How to Choose a Linear Actuator

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This article post is for those who are new to linear actuators and are looking for some guidance in choosing an actuator for a project. In basic terms a linear actuator is a device that produces motion in a straight line and is powered by an external energy source. This motion is commonly achieved with a rod extending and retracting or with a slider that moves on a track. Linear actuators have an almost limitless number of applications. They are used in the health care sector, in machine and industrial work applications, in home and office automation, in solar tracking systems, and even in aerospace technology. The following steps will help you in determining which linear actuator will suit your application.

Step 1: Determine the Amount of Force Required

What is the weight of the object to be moved or lifted in your project? Firgelli Automations carries a range of products from mini linear actuators with a force capacity of 15 lbs to industrial heavy duty linear actuators capable of moving forces up to 2000 lbs.

Step 2: Determine the Distance the Actuator Needs to Move

What is the distance that you want to move something in your project? This is called the stroke length and it determines how far the linear actuator will move in one direction. Firgelli Automations carries various linear actuators with strokes ranging from 1" up to 60".

Step 3: Determine the Speed Required

Does your current project need to move fast or slow? The speed of a linear actuator is measured in distance per second. The specification sheet for a linear actuator will tell you the speed that the actuator is rated for. Generally, the higher the force required the slower the actuator will move.

Step 4: Based on Your Project Choose a Type of Linear Actuator

With the technical specifications of your project worked out you can see which linear actuators will work with your parameters. Different types of linear actuators are better suited to certain projects. Rod-style actuators are the most common and simply feature a shaft which extends and retracts. Track actuators are great for tight spaces where a sliding block is ideal due to its unchanging length whether extended or retracted. A column lift is ideal if you need an actuator with a long stroke in relation to its retracted size. And of course there are actuators to lift your TV or drop down your TV.

Now that you know the basics of linear actuators you will be able to choose one for your next project. To find out more creative uses for linear actuators and see how some of our customers are using them, check out the Firgelli pages on Instructables and YouTube.