In the earliest days of humanity, when something needed to be moved it was up to the people to push it where it needed to go. If someone needed a rock moved, the best they could do is use large numbers of people to push it.

Eventually, we invented the wheel, and it changed the way we thought about motion. We finally understood that we could use the items around us as tools to make life easier. As time wore on, we developed better means of motion, like battering rams. The battering ram could be considered the first actuator in history, since it creates motion in a straight line, but it still wasn’t automated.  Although it made the job of motion easier, they still needed the power of people to move the battering ram back and forth.

When the industrial era began, it changed the way we thought about machines and gave birth to new concepts about automation systems. Machines were now being used to replace manual labor, and new methods of creating machines capable of doing work were being constantly developed. Many years later Bent Jensen would change the face of modern automation.

Bent Jensen, now part of the Forbes Billionaires list, was offered the opportunity to take over his father’s company, known as Christian Jensen and Sons. As a recent graduate with a degree in mechanical engineering, his aspirations didn’t include following in his father’s footsteps. He reluctantly agreed, and resolved to allow himself five years to revolutionize the company’s production methods.

Only three years later, in 1979, he sought to find an improvement for a wheelchair that belonged to friend. The result was the world’s first actuator. Today, a linear motor is a product that is designed to create motion in a straight line. Before this time, electric motors were used to create motion in a circular direction. Motion in a circular direction, such as motion required in computers or printers, is not effective and can’t be used, but with linear motion the possibilities open wide.

It didn’t take long for the product to skyrocket. The first industry to use Bent’s innovative automation product was agriculture. Farmers found linear actuators to be a great addition to their forage harvesters.  The moving parts of the forager could be automated with the use of the linear actuator.

Today we can find Bent Jensen’s products in many places:

  • Hospitals
  • Furniture
  • Cars, trucks and vans
  • Aircraft
  • Spacecraft
  • Fire trucks
  • Animal care
  • Farms
  • Industry
  • Office
  • Homes
  • Hobbies
  • Computers or printers
  • And the list goes on…

Today we have actuators that are pneumatic, hydraulic, piezoelectric, electro-mechanical and electric – and there are still more designs being created today. The field is continually developing new technology and improving the way we live, work and play. If your life has been made easier, it might be because there is an actuator involved in it somewhere, and it all came from one man’s desire to improve a wheelchair.

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