records of installation, maintenance, and any modifications made to the system.
  • Regular Maintenance and Monitoring  -  Develop and follow a comprehensive maintenance schedule as outlined in the manufacturer's manual.  Monitor performance regularly and address any issues promptly.
  • Compliance and Certification  -  Ensure that the installation complies with industry standards and local regulations.  Obtain any necessary certifications or permits.

Always refer to the specific installation instructions provided by the manufacturer of the industrial compressor, as they may include additional steps or considerations specific to the equipment.  Additionally, consider consulting with a professional engineer or technician experienced in industrial compressor installations to ensure a safe and efficient setup.

 

Compressor Supporting Equipment

A gas compressor does not run by itself.  It needs quite a bit of equipment to keep it functioning properly.  Examples of this equipment are:

  • Drivers
    • Internal Combustion Engine
    • Electric Motors may be attached to a gear set and / or a Variable Frequency Drive
    • Gas Turbines
  • Accessories
    • Lube Oil
    • Gas Cooler, typically an Air Cooled Heat Exchanger (as gas is compressed, heat is added and is usually removed)
    • Gas Scrubber for removing liquids before the gas enters the compression chamber.
    • Water Jacket Cooling for keeping the compressor, proper, cool.
    • Fuel system for driver
    • Control Panel
    • Starters

 

Compressor Standards

ISO Standards

  • ISO 5388 - Stationary air compressors  -  Safety rules and code of practice

 

Compressor Abbreviations

  • Air Cooled Heat Exchanger (ACHE)
  • Air Pressure Drop (APD)
  • Alarm High (AH)
  • Alarm Low (AL)
  • Automatic Gain Compensation (AGC)
  • Compressibility (\(\beta\))
  • Compressed Air (CA)
  • Compressor Control System (CCS)
  • Discharge Pressure (DP)
  • Emergency Shutdown (ESD)
  • Flow Transmitter (FT)
  • Gas Scrubber (GS)
  • High Pressure  (HP)
  • Set Point (SP)

 

Compressor Glossary

A

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  • Absolute Pressure  -  A pressure at absolute zero can only exist in a total vacuum and any pressure above this is called absolute pressure.
  • Absolute Temperature  -  Is measured from the starting point of 0, where zero is the coldest theoretically attainable temperature in nature.  It is the lowest temperature possible and contains no heat energy in the substance.
  • Actual Air  -  Air’s flow rate at a specified point and condition.
  • Actual Capacity  -  Quantity of gas actually compressed and delivered to the discharge system at rated speed and under rated conditions.
  • Adiabatic Compression  -  A process during which no heat is added or removed from the gas.
  • Aftercooling  -  The cooling of gas in a heat exchanger following the completion of compression to reduce the temperature and liquefy condensable vapors.
  • Air Dryer  -  A devise that removes moisture from compressed air.  Typically accomplished by cooling the air through a refrigerator or desiccant bed.
  • Air Receiver  -  A tank into which the compressed air or gas is discharged from the compressor.  Receivers help to eliminate pulsations in the discharge line and also act as storage capacity during intervals when the demand exceeds the capacity of the compressor.
  • Ambient Temperature  -  When outdoors the ambient temperature is the current surrounding environment air temperature.  This temperature has nothing to do with high or low forcasts.
  • Atmospheric Pressure  -  The pressure exerted upon the earth's surface by the air because of the gravitational attraction of the earth.
  • Avogadro's Law  -  When temperature and pressure are held constant, the volume of a gas is proportional to the number of moles of gas present.

B

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  • Barometric Pressure  -  The absolute atmospheric pressure existing at the surface of the earth.  Is the weight of a unit column of air above the point of measurements.  It varies with altitude and, at any given location, with moisture content and weather.
  • Beta Ratio  -  Efficiency measurement of a filter expressed by the number of particles, of a given size, upstream of the filter, divided by the number of particles of that size downstream of the filter.
  • Butterfly Valve  -  A quarter turn valve (90° or less) with a circular disk as its closing element.s of gas present.

