You know that linear actuators move loads in a straight line, forward and/or backward. You know they can be powered by hydraulic fluid, compressed air, or electricity. Each type of actuator has its own pros and cons. So, when should you use electric linear actuators? They are not appropriate for every application, but they can be quite versatile. Here are some examples.
9 Real-World Applications for Electric Linear Actuators
- Material handling. This is a universal need for every type of manufacturing operation.
- Robotics. The automotive industry and any number of others are now using robotics to improve production quality and accuracy and control production costs. Electric linear actuators meet the sophisticated needs of robotics. They can control and repeat extremely precise movements, control rate of acceleration and deceleration, and control the amount of force applied. And they can combine all these movements on multiple axes simultaneously.
- Food and beverage manufacturing. Cleanliness is critical in these industries, and electric linear actuators are both clean and quiet. In addition, food and beverage, medical device, semiconductor, and some other applications also require stringent washdown protocols. Electric actuators are corrosion-resistant and have a smooth design that offers few crevices where bacteria or dirt might accumulate.
- Window automation. Manufacturing facilities and other large-scale indoor operations are constructed with heavy-duty ventilation systems, but in some cases, natural ventilation is also desirable, especially to help control indoor temperature. Electric linear actuators make it easy to remotely open and close heavy and/or high windows.
- Agricultural machinery. Although heavy equipment and attachments are often powered with hydraulics, machines that directly contact food or which require finessed movements can be fitted with electrical actuators instead. Examples include combines that thresh and convey grains, spreaders with adjustable nozzles, and even tractors.
- Solar panel operation. For optimal operation, solar panels must tilt to directly face the sun as it moves across the sky. Electric actuators enable commercial installations and utilities to efficiently and consistently control large solar farms.
- Cutting equipment. For example, factories that manufacture carpet or printing facilities may use electric actuators to raise and lower cutting blades. Again, cleanliness can be important in these environments even if it isn’t a food safety issue.
- Valve operation. Many types of processing plants incorporate valves to control the flow of raw materials and finished products throughout the facility.
- Non-Industrial Applications. We’re talking about how electric linear actuators are used in industrial applications, but they are also used increasingly in residential or office settings where hydraulics and pneumatics are not an option. They are tidy, clean, and simple. Electric actuators now offer easy remote operation of windows and window coverings, for example, strictly as a convenience feature or to assist disabled individuals.
Is Electric the Best Actuator for Your Application?
While electric actuators can be a great choice for applications such as those listed above, they are not universally useful. Electric actuators cost more upfront than other types of actuators, and even though they can be less expensive to operate, they are best suited for situations where you need only a small number of actuators.
So, depending on your operational requirements and working conditions, pneumatic actuators may be the better choice, long-term. That’s especially true if your application will require high speed or force, but there are other factors to consider, as well.
When Should You Choose Pneumatic Actuators?
For example, pneumatic cylinders are the go-to choice for most industrial equipment, car wash systems, etc. because compressed air is often readily available. A pneumatic cylinder can function from 15-110 psi. These actuators are cost-effective to operate and come in both single and double-acting models.
- Single-acting actuators (the cylinder strokes in only one direction) are very simple, a significant plus where ruggedness and reliability are required.
- Double-acting actuators (which can move loads both forward and backward, or up and down) offer tremendous control over load movements.
W.C. Branham designs and manufactures four different styles of rodless pneumatic cylinders that can be configured in almost endless ways. All are designed to fit into compact spaces, saving as much as 50% of space compared to traditional actuators.
If you have questions, we can help. If you think a pneumatic actuator is your best bet but you need help spec’ing the right type and size, we can help with that, too. Even if you need a custom design. Just give us a call, or drop us an email, and we'll help you find the right actuator for your application.