How Actuators Could Be Used in the Automation of Material Handling Systems
How Actuators Could Be Used in the Automation of Material Handling Systems

How Actuators Could Be Used in the Automation of Material Handling Systems

Material handling systems have been revolutionized thanks to the implementation of automation devices. At the center of these devices are electric linear actuators. There are a number of requirements for electrical equipment in automated material handling systems, with many relating to the following aspects:

  • Blocking the movement of transport devices by the position of adjacent mechanisms.
  • Moving parts along the conveyor belt in a controlled fashion.
  • The devices should have an independent power input and their own drive.
  • To rule out possible jamming in the mechanisms of transport devices, they should provide a reverse of their drivers.

This article will take a look into the systems that heavily use and rely on automation, the benefits, and how exactly they work.

Cutten equipment

Automation of Material Handling Systems

An automated material handling system utilizes transport and handling devices, as well as industrial robots. 

Transport Devices

Transporting goods within the material handling system is a fundamental aspect. Lifts, inclined trays, chain, and vibro-conveyors are used as vehicles in automatic lines with flexible connections, where machines or sections of machines run independently.

Lifts and inclined trays are driven by individual electric linear actuators or hydraulic drives. A direct current actuator, in contrast to the hydraulic drive, is cheaper, easier to operate and at the same time provides the required smoothness and accuracy of movements.

Automated machine loading with a robotic arm

Loading and Unloading Devices

Thorough automation of loading and unloading hardware allows for accelerated, smoother, more secure, and cost-efficient manufacturing operations as a whole. Loading and unloading devices guide and move the workpieces, set them for processing, and unload after the end of the operation. This automated process requires minimal human intervention, making it more cost-friendly for the business while also freeing workers from tedious, monotonous labor.

There are built-in and autonomous components of material handling system:

  • Built-in loading and unloading devices have excellent repeatability and don't occupy space near the mechanism. General-purpose loading and unloading mechanisms are not limited by a connection to any particular machine, and each device can be attached to any machine to perform the functions of loading and unloading, as well as transportation.
  • Autonomous devices are equipped with an individual, most often electric drive. For the convenience of machine readjustment, loading and unloading devices are made retractable, foldable, or rotatable. The following loading and unloading operations are amenable to automation: capturing the part and transporting it to the processing zone, installing it in the mechanism and securing it, detaching the product, removing and transporting it away from the processing zone.

Industrial manipulator

Types of Devices

Based on how the parts are placed in the tank, the loading and unloading devices are divided into the store, stack, and bunker types. In-store and stack devices, products are placed in an already oriented form, in the bunker type they are not oriented. The loading device is typically comprised of a capacitor, a gripper, a drive, a cutter, a feeder, an ejector, and a linear actuator.

Auto-operators are more complex material handling automation solutions, either built-in machines or made as autonomous mechanisms. They feed the oriented workpieces from the accumulator to the loading position. Unlike bunkers and stores, auto-operators not only load the machine with blanks, but also delete them after processing.

The greatest economic effect belongs to types of mechanized material handling systems such as industrial manipulators and robots, which can significantly reduce the time for loading and unloading operations, thus increasing the production output. Manipulators equipped with various software control systems have a greater number of liberties. According to the load-bearing support, manipulators are divided into bridge, portal, cantilever, and jib. The trajectory of the grippers and their mode change in accordance with the given program. The design of the grippers, in turn, is determined by the shape of the grabbed products.

Robot arm loading carton on a conveyor

Industrial robots

This automation technology in material handling solves the problem of developing comprehensive automation of production and its quick readjustment. Industrial robots are automatic machines that are a combination of a manipulator and a programmable control device.

As part of flexible production modules and systems, industrial robots carry out various loading and unloading, transport, and storage operations, as well as control and measuring. The motor functions of the robot are performed by an actuator, which includes a manipulator and a movement device. The manipulator contains drives, actuators, and gears, whereby each degree of mobility is provided by its own linear actuator.

Linear actuator by Progressive Automations

Actuators for Material Handling Systems

Heavy-duty linear actuators and high-force solutions are efficiently used in conveyors, industrial lift and hoist systems, deck-load platforms for acceleration, and safe manufacturing systems. With 3,000 - 4,000 push/pull force capacities, these actuators set large facility machinery in motion and provide precision in their control. However, depending on the size and required carrying capacity of manufacturing systems, smaller industrial actuators can also be used.

Packaging machines are made highly-precise and smooth in their performance, with functional joints powered by micro-precision and feedback actuators. These drives allow for advanced human control over production lines and devices. Micro-precision servo actuators, for instance, are programmable for the most insightful control possible, which is extremely convenient in automated sorting lines. Outside of manufacturing facilities, baggage handling lines in international airports rely highly on feedback and track linear actuators (these work jointly for the smoothest, most precise line flow possible).

Automate your systems - be smart in your operations!


Actuators are a modern technological equipment with some of the highest accuracy, durability, and reliability in motion control products. ActuatorZone linear actuators provide this level of quality that meets all modern standards. If you would like to receive professional advice on actuators, feel free to contact us.

Anna Sapiga

AZ Engineer