C

  • A - B - C - D - E - F - G - H - I - J - K - L - M - N - O - P - Q - R - S - T - U - V - W - X - Y - Z
  • Check Valve  -  A valve that are designed to allow the process fluid to flow in only one direction to prevent backflow.
  • Cleanable  -  A filter element which, when loaded, can be restored to an acceptable percentage of its original dirt capacity.
  • Clearance  -  Is the volume contained in one end of the cylinder which is not swept by the movement of the piston.  It includes space between piston and head at the end of the compression stroke, space under the valves, etc., and is expressed as a percentage of the piston displacement per stroke.
  • Coalescing Filter  -  A specific type of filter that not only works to remove dust and particles from the air, but also oil from the air lines.
  • Compressed Air  -  Free air that has been pressed into a volume smaller than it normally occupies. As compressed air exerts pressure, it performs work when released and allowed to expand to its normal free state.
  • Compressibility  -  Measures the change in volume under external forces for any liquid.
  • Compression Efficiency  -  The ratio of work requirement to the actual work required to be done on a gas.  Efficiency accounts for leakage and fluid friction losses.
  • Compression Ratio  -  The ratio of the maximum volume to the minimum volume in a cylinder.
  • Condensate System  -  A device that removes enough oil and contaminants from condensate drains to allow the condensate to enter the sewage system.
  • Critical Pressure  -  The highest temperature at which well defined liquid and vapor states exist.  It may be defined as the highest temperature at which it is possible to liquefy a gas by pressure alone.
  • Critical Temperature  -  The highest possible temperature that liquid and vapor states can exist in, this is often defined as the highest temperature needed to liquefy gas solely using pressure.
  • Cut-in Pressure  -  Minimum discharge pressure that, when reached, switches the compressor from unload to load operation.
  • Cut-out Pressure  -  Maximum discharge pressure that, when reached, switches the compressor from load to unload operation.
  • Cycle Time  -  Amount of time for a compressor to complete one cycle.

D

  • A - B - C - D - E - F - G - H - I - J - K - L - M - N - O - P - Q - R - S - T - U - V - W - X - Y
  • Degree of Intercooling  -  The difference in temperature between the inlet of the compressor and the outlet of the intercooler expressed as an inverse percentage.
  • Deliquescent  -  Melting and becoming a liquid by absorbing moisture.
  • Design Pressure  -  Maximum continuous operating pressure as designed by the manufacturer.
  • Dew Point  -  The temperature at which air must be cooled to become saturated with water vapor.
  • Discharge Pressure  -  The total gas pressure (static plus velocity) at the discharge flange of the compressor.  Velocity pressure usually is considered only with dynamic pressure.
  • Discharge Temperature  -  The temperature at the discharge flange of the compressor.
  • Drain Cock  -  This part releases the accumulated moisture from the compressor tank. It is typically associated with the valve that a user accesses to perform regular maintenance on the unit.
  • Drain Valve  -   A device that removes surplus liquid from a compressed air system.
  • Droop  -  The drop in pressure at the outlet of a pressure regulator, when a demand for air occurs.
  • Dryer  -  Compressor tanks are made of steel, when water gets into the tank, the tank can rust thus reducing the life of the compressor.  A dryer dries the air in the tank, reducing the amount of water collected.
  • Dual Cycle  -  Amount of time that a compressor can operate at full load over a thirty minute time  period.
  • Dual Stage  -  A compressor where air is compressed from initial pressure to an intermediate pressure in one or more cylinders.
  • Dynamic Compressor  -  The gas is first accelerated to high velocity, and then it passed through a diffuser.  The kinetic energy of the air is converted to pressure energy at the diffuser before it leaves through the outlet.

E

  • A - B - C - D - E - F - G - H - I - J - K - L - M - N - O - P - Q - R - S - T - U - V - W - X - Y - Z
  • Environmental Contaminant  -  All material present in and around a compressor system, such as dust, air moisture, chemicals, and heat.

F

  • A - B - C - D - E - F - G - H - I - J - K - L - M - N - O - P - Q - R - S - T - U - V - W - X - Y - Z
  • Filter Efficiency  -  The ability of a filter to remove specified contaminants under specified test conditions.  Expressed as a percentage of the quantity of test contaminant.
  • Free Air  -  Air at atmospheric conditions at any specific location. since altitude, barometer and temperature may vary, this term does not mean air under uniform or standard condition.

G

  • A - B - C - D - E - F - G - H - I - J - K - L - M - N - O - P - Q - R - S - T - U - V - W - X - Y - Z
  • Gas  -  A to be compressed to fit a confined space and expanded when released.

H

  • A - B - C - D - E - F - G - H - I - J - K - L - M - N - O - P - Q - R - S - T - U - V - W - X - Y - Z
  • Heat  -  A form of energy that causes physical change in what is being heated.  The lack of heat is cold.
  • Horsepower  -  A measure of power or the rate of doing work.
  • Humidity  -  Has to do with the moisture or water vapor, in the atmosphere.
  • Hysteresis  -  The time lag in responding to a demand for air from a pressure regulator.

