Choose the Best – Electric Actuator vs. Hydraulic Actuator

Actuators are systems that convert energy into torque to move components in various equipment. Even if you’re unfamiliar with actuators, you encounter them daily in machines like vehicle brake lines, industrial robots, and cell phones. The motions that actuators produce can be linear (straight lines) or rotary (revolving on an axis).

Actuators get their power through several means, including electricity or a hydraulic system. Though they each have advantages and disadvantages, people tend to lean more toward electric over hydraulic actuators. Still, it’s best to have all the facts about linear actuators to determine which variety will suit your needs best.

What Is an Electric Actuator?

A linear electric actuator uses electricity from a motor to generate power. When electricity flows through the system, the motors rotate a lead screw with a nut on a thread. The direction in which the nut moves on the line depends on the direction the screw turns.

Advantages and Disadvantages

If you need an actuator with both speed and accuracy, it’s best to go with an electric over a hydraulic linear actuator. These systems can function at up to 80% efficiency with the ability to stop in any position.

The units tend to be small, require little maintenance, and have no external components. Many of them also have fail-safe brakes called acme screw units to initiate self-locking if the motor loses power.

A significant drawback to electric linear actuators is the cost. Their design, efficiency, and construction usually mean a higher upfront cost. These actuators are also not ideal for hazardous areas or continual running because they can overheat.

What Is a Hydraulic Actuator?

Unlike an electric actuator, the hydraulic version does not rely on an electric motor for energy. Instead, a hydraulic actuator gets its power from hydraulic fluid consisting of various oils. The presence of the liquid creates pressure that forces cylinders in the system to move in straight lines.

Advantages and Disadvantages

Hydraulic actuators are incredibly powerful with high load capacities, making them the ideal system for high-force applications. They function well under intense pressure. The hydraulic fluid responsible for creating movement is incompressible so that the actuator can hold an impressive amount of force.

Unfortunately, the presence of hydraulic fluid means these actuators are prone to leaks. They require a lot of maintenance and plumbing to ensure that the systems are in good condition. The linear actuators have a decent speed, but accurately controlling them can be challenging due to the periodic jerking motion that occurs when it shifts from being still to moving.

How Electric Actuators Are Better Than Hydraulic

If you’re wondering if you should choose an electric over a hydraulic actuator, it’s best to remember that both options have their purposes in various industries, despite their drawbacks. However, electric actuators are a favorite for many due to their precision, safety, small size, and speed.

Though some businesses find hydraulic actuators appealing due to their low upfront costs, they could spend more on routine maintenance and repairs for leaks and numerous external components. It costs more to install an electric actuator, but the installs are quick, and the units don’t require much care.

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Creative Motion Control is a top manufacturer of USA-made linear motion control products. Since 2002, we have been developing innovative motion control technologies for some of the world’s biggest companies. If you prefer electric over hydraulic actuators, contact us today. Our team will reach out to discuss your needs.

Waterproof Linear Actuator Uses

Linear actuators make life easier for you and your employees. The innovative technology behind these tools enables your machinery to maneuver heavy objects around your workplace easily.

The shortest distance between two points is a straight line. The basis of linear actuators is to transform rotational movement to linear movement, helping you maintain efficiency in your workplace.

Creative Motion Control is a progressive business that provides top-notch technological solutions for businesses in many industries. Our clients come from the manufacturing, defense, forestry, and aeronautical industries to implement our advanced products.

We can help your team work smarter, not harder. Our products create more fluidity in the workplace and allow you to accomplish more each day.

Different Types of Waterproof Linear Actuators

We offer a wide range of waterproof linear actuator options for your business, such as:


The PA-06 helps resist dust and water for a half-hour during operation. Even when submerged under water, the actuator does not lose its function. Many companies in the marine industry come to us for this product.

Also, we offer a mounted bracket suitable for this type of actuator. This product has an IP67M rating, which is high quality.


If you want to take it up a notch, try the PA-10 IP68M waterproof electric linear actuator. This tool is the highest-rated waterproof actuator on the market. The actuator resists water up to three meters deep and can protect itself from inclement weather and water jets.

Many applications are compatible with this tool. We can discuss which will work best for your business.

Benefits of Linear Actuators

There are many benefits that a linear actuator provides to your business.


One of the issues with standard electric actuators is they do not work well in areas with high humidity or water. That is why our engineers constantly develop new products such as waterproof linear actuators that maintain their efficiency in water.

If your business operations intersect with water in any way, this is the product for you.

Be in Control

Our waterproof actuators allow you to control a multitude of things such as pressure, speed, and stroke length.

If your business needs things to be precise, a linear actuator is one of the best purchases you can make. The self-contained design of our actuators makes them easy to use and durable.


