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Linear actuators can be powered by electricity, pressurized fluid, or air. In this post, we will break down the key advantages and disadvantages (pros and cons) of hydraulic, pneumatic, and electric linear actuators. Additionally, you will be able to see the key differences of an electric over hydraulic linear actuator or a pneumatic over electric linear actuator, for example.
Hydraulic linear actuators utilize a piston-cylinder configuration. An incompressible liquid from a pump fills the cylinder and forces the piston to move. With increased pressure, the piston moves linearly inside the cylinder, and the speed can be adjusted by changing the flow rate of the fluid. A high-speed hydraulic actuator is not only fast, but can supply a significant force. The piston returns to its retracted position by either a spring-back force or fluid being supplied to the opposite side.
Pneumatic actuators function in a similar way to hydraulic actuators with the difference being the driving fluid is air rather than hydraulic fluid. The gas is compressed in a piston-cylinder setup which creates a linear force.
Electric linear actuators convert rotational motion into linear motion. Rotational motion is first generated by the electric motor. This high-speed rotational motion is then reduced by a gearbox to increase the torque that will be used to turn the lead screw. The turning of the lead screw results in linear motion of the acme drive nut. Think of it like driving a screw into a piece of wood, but rather than the screw moving towards the wood, the wood will be moving towards or away from the screw depending on the direction of rotation.
All three technologies have their place in the industry, but the flexibility of electric linear actuators, coupled with the fact that the price of electric components has been steadily decreasing over the years, makes them a more popular choice than they once were. Knowing what actuator is best for your application depends on your working environment.
If you require further assistance on selecting the right electric linear actuator for your application, give us a call at 1-800-676-6123, or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.