I

  • A - B - C - D - E - F - G - H - I - J - K - L - M - N - O - P - Q - R - S - T - U - V - W - X - Y - Z
  • Inducer  -  A curved inlet section of an impeller.
  • Inlet Pressure  -  Pressure at the intake to the compressor.  Usually expressed as absolute pressure.
  • Inlet Temperature  -  The temperature at the inlet flange of the compressor or inlet filter.
  • Inlet Throttle  -  A compressor control mechanism designed to control output to meet plant demands.
  • Instrument Air  -  Used in a facility to operate valves and certain types of pumps.  Pneumatic actuators rely on instrument air for operation.  Some types of modulating valves require instrument air for throttling.
  • Intercooling  -  Removal of heat of compression between stages of a multi-stage compressor.  Stage 1 - reduce the temperature,  Stage 2 - reduce the volume to be compressed in the succeeding stage, Stage 3 - liquefy condensable vapors, and Stage 4 - save power.
  • Isenttopic Compression  -  A reversible adiabatic compression.  During isentropic compression the pressure, volume and temperature of the gas all vary.
  • Isothermal Compression  -  A process during which the temperature of the gas is held constant.  As the requires continuous removal of heat during compression, this process is not practical.  Isothermal formulas are of little use except on theoretical applications.

J

K

  • A - B - C - D - E - F - G - H - I - J - K - L - M - N - O - P - Q - R - S - T - U - V - W - X - Y - Z
  • Kick-in Pressure  -  Factory set low pressure point of the pressure switch that starts the compressor to re-pressurize the tank to a higher pressure.
  • Kick-out Pressure  -  Factory set high pressure point of the pressure switch that stops the compressor from increasing the pressure in the tank above a certain level.

L

  • A - B - C - D - E - F - G - H - I - J - K - L - M - N - O - P - Q - R - S - T - U - V - W - X - Y - Z
  • Leak  -  An unintended loss of compressed air to ambient conditions.
  • Load Factor  -  The ratio of the average compressor load during a given period of time to the maximum rated load of the compressor.
  • Load Time  -  The time it takes for a compressor to go from load to unload.
  • Low Oil Shutoff  -  A feature which shuts off the engine if it runs low on oil, preventing damage or failure.
  • Lubricator  -  A device designed to add lubricant into an air line.

M

  • A - B - C - D - E - F - G - H - I - J - K - L - M - N - O - P - Q - R - S - T - U - V - W - X - Y - Z
  • Mechanical Efficiency  -  The ratio of theoretical power the pump needs to operate to the actual power delivered to the pump itself.
  • Membrane Dryer  -  Water vapor and some compressed air permeate the membrane walls and vent to atmosphere.
  • Modulating Control  -  System that adapts to varying demand by throttling the compressor inlet proportionally to demand.
  • Moisture Separator  -  A device designed to collect and remove moisture from the air during the cooling process.
  • Multi-stage Compressor  -  Compressors having two or more stages operating in series.

N

O

  • A - B - C - D - E - F - G - H - I - J - K - L - M - N - O - P - Q - R - S - T - U - V - W - X - Y - Z
  • Oil Free Compressor  -  Air compressor that has no oil inserted into the compression chamber for lubrication, cooling or sealing.  Typically used in the medical and food processing field.

P

  • A - B - C - D - E - F - G - H - I - J - K - L - M - N - O - P - Q - R - S - T - U - V - W - X - Y - Z
  • Perfect Intercooling  -  When the temperature of air leaving the intercooler is equal to the temperature at the intake of the compressor.
  • Piston Displacement  -  The net volume displaced by the piston at rated machine speed.  For single‐action double‐acting cylinders, it is the total of both ends.  For multistage compressors, the displacement of the first stage only is commonly stated as that of the entire machine.
  • Polytropic Compression  -  Process during which change in gas characteristics are considered.  This is the normal compression cycle of dynamic units.
  • Pressure  -  The force exerted perpendicular to the surface of an object and is expressed as force per unit area.
  • Pressure Dew Point  -  The temperature at which moisture begins to condense in a compressed air system.
  • Pressure Discharge  -  The absolute total pressure at the discharge flange of a compressor.
  • Pressure Loss  -  The difference in pressure between two points, usually caused by friction resistance in the pipe, but moisture can also affect it.
  • Pressure Relief Valve  -  A valve used to protect vessels and tanks from overpressure.
  • Pressure Vessel  -  They can used for storage of high pressure gas, gas scrubbers, two and three phase separators and other functions.
  • Purging  -  Refers to the elimination of unwanted or undesirable liquid, gas, or air from the compressor system.