One of the many reasons businesses opt for linear actuators is that their current machinery does not have much flexibility.

A linear actuator makes it so your machines can travel forward and backward seamlessly. This benefit saves you a lot of time and allows for more workplace automation.

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Creative Motion Control is at the forefront of the fourth Industrial Revolution. Our technological capacity knows no bounds, and we love a challenge. Some of the world’s largest companies rely on us to increase the efficiency of their offices and warehouses. By implementing our products, you can be one step ahead of your competition and achieve more each day.

If you require a waterproof linear actuator, contact us today. We will be in touch to discuss your needs and walk you through our implementation process.

Linear Actuator Limit Switch

A linear actuator limit switch will increase your workplace productivity and efficiency. Linear motion control is becoming more vital to businesses worldwide each year.

Many manufacturing machines cannot handle the stress of lugging around dense objects. Thus, you should invest in a low maintenance limit switch actuator to get more longevity out of your machinery.

Creative Motion Control is a forward-thinking business that aims to develop innovative solutions for manufacturing, defense, and aerospace businesses.

Our motion technology helps your business become more efficient due to our talented engineering staff. Our team is full of intuitive engineers who have a world-class engineering skill set. Whether you are interested in our roller screws, linear actuators, or want us to develop a custom product, do not hesitate to contact us.

Why Do You Need Linear Actuators?

Simply put, a linear actuator switch kit makes carrying and transporting heavy loads possible with the click of a button. Industries such as manufacturing and aerospace businesses that frequently maneuver large objects find linear actuators practical.

The purpose of a linear actuator limit switch is to change the motion of an AC or DC motor from rotational to linear. This transformation makes your machines operate more efficiently.

Types of Linear Actuators

There are several different configurations for a line actuator limit switch.


The most popular configurations for actuators are belt-driven and screw-driven. These configurations make the actuator capable of lifting, carrying, and transporting heavy objects. There are many screw types you can use with these configurations. Our team will recommend the best option for your specific needs.

Pneumatic Driven

Pneumatic-driven actuators have electric qualities but are not under the electrical linear actuator umbrella. It is best to customize pneumatic-driven actuators to fit your desired load capacity.

Linear Motor Driven

If precision is what you are after, linear motor-driven actuators are your best bet. These actuators use profiled rails as their guide system and offer the highest travel accuracy. 

Pros and Cons of Linear Actuators

Pro 1: Low Maintenance

Our electrical, adjustable limit switch linear actuators eliminate the lubrication issues most actuators often face. We fill our linear limit switch actuators with oil for adequate lubrication. Thus, you have little to no maintenance to perform on your actuator switch.

Plus, this process prevents overloading, which can stop the actuator.

Pro 2: Ultimate Control

Perhaps the greatest attribute of an electric linear actuator is the control it gives you. You can configure factors such as speed, stroke lengths, and applied pressure.

Also, electric switches are quieter than their pneumatic and hydraulic counterparts and give you optimal flexibility in both their extracted and retracted positions.

Con 1: High Initial Cost

One of the disadvantages of electric linear actuators is it costs more upfront. However, with the higher expense, you get more longevity out of the limit switch.

Plus, you get more flexibility than pneumatic or hydraulic actuators.

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Creative Motion Control is proud to serve many different industries, as our high-level products provide solutions to productivity and efficiency problems in the workplace. Top-notch engineers design all of our products, giving you peace of mind that any product you buy from us is top-of-the-line. If you would like to give one of our products a shot, shoot us a message. We will get back to you as soon as possible and accommodate your every request.

Micro Linear Actuators

Micro linear actuators may sound like technology out of the space age, and in a way, they are—out of the space-saving age. These little machines work behind the scenes to turn clutter into clarity in your home or office space. Micro linear actuators pack a punch in a smaller package.

These practical micros are becoming more common in the consumer market and have a long history of use in the medical and automotive fields. Have you ever thought about the innovative engineering behind the movement of your vehicle’s side mirrors as you adjust them to fit your perspective? Or the delicate operation of a robotic arm in a medical setting?

Creative Motion Control has thought about these applications for linear actuators. We think a lot about how our game-changing motion control technologies create small parts that make a big impact.

Types of Micro Linear Actuators

Micro linear actuators have all the performance and functionality of an electronic linear actuator in a compact, space-saving size. They come in three types: electronic, hydraulic, and pneumatic.

Electronic Micro Linear Actuators run on electricity.

Hydraulic Actuators operate on hydraulic power, and

Pneumatic linear actuators use compressed air to power the device pneumatically.

Each type has its benefits and downsides. Our engineering and design experts can talk through your project idea with you to figure out which actuator design, stroke length, speed, and force best suits your needs.

Do you need multiple programmable speeds? If so, an electronic actuator might be your best option. Do you need the most powerful actuator out there that exhibits the most force? Then, consider a hydraulic or pneumatic model.

