You may never have heard of a linear actuator, but that doesn’t mean you’ve never used one. Linear actuators help to create motion in machines and products in countless industries. In this article, you’ll be introduced to these machine parts and learn about a few different types of linear actuators.
What is a Linear Actuator?
A linear actuator is a device that converts rotational motion to linear motion. Linear actuators can provide both pushing and pulling motions that allow a machine or one of its parts to move. They’re used in all sorts of machines, from industrial machines to printers to automobiles to garage doors, to name just a few.
Common Types of Linear Actuators
There are several different types of linear actuators used in different applications. Below, we’ll explore three of the most common types: mechanical or electromechanical, pneumatic, and hydraulic linear actuators.
Mechanical and Electromechanical Linear Actuators
Mechanical or electromechanical linear actuators convert rotational motion to linear motion mechanically or with the aid of an electric motor. The construction of mechanical and electromechanical linear actuators is nearly identical—the main difference is that a fully mechanical linear actuator is operated by hand, while an electromechanical linear actuator is operated by an attached electric motor. Ball screws are often the mechanism used to create motion in these types of actuators, as the screws themselves are already natural linear actuators and made much more powerful with the addition of a motor. Other mechanisms used in this type of linear actuator include belt drives or rack and pinion drives.
Pneumatic Linear Actuators
Another different type of linear actuator is a pneumatic actuator. This device uses pressurized air or gas to create linear motion. These types of actuators are not as precise as mechanical or electromechanical actuators, so they’re best when used in applications that require movement between only two positions. Often, pneumatic linear actuators are used in industrial machinery, as well as pistons and ignition chambers of cars, dentistry equipment, mail tubes, and numerous other applications.
Hydraulic Linear Actuators
Hydraulic linear actuators create linear motion using highly pressurized fluid, typically oil. These types of actuators are very precise and the most powerful type of actuators, but they don’t allow for fast movement. You’ll typically find hydraulic linear actuators on high-powered machine tools, such as construction equipment.
If your industry is one that uses linear actuators, understanding the different types of linear actuators will help you to choose the best type for your machine. Or perhaps you already have a linear actuator, but it’s beginning to become worn and is in danger of breaking. In mechanical and electromechanical linear actuators, it’s often quite easy to get the part repaired. If your linear actuator includes a ball screw, and that screw has seen better days, contact Wedin International, Inc. about our ball screw repair services. We’ll help you keep your machines in top condition.