Q

R

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  • Receiver  -  Tanks used for the storage of air discharged from compressors.  They serve also to damp discharge line pulsation.
  • Reciprocating Compressor  -  Uses a crankshaft driven piston and cylinder to compress the air.  Primarily used in field gas compression and have a very large range of capacity and horsepower characteristics.
  • Relative Humidity  -  A measure of the amount of moisture in the air with respect to the temperature.
  • Reynolds Number  -  Measures the ratio of inertial forces (forces that remain at rest or in uniform motion) to viscosity forces (the resistance to flow).
  • Rotary Compressor  -  Compression system that includes a pair of matching helical screws.

S

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  • Seal  -  Devices used between rotating and stationary parts to separate, and minimize leakage between areas of unequal pressures.
  • Shaft  -  The part by which energy is transmitted from the prime mover through the elements mounted on it, to the air or gas being compressed.
  • Single Acting Compressor  -  Machines in which compression takes place on one stroke per revolution in each compressing element.
  • Single Stage Compressor  -  A compressor in which the air is compressed from initial pressure to final pressure in one step.
  • Specific Gravity  -  The density or ratio of any substance to another substance.  It sometimes may be called just gravity or relative density.
  • Specific Heat  -  The amount of energy required to increase one gram of a substance by 1 degree celsius.
  • Specific Humidity  -  The weight of water vapor in an air-vapor mixture per unit weight of dry air.
  • Sole Plate  -  A pad, usually metallic and embedded in concrete, on which the compressor and driver are mounted.
  • Stage  -  A series of steps in the compression of air or a gas.
  • Static Pressure  -  The difference in air pressure between the suction side and pressure side of a blower.  The higher the static pressure or resistance, the more energy it takes to move air through the object.
  • Super Compressibility Factor  -  A factor expressing deviation of a gas from perfect gas laws.  For practical purposes, at the pressures and temperatures normally encountered in air compressors, air can be considered to follow the perfect gas laws.
  • Surge  -  A phenomenon in centrifugal compressors where a reduced flow rate results in a flow reversal and unstable operation.
  • Surge Limit  -  The capacity in a dynamic compressor below which operation becomes unstable.

T

  • A - B - C - D - E - F - G - H - I - J - K - L - M - N - O - P - Q - R - S - T - U - V - W - X - Y - Z
  • Temperature  -  Normally described as the amount of heat or cold, but it is neither heat or cold.  Temperature is expressed as a number that is related to energy and porportional to a type of energy, but it is not energy.
  • Thermal Compressor  -  An ejector used to compress waste or exhaust steam or any other gas through a moderate range of compression above atmospheric pressure.
  • Theoretical Power  -  The power required to compress a gas isothermally through a specified range of pressures.

U

  • A - B - C - D - E - F - G - H - I - J - K - L - M - N - O - P - Q - R - S - T - U - V - W - X - Y - Z
  • Unload  -  The air compressor runs at full speed but no air is delivered because the inlet is closed.
  • Unloaded Horsepower  -  The power consumed to overcome frictional losses when operating in an unloaded condition.

V

  • A - B - C - D - E - F - G - H - I - J - K - L - M - N - O - P - Q - R - S - T - U - V - W - X - Y - Z
  • Vacuum  -  A contained space having little or no matter or a volume having a pressure lower than the outside atmospheric pressure.
  • Volumetric Efficiency  -  The ratio in percent of the actual delivered capacity (measured at inlet temperature, pressure and gas composition) to the piston displacement.
  • Volute  -  A stationary, spiral shaped passage which converts velocity head to pressure in a flowing stream of air or gas.

W

  • A - B - C - D - E - F - G - H - I - J - K - L - M - N - O - P - Q - R - S - T - U - V - W - X - Y - Z
  • Water Cooled Compressor  -  Machines cooled by water circulated through jackets surrounding the cylinders or casings.
  • Work  -  An action done or applied force on an object that displaces the object.  If the applied force is straight down there is no work done. But if the applied force is at an angle the displacement will take more force.

X

Y

Z

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