Why Use an Electric Actuator?

In many ways, electric actuators are the holy grail. They are precise, efficient, fast to respond, have low support requirements, can be bought cheaply, can be easily retrofitted into existing environments, and in principal can be configured for absurd output torque. There aren’t a lot of downsides here. We’ve harnessed hydraulic and pneumatic power to move things, but that was always a multi-step procedure. With electronics? Nearly everything is built right into the actuator.   Minimal Install Requirements Facilities using hydraulics and pneumatics need to provide hoses, valves, pumps, compressors, reservoirs, and more. It’s a lot of hardware just to make something move. That’s a lot of money, maintenance time, and space just to have your fully automated, multi-zone heating system. It’s a lot even if you’re automating a brewery or bakery, where the equipment will ultimately save time and money. Facilities using electrical actuators however, need only provide power and control signals. In some cases, multi-phase power is required, but that mostly boils down to some extra electrical panels and service wires. Each actuator is pretty much independent and will operate regardless of what the rest of the facility is doing. That’s less hardware to keep track of, fewer failure points, and overall easier maintenance. In terms of a retrofit in existing facilities, that pretty much means you remove the old actuator, install the new one, and plug it in. In principal, it’ll just plugin and work. It’s hard […]

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Why Use a Hydraulic Actuator?

There are 3 principal ways to power an actuator. There’s electrical, pneumatic, and hydraulic actuators. Generally speaking, the most expensive set up is going to be a hydraulic system. A single hydraulic actuator can cost ten times what a pneumatic or electrical one would. This begs the question, why would you buy something with such a premium?   Basics of Hydraulics This all starts with the simple fact that fluids don’t compress. You can put water in a sealed piston and push down on it, but all it will do is distribute that force to the walls of the piston. Maybe it’ll squeeze in by 1/1,000,000,000th of its volume, but in large part, one liter of fluid is going to always take up that volume. This is amazingly useful. It means we can use fluids as an almost universal connection. Think about it, to connect a powerful motor to anything, you need linkages, gears, chains, and bulky hardware. It’s noisy and takes up a ton of space. If you want to connect multiple devices to that motor, they all need to either run at the same time and speed or require complex gearboxes to connect or disconnect them. This would take up a ton of space and make our modern lives suck in innumerable ways. With a hydraulic system however, we can get around all this bulk. There can be one or two large motors, powered by anything that fits […]

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Motor Vs. Actuator

For a lot of people, motors and actuators may seem like the same thing. Movement is involved, they may well sound the same, there’s some kind of energy source going in, and there’s no way your facility will function without both of them. In principal, they both use the same technologies, they can even look the same, but they’re different beasts.   The Easy Difference The easiest way to tell a motor and actuator apart is by how they’re being used. A motor is designed to spin at a relatively high RPM for significant spans of time. Think of the motor in your AC Compressor, a fuel pump, the mixer or coffee grinder sitting on your kitchen counter. If you turned it on and left it to function forever, there would be no consequences except for the motor failing. By contrast, an actuator has a linear output, instead of a continuous output. It moves a damper, valve, elevator, or some other device that has a limited range. Think about your car door, it can be all the way open, half open, closed, or anywhere in between. If you wanted to mechanically open it, that’d be an ideal job for an actuator. If you used a simple motor, you’d run the risk of going over 100% open or over 100% closed, and damage/destroy the door. If you used a device that isn’t intended to stop at an exact position, you’d break […]

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How Does a Solenoid Work?

At it’s heart, an electric motor is converting a pushing and pulling motion into a rotational motion. The coils on the rotor all pull in opposite directions from opposing sides, which makes things spin. What if we didn’t have opposing sides and we weren’t trying to spin? We’d make the ‘rotor’ pop up and down instead, wouldn’t we? Applications This […]

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