Solutions in Motion™

    How to Choose the Correct Rodless Cylinder for your Mechanical Application

    Posted by Troy Branham on May 25 ,2017

    rodless cylinderPneumatic cylinders are useful in a wide range of industrial applications. A rodless cylinder, in particular, offers special advantages for mechanical design, because it is shorter and entirely enclosed. Rodless cylinders save space without sacrificing performance, they can be mounted in any plane, and they can be grouped to accommodate multi-axis design.

    Types of rodless cylinders

    Mechanically coupled designs use a cable or band to connect the piston and carriage, which operates as a single unit. They can accommodate direct loading and, in many cases, don’t require additional load support from a guidance system. If your mechanical design calls for load-holding brakes, linear guides, valves, or sensors, these can be attached directly to the cylinder.

    Magnetically coupled designs, as the name implies, use strong rare earth magnets to connect the piston and carriage. These cylinders usually require mechanical guidance systems to help support the load, but they are also lightweight and low-maintenance.


    Pneumatic cylinders are relatively simple devices. They are powerful and durable, capable of generating tremendous force over a wide range of speeds. They can cycle rapidly without overheating. They can brake loads without damaging internal parts. If your application environment is dusty, humid, or requires frequent high-pressure washdowns, pneumatic cylinders handle all that with ease, too. 

    Rodless design is the best choice for confined areas because everything is contained within the overall envelope — there is no piston rod to overhang or bend. Typically, a rodless cylinder can perform the same job in about half the space. Rodless cylinders are also ideal for solutions that require long strokes or high moment loads. Popular applications include:

    • Textiles
    • Corrugated paper splicers
    • Cage washers
    • Packaging
    • Printing
    • Car wash systems
    • Shrink wrapping
    • Silk screening
    • Bottling systems
    • Material transfers
    • Automotive assembly
    • Gate openers
    • Part elevators
    • Animated displays
    • Safety systems

    How to choose

    While the versatility of pneumatic rodless cylinders is a major advantage, it also means there are multiple factors that affect how you can or should use them in your mechanical design. Sizing alone requires you to think about variables such as moving orientation and guidance. This video, How to Size a Pneumatic Rodless Cylinder for Your Application, can help with that.

    W.C. Branham makes several types of pneumatic rodless cylinders; standard and enclosed cable design, magnetically coupled, and a lightweight band design. Among them, you’ll find numerous bore size and stroke length choices. Our MAGTEC® magnetically coupled design can also be spec’d in stainless steel. The upshot is that there is a rodless cylinder style, size, and configuration that’s probably perfect for your mechanical design.

    Despite this wealth of standard options, though, sometimes you need custom design (or maybe just a little modification) to get maximum, most cost-effective performance from your rodless cylinder. Give us a call, and we’ll help. We’ve been making custom-designed products for years, and we’re always up for a good challenge.

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    Topics: rodless cylinders