The principles of linear motion are hundreds of years old. Throughout the years, the general principles of linear motion have never wavered, while the technology has made significant advancements to yield more precisely controlled motion and greater flexibility of the tools to achieve linear motion.
Various factors, depending on your application and industry, will determine the best actuator for your application’s particular function or operational mode. If you are in a factory automation industry, such as automotive, semiconductor, appliance packaging, or general assembly, you will encounter a myriad of factors that will affect your choice of linear actuator.
Actuators go by many different names — single-axis actuators, slides or tables – and deliver precision linear motion of a load along a single axis. Common applications for actuators include machine assembly design, testing machines, inspection devices, among many others.
There are many choices for linear actuators available in the market today. Here’s a few important things to consider when choosing a linear actuator for your next design application.
Simple Stage Actuator Systems
Basic stages systems offer an economical way to perform precise, yet simple functions. These are typically available in electrical, manual, or pneumatic models.
Pneumatic or electric systems can be used in both vertical and horizontal positions for conveyance, work transfers, or other basic motion. There are also options to select standard or precision systems, based on your application requirements.
TYPICAL APPLICATIONS: These easy to adjust, hand operated units are a great fit for applications such as inspection jigs and fixtures, and manual indexing tables. They are also used for performing manual adjustments to production lines to accommodate a variety of product sizes.
Standard and Cover Type Single Axis and Multi-Axis Actuators:
In selecting linear actuators from such a broad field, design engineers can narrow down their choices using the specific application requirements, such as size/weight of load to transport, length of stroke, travel speeds, accuracy demands and the ambient operating environment.
These actuators include a wide array of assembly designs—including compact standard and covered types; motorized styles (metric and NEMA); standard- and high-precision grades; and a range of sizes, profiles and styles designed and engineered to handle light, medium and heavy loads.
Some of these actuators can be configured with standard and/or custom mounting brackets and angle plates to form X/Y, X/Z or X/Y/Z axes. Such a wide range of is not surprising, since linear actuators play a key role in many machines, work cells and factory automation system applications. .
TYPICAL APPLICATIONS: Common applications include servo-driven insertion and drilling, precision measurement, QC testing and inspection, pick-and-place tables and painting stations, to name just a few.
When high precision performance is demanded, your supplier should be able to provide actuators with calibration certification. Many suppliers also offer commonly used accessories, such as limit switches and end-of-travel switches, which allow the actuator to perform specific functions.
Belt Drive Actuators
Belt drive actuators come in a wide array of lengths and offer designers an economical and versatile choice for diverse applications in many industries, including packaging, printing, machine tool, aerospace and defense, manufacturing automation, education and entertainment. Comprised of a drive system, structural beam member, guidance system and cart, belt-driven systems are designed to carry loads up to 227 kg (500 lbs.) with travel speeds ranging from 1,200 to 10,000 mm per second and high acceleration up to 20 G’s or more.
Also, find a supplier that can also provide replacement belt drives and accessories such as motor mounts, gearboxes and sensor kits. Overall, the right pre-assembled linear actuators offer industrial OEMs and their design engineers a practical and cost-effective choice, typically much less expensive than custom-building in-house.
TYPICAL APPLICATIONS: Look for rugged, precision-machined steel construction, an interior shaft for superior strength, and a ultra-tough timing belt. Models are available for light, medium and heavy loads, including large hanging loads, and offer a variety of cart design options.
Want more information on selecting the right actuator for your application? Check out our other blog article on actuator selection!