What Is a Linear Actuator: Force, Speed, Stroke and Voltage

what is a linear actuator graphic

by Ajay Arora

What is a Linear Actuator? The combinations of force, speed, stroke and voltage are nearly endless, giving you options for any application.

In the first article, we went over what an actuator is, the components and some of the more common uses. In this article, we will cover the various options that are available for all linear motors. If you haven’t read Part I of this series, please visit this link.

Options

Since the actuator was first invented in the 70s, they have been used in hundreds of industries across the world. Because of this great need for actuation and automation systems, there are needs just as great that can move in different ways. When choosing one, the primary options available are:

  • Force
  • Speed
  • Stroke
  • Voltage

There are many more options for selection, but these are some of the first any individual would consider.

Force

what is a linear actuator force graphic
 
 

The force is the amount of weight an actuator can withstand. This weight can be either a hanging weight or a downward force on the actuator. If it is said to be able to stand 150lbs of force, this may be a static load or a dynamic load. It’s important to know the difference, since one may have different static and dynamic load capacities.

These devices can be made to carry a few thousand pounds, but are commonly relegated to operations that are less than 2,000lbs. The cost and the benefits of electric actuation negatively correlate after a certain force capability is reached.

Speed

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How fast an actuator moves depends on the power supplied to it and the force. A speed rating will decrease as the force increases. This can be expressed in a graph. When determining the speed you require, be sure to ask your  supplier what the speeds at no-load and full-load are.

Stroke

The stroke is the length the device will travel. Some have strokes that extend from the unit, meaning extension will increase the overall length of the unit.Others, known as track actuators, have a device that moves along the shaft of the unit. These types do not increase the overall length of the unit. These are especially useful in projects and applications that don’t allow for additional space.

Voltage

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If you’re new to automation and electricity, voltage is a bit like pressure. At the top of a water, there is a high amount of pressure pushing the water off the cliff. At the bottom when the water meanders down the river again, there is very little. This pressure is what we consider voltage. Most require only 12VDC to operate, but some applications require 24VDC or 36VDC. This power can come from a battery (DC) or a household outlet (DC).

Additional Options

Since every project is just a bit different, there are many different types of actuators. Not only do they come in different sizes, forces, voltages and speeds; you can find ones that have unique mounting options, limit switches, dimensions, IP ratings and more. In the next part of this series, we’ll cover what some of these additional options are and how they can help you get a component that fits your own automation application perfectly.

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