How a Linear Actuator Works

Before the invention of the linear actuator, the only way to create motion was by using a motor that created motion in a circular direction. This type of motion is not always efficient and useable. The linear actuator was invented so that motion could be created in a straight line. Hence the term, ‘linear,’ which comes from the Latin word ‘linear’, meaning line.


Linear actuators are used in hundreds, maybe even thousands, of applications across many industries. You can find them in computers, industry, mechanics, military, and so on.


The Types of Actuators


A linear actuator may convert air, electricity, gas or liquid in order to create the desired linear motion. Air is typically what a pneumatic actuator uses, but they also use gas to create pressure. Electricity is an electro-mechanical actuator and a hydraulic actuator uses liquid. In this article, we will focus on the use of electro-mechanical actuators, or electric actuators.


How it Works


The design of a linear actuator is quite simple. Inside the actuator is a screw, which may be a lead screw, a screw jack, ball screw or a roller screw. Along the screw are threads, making it similar in appearance to a bolt. The screw is designed to rotate, and ascend and descend, giving it a full range of motion.


In order to move the screw along the threads, a nut is required. The nut around the screw is fastened in place, so that when the screw moves, the motion of the threads on the nut and screw move the screw up or down the actuator.


The actuator is connected to an electric control system that converts the energy into motion, and there you have a linear actuator.


All Shapes and Sizes


Linear actuators come in all shapes and sizes. The requirements for a project may be so unique that there are no actuators already designed, making the need for custom actuators a lucrative industry.


Proprietary Motion


Many actuator companies use variations of this design, but it is not an industry standard. Depending on the project, various actuator designs may be considered. Electric actuators are commonly found in computers, laboratory robotics, medical tables, laser or optical equipment, and more.


Progressive Automations carries a wide range of linear actuators and accessories to suit most any project need, as well as custom actuators for those individual projects. Should you require an actuator, or have a question about your project, do not hesitate to get in contact with us.


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