Characteristics of Micro Linear Actuators

Technically speaking, linear actuators convert rotary motion into linear motion. Practically speaking, they transform non-functional spaces into innovative storage compartments. Adding movement to what was once stationary increases functionality and accessibility and brings machines to life!  

The unique oil lubrication system of our linear actuators makes them maintenance-free for almost all applications.

Replacing bulky hydraulic and pneumatic actuators with electronic micro actuators results in lower energy consumption and increased functionality, along with ease of installation and maintenance. Micro linear actuators ensure space and energy efficiency, leaving a smaller footprint in your square footage and electrical grid.

Uses of Micro Linear Actuators

Turning rotational energy into linear movement, micro actuators are ideally suited for use in space-saving projects in your home or office. They can give motion to products that tuck away beds in tiny homes or houseboats or raise a TV from a hidden storage compartment in your RV or cabin getaway.

If you’re striving to make your home or business more accessible, you need micro linear actuators to power stairlifts, extend ramps, or raise and lower tables and counters.

Whether it’s utilizing that lost space in your home or increasing efficiency on the production floor, let our team at Creative Motion Control help transform your space through movement. Contact us in Woodinville, WA, at (425) 800-8045 or get in touch through our website.

High Speed Linear Actuators

high speed linear actuator

Creative Motion Control is proud to stock the PA-15 High Speed Linear Actuator. This overview will
describe high speed linear actuators like the PA-15, how they work, and why they are vital part in
modern industry.

What Is an Ultra High Speed Linear Actuator?

An actuator is a component in a device that makes a particular kind of motion happen. Actuators are
usually part of a larger system that includes sensors, structural components, and elements that interact
with the world in a particular way.
Different types of actuators produce different types of motion. A linear actuator produces motion in a
straight line and is appropriate for use when transferring various kinds of energy, such as rotational
energy, into linear motion.
Electric elevators and motorized wheelchair lifts use linear motion, so they rely on linear actuators. A
typical car jack is an example of a mechanical linear actuator. It converts the rotational motion provided
by the user into energy that moves a vehicle up or down. High speed linear actuators are typically used
when lighter loads need to be moved at higher speeds.
The P-15 ultra high speed linear actuators can achieve speeds as high as 9 inches per second, making it
suitable for applications that require rapid movements such as sorting and movements of a robotic arm.

Important Features of a High Speed Heavy Duty Linear Actuator

An actuator must have a mechanism to obtain energy. For example, a car jack’s lever connects to a gear
that transfers energy to the lifting element. In electric linear actuators, an electrical motor typically
rotates a gear. For actuators driven by gears, the gear size and thread width influence the function.
Consider the gears on a bicycle or in a car’s transmission.
A linear actuator must have a component that is capable of moving in a straight line, from side to side,
or up and down.
High speed linear actuator must typically be mounted securely to a stable structure so that the actuator
itself remains fixed in place while in operation. In some cases, like with a car jack, the weight of the
actuator keeps it stable. However, for precision control, mounting and other stabilization processes might be necessary.

Applications of a Linear Actuator (High Speed)

Recent trends toward automation and the development of the Internet of Things (IoT) have allowed the
digital world to have a direct physical impact. Automated factories, robot surgery, autonomous vehicles,
and several other systems operate under computer or computer-assisted control. Software must be able
to move real-world objects precisely and rapidly to accomplish many tasks. Here are just a few examples
of practical applications of high speed linear actuator technology.
● NASA’s rovers depend on actuators for precise control of sensors and instruments for analyzing
mars, asteroids, and other locations in space.
● In robot and remote surgery, linear actuators generate precise movements of surgical
● The United States Postal Service uses linear actuators for high-speed automated sorting of mail.

The Power Source of a High Speed Linear Actuator (12V)

Actuators are often powered by electricity but can be powered by other energy sources, such as steam
or compressed gas. Piezoelectric actuators generate linear motion by using specialized materials that
produce mechanical energy (in other words, they push) in response to an electrical current.
The P-15 High Speed Linear Actuator uses a 12V power source so that it can run on a conventional U.S.
power outlet, eliminating the need for adaptors, transformers, or alternative sources of power.

Generation and Transmission of Rotational Energy in a High
Speed 12 Volt Linear Actuator

Linear actuators can convey rotational energy in different ways. For example, gears and belts can
transmit rotational energy. Gear-driven actuators are called rack-and-pinion actuators, with pinion being
another word for gear.
The P-15 High Speed Linear Actuator uses a 12 volt DC motor that imparts energy to a steel alloy gear,
which generates rotational energy that must be converted into linear motion. The motor has a 20% duty
cycle, meaning it can be on up to four minutes within a twenty-minute time frame.

