The Pneumatic Tube System: How It Works

Pneumatic Tube System

March 1st, 2021   |   Updated on November 26th, 2021

Pneumatic tube systems are very effective for businesses like large stores where there is a lot of money exchange during checkouts.

They are also known as air tubes, PTT, airlift, air transport, air tubes, and pneumatic transit systems they help reduce theft cases.

In most cases, cashiers have to walk around each checkout station collecting money which exposes them to robbery.

In some cases, the checkouts might not collect the same amount of money and dispatching the money at intervals helps avoid this.

Using the systems the money collected at the cashier’s desk can be moved to a more secure place before finally being deposited in the bank.

Having a pneumatic tube system such as one by Washington Security Products provides a solution to many stores where they can link each checkout with the cashier’s department.

The checkout operator can then collect a specified amount of cash and dispatch it securely to the cashier’s department via the pneumatic tube to a different location in the building.

The Pneumatic Tube System: How It Works

Components Making Up The Pneumatic System

The pneumatic tube system comprises several main components which include the blower which produces pressure or vacuum, carriers, diverter, dispatch tubes, diverter transfer, linear coupler, arrival signals, receiver and fire protection.

How It Works

The matching carriers are used for transportation purposes. The stations are all connected in a tube of network diverters.

The diverters help to transfer a carrier in the network for example, from one station and discharged from the tube-network from the next station. To make this transfer possible, it uses highly integrated controllers.

If you want to send cash from the sending station, you simply load it into a sturdy cylindrical, plastic canister, place it in the tube in the sending station, and close the door.

For example, if you’re linking a checkout with the cashier’s department, you will have a large metal box referred to as a sending station connected to a tube.

Some systems are secured with doors that have been locked requiring keys or numeric keypads and PIN numbers so as to open them but others are unsecured.

The tube can either be made from plastic PVC material or a strong lightweight metal like aluminum. It runs from the station to the cashier’s department and can be a few meters to close to 600m or so.

Once the tube reaches the cashier’s department, it connects to a box called the receiving station. This might also have a lockable door depending on the type you have installed.

It can also be referred to as a powered station since it provides the air power that transports packages back and forth.

It has a compressed air pump attached to the inside that can suck air from the tube and also blow air in depending on what needs to be done to the tube packages.

In most cases, the sending and receiving stations will send signals when a package has been received. These can either be chimes, ringers, or flashing lights.

The canisters are wide enough about 5–15cm (2–6 inches) in diameter and 20–30cm (~8–12 inches) long to carry enough packages and made of a toughened plastic like polycarbonate.

They also have rubbery bumpers on both ends providing a good air seal which reduces noise as they travel down the tubes.

Since pneumatic tubes operate similar to a vacuum cleaner the suction power of its electric motor limits what they can carry, how quickly, and how far.

The set-up of pneumatic tube systems and how they work is very simple. The link from one receiving station across to sending stations, or vice-versa and the elaborate, computer-controlled systems are effective in places using complex systems like the systems that hospitals use.

One large pneumatic system is able to work across 500 sending and receiving stations and route packages between senders and receivers in complex ways.


Pneumatic tube systems can be used widely in various places like hospitals and department stores.

It’s not common to see a system like this unless you work in a bank, department store, hospital, or some pharmacies. The best way to notice them is to look out for a box with a tube coming from the top straight into the ceiling.

They are mostly placed near checkout desks; where there are large transactions and people have to send money off to the cashier’s department. Depending on the type, the box might or might not have a lock or numeric keypad.


  • Pneumatic tube systems are not only secure but also fast, simple and reliable.
  • Can transport objects across large distances within a building or between buildings on the same site.
  • You no longer need bulky transport tube containers, especially in places like shops where the transport of items in one direction.
  • The tubes can be used in more confined spaces.
  • They can move things in different directions from up, down, or sideways.
  • They provide soft, air-cushioned bumpers safe for fragile items.
  • They are convenient since you don’t need a person to carry things, saving you time and money.
  • Reduce chances of theft and accidental damage in transit.
  • Limit the amount of face-to-face interaction.
  • Easy disinfection of transportation carriers.


  • There is a risk of valuable items getting stuck or damaged.
  • Difficult to install in an old building. Installation of the tubes is a bit complex since they need to be planned into a building’s infrastructure before the building is constructed.


The pneumatic tube system has been found to be a very useful and secure way of transporting objects.

This has led to efforts to come up with a scaled-up version of tube technology aimed at transporting people between cities at speeds of about 1100 km/h (700 mph).

While this is still an idea in the making, people are eager to see how this technology will work. Whether it will be accomplished remains to be seen but so far it’s evident that the pneumatic tube systems can be quite helpful.