Technical Blog

What is a Linear Actuator?

A Linear Actuator is a device which converts rotary action into linear motion. They are available in different styles and configurations making them suitable for many different applications.

Linear actuators are well used in motion control and are a vital device within this field. They usually consist of an AC or DC motor, some form of gearing and a lead or ball screw with driving nut. As the motor turns the screw which forces the nut along the shaft and whatever is being controlled by the actuator will move linearly.

What is a linear actuator used for

Because a linear actuator can be used to either push or pull with the same force, its applications involve lifting, lowering, sliding, adjusting and tilting objects.

Linear Actuators are very versatile and can be used for applications in many different industries. Some areas for use are;

  • Food processing (Specialized washdown variants available)
  • Packaging
  • Factory automation
  • Automotive inc Mobile off-highway vehicles
  • Clean energy
  • Materials handling
  • Printing
  • Marine
  • Machine tool
  • Defence
  • Aerospace
  • Pharmaceutical

Types of Linear Actuators

There are various types of linear actuators. The three main types of actuator we have at Heason are; industrial actuators, precision ball screw actuators and guided rodless actuators also known as linear units.

Industrial linear actuators would typically be selected for applications with high loads but relatively slow speeds. They are typically used as a low-cost alternative to hydraulic or pneumatic cylinders for mobile off-highway, agricultural and military equipment, manual lift systems and other applications where compact yet high force is required. These actuators have thrust capability up to 16kN and come with built-in DC or AC motors, typically 12VDC to 36VDC. They are also usually self- locking so loads can be safely held even if power is lost.

Precision Ball Screw Actuators use precision rolled screws with recirculating ball nuts to convert circular motion into linear motion with circa 90% efficiency and 0.001mm repeatability. With load capacities up to 60kN, they are well suited for applications in automation, packaging, machine tools and electronics assemblies as well as r&d and testing applications. The extension rod is also guided and can take lateral loads. At Heason, we match these actuators with suitable servo or stepper motors to achieve the control required for your application.

Rodless Actuators use either ball screws, lead screws or belts to drive a guided carriage up to 12m stroke length. High accuracy repeatability of 0.01mm and speeds up to 10m/s can also be achieved.  Guidance systems allow high moment loads and they are self-supporting requiring minimal engineering to incorporate into machine design. At Heason we have extensive calculation and design tools to marry these linear systems to a suitable servo or stepper motors to achieve the motion required. We can also design and supply complete assembled multi-axis systems.

Advantages of Linear Actuators

Linear actuators are well suited to applications where simple, safe and clean movements are required as well as accurate and smooth motion control. Linear actuators are chosen for the following advantages:-

  • Energy Efficient
  • Long Life
  • Little to no maintenance required
  • Low operating costs
  • Quiet operation
  • High repeatability
  • Positional accuracy
  • Protection ratings
  • Rugged and reliable
  • Easy installation (when compared to hydraulic or pneumatic systems
  • Compact
  • Good value for money

Linear Actuators from Heason Technology

Our range of linear actuators comes from our supplier Thomson Linear. They are well suited to a wide variety of applications and offer easy mounting and are easy to operate. They require very little maintenance and can work for a length of time even under the harshest conditions.

Some of our linear actuators offer bespoke stroke lengths so contact us to discuss your application and we will find a solution to support you.

If you require further information on linear actuators please contact the team at Heason.

Article published on: 30/06/2020