Conversion of Rotational Energy to Linear Energy in a High
Speed 12 Volt Linear Actuator

For a linear actuator to function, it must effectively generate linear motion of some component from the
rotational movement of the belt or gear.
In the rack-and-pinion actuator, a gear (the pinion) contacts a linear structure with cogs called the rack.
As the gear turns, it slides the rack sideways.

A lead screw linear actuator consists of a threaded screw and a nut that encircles the screw. As the nut
rotates, the screw moves relative to the nut and anything attached to it. In some actuators, the nut
moves sideways, and the screw is fixed. In others, the nut is fixed, and the screw moves.
In roller screw actuators, rollers are placed between the screw and the nut surfaces to reduce friction. In
ball screw actuators, ball bearings are placed in grooves between the screw and the nut to produce the
same effect.
In the PA-15, the linear motion is achieved by the motion of a screw, like in the previous examples.

Mounting of High Speed High Force Linear Actuators

There are two common ways to mount an actuator: stationary mounting and dual-pivot mounting.
Stationary mounting is particularly suitable for situations where allowing the actuator housing to move
exposes it to vibration or makes precise control difficult. If the actuator is moving delicate equipment or
controlling precision movements, stationary mounting could improve performance and extend the life
of the equipment.
Dual-pivot mounting connects each end of the actuator with a pin or other connector and allows the
actuator to swivel. This gives the actuator freedom to move while remaining attached to the power
source. Clevis mounts and trunnions are common mounts for dual-pivot mounting.
If you need to pivot along more than one axis, a spherical mount is an appropriate choice.
Many factors must be considered when choosing a mounting style, such as speed, type of rotation, the
nature of the equipment being used, the need for stability, and other factors. It is critical to be aware of
the stresses that motion could place on the actuator and other components. The mount should allow
motion in desired directions while preventing unwanted movement and vibration.
The PA-15 is mounted using BRK-15 mounting brackets that are compatible with dual-pivot mounting.

Control of High Speed Linear Actuators

Linear actuators can be “smart” technology. They can be connected to the internet for remote operation
or controlled by a computer system. The actuator could be controlled by a human operator, a remote-
control device, a Wi-Fi signal, or an internal computer.
Automation and autonomous control of devices is a developing field. New advances in machine learning,
neural networks, and other forms of digital technology enable increasingly sophisticated autonomous

The P-15 High Speed Linear Actuator is designed to work with control boxes that easily plug into the
actuator for computer control. Creative Motion Control staff can help to find a control box to suit each
customer’s needs.

Customization of High Speed Linear Actuators

Depending on the application, high speed linear actuators can have additional features. High Speed
Linear actuators like the PA-15 are durable. However, some applications exceed the limits of what most
linear actuators are designed for. High speed linear actuators can be customized to be waterproof,
shielded from radiation, or capable of working in other extreme environments.
● A lock can prevent the actuator from moving in one or both directions.
● A stop block prevents the actuator from moving beyond a certain range.
● Feedback from a motion sensor could allow for adaptive control of the actuator that takes into
account its own motion. For example, an actuator with a motion sensor could use the positional
feedback to stabilize an instrument moved by the wind or an impact. It could also send an error
signal if the actuator is stuck.
High Speed Linear Actuators stocked by Creative Motion Control have anti-rotation capability, are IP65
compliant, and can be customized in many ways. Please consult Creative Motion Control to find out
what options are available. The staff will work with you to create a high speed linear actuator ideal for
your application.

Which High Speed Linear Actuator Is Right for You?

Now that you’ve seen the benefits of high speed linear actuators, contact Creative Motion Control to
discuss how to integrate linear actuators and other precision components into your projects. For long
life and efficient operation, it is essential to choose components that are the most appropriate for a
specific task.
The team at Creative Motion Control is driven by innovation. For nearly two decades, they’ve built a
thriving company, and now, they rank among the top suppliers of linear motion control products,
including high speed linear actuators. They have the expertise to help you select the best option from
their stock of high quality, high speed linear actuators, mount it properly, and integrate it seamlessly
into your system.

Variable Speed Linear Actuator

linear actuator

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A Short Introduction To Linear Actuators

An electromechanical linear actuator serves as a standard machine component that converts an electric rotary motor’s rotational movement into a linear force. Linear actuators require a power source input and a control signal input to function. When receiving energy and a control signal input, a linear actuator will create linear force to perform a specified mechanical task.

What Are Variable Speed Linear Actuators?

Variable speed linear actuators utilize the same electromechanical principles as a standard linear actuator to generate a push and/or pull movement. However, with a variable speed linear actuator, users can control the amount of force created to dictate the speed at which the
actuator operates.

A linear actuator consists of the following main components:
● AC or DC motor
● Gearbox