Linear Actuators for Robotics
Linear Actuators for Robotics

Linear Actuators for Robotics

Which linear actuators for robotics will best suit your robot?

Robots come in all shapes and sizes. If you look hard enough you can find robots smaller than your fingernail or large enough to demolish a building. Because of the massive range of robot sizes, robotic linear actuators come in all shapes, sizes and functions. From mini-linear actuators to heavy-duty actuators 12v, robots require different sizes to help make them do what they do. Additionally, components might be electric, pneumatic, hydraulic or some of the more innovative actuation technology, piezoelectric actuators.

Robotic Actuator Definition

Robots make use of actuators of all types to create motion. You'll find robotic systems that use actuators for arm control, head control, leg control and any other appendage that needs to interact with its environment. As robots become more advanced, we are seeing actuators in use for lip and eye control. While larger, standard actuators are used for larger parts, smaller mini-linear actuators or micro-actuators can be used for head, neck, eye and lip movements.

Pneumatic and Hydraulic Solutions

These two designs are classic, having been around the longest. Pneumatic and hydraulic actuators were the most commonly used actuator systems for robots at one time, but newer technology is starting to take hold. As the function of robots increases, their size and weight requirements decrease. Pneumatic and hydraulic systems, even for mini-linear actuators, can be cumbersome. Furthermore, their systems are more likely to require maintenance.

Electric Actuators for Robots

With the advent of electric robotic linear actuators, it changed the way engineers thought about robotics. New possibilities were opened up since these actuators were smaller and more compact in design. They require much less maintenance than other actuators, so can last longer. Electric mini-linear actuators have shrunk smaller and smaller, now able to fit into smaller and smaller robots.

For robots developed for use in the medical field, low-maintenance function is essential to ensure safe and reliable functioning at all times. Helper robots may be sent to homes for the disabled or elderly, and these robots are required to function for long periods with out daily maintenance.

Mini-Linear Actuators for Robotics

Electric mini-linear actuators are the most economical choice for robotics engineers and hobbyists building their own robots. Long-term costs are significantly reduced. Over a two year period, electric mini-linear actuators can function up to 80% more efficiently than pneumatic or hydraulic alternatives.

Piezoelectric Actuators

While piezoelectricity has been known to exist since the 18th century, piezoelectric actuators are relatively new and still being perfected. Piezoelectricity is the charge that builds up in certain materials when put under mechanical stress. The upside to this technology is that these actuators can be extremely precise when in motion. They have been used in many applications that require extreme precision. For the average robotics builder, using a piezoelectric mini-linear actuator may not be the best solution, since they are usually very expensive.

Purchasing the Right Actuator

If you're in the market for robot actuators, the most economical and reliable solution will rest in the electric actuator. Electric mini-linear actuators are reliable, affordable and versatile devices. Motion control systems for electric actuators can be bought small enough to affix directly onto the robot, adding only a few pounds of extra weight to the entire unit. If you're developing a high-speed robot, there are high-speed, mini-linear actuators that can deliver.

As robots become more integrated into our daily lives, the technology that supports them will continue to gain momentum. If you follow the timeline of actuators (12v, hydraulic, pneumatic, piezoelectric), you can see the constant transition toward better, more reliable, more environmentally friendly actuation solutions.

Anna Sapiga

AZ Engineer