Actuators: Types & Functional Applications


Mechanical or electro-mechanical devices that at times control or provide limited movement are known as ‘actuators’. These devices are operated either electrically, manually or through the air, hydraulics and different fluids.

Linear and rotary are the two basic motions where linear actuators transform energy into straight line motions for applications arrangement with push and pull function. Some of the linear actuators are operated manually using either a hand wheel or a rotating knob.

Rotary actuators give a rotational motion through energy conversion. A typical application is in controlling different valves like a butterfly or a ball. Each of the actuator types comes with different power configurations, sizes, and styles depending on the application.



  • Electric Linear


Just as the name indicates, electric linear actuators are powered by electricity as the mechanical devices include drive mechanism, linear guides, and motors. These convert electrical energy into linear transposition either through thermal expansion, mechanical transmission, electromagnetic force or thermal expansion which deliver straight line/linear push and pull motion. Primary specifications include mounting alignment, drive and motor type as well as various electrical features plus, physical proportions.

These electric linear actuators are used in automation applications when a certain mechanical tool or cog needs a controlled movement for a particular position. They’re commonly used in a broad range of industries where linear positioning is most crucial. Electric linear actuators are driven by many different means that include lead screws, ball, voice coils, belts and more. Specific industrial applications include opening and closing obstacles, braking machine motions, door locking mechanism and more.


  • Fluid Power Linear


Sometimes referred to as hydraulic actuators, the fluid power linear actuators are mechanical devices comprising piston and cylinder mechanisms which generate linear displacement via gas, hydraulic fluid or differential air pressure. Primary specifications include fluid power type, mounting configuration, force capacities, travel length along with physical dimensions per the requirement.

These hydraulic/fluid power linear actuators are also used in industrial automation procedures when a certain item requires a precise movement for specific positioning. Most common applications include the closing and the opening of the clamping mechanism, welding, damper doors and more.


  • Manual Linear


Mechanical devices that deliver linear displacement through manually rotated gears or screws and consist of manually operated wheels, knobs and gearboxes are known as manual linear actuators; ensuring controlled linear motion mechanisms. They’re typically used in commercial applications for flawless positioning such as working cogs and manipulating tools.

Just as the name implies, manual actuators don’t require electrical energy, but a hand operated rotating knob or wheel. Several applications of these actuators include racks and pinions, lead screws, belt drive and more with each having a particular load and drive force ability. Thermo-mechanical actuators are yet another type and operate via thermal expansion but only on a limited scale.


  • Linear Chain Actuators


These are mechanical devices comprising sections and sprockets of chain used to deliver linear movement through free ends of specially tailored chains. These are available in different sizes and chain styles as well as storage options depending on the space availability in a particular application. Actuators have single driving sprockets or force mechanism required for push and pull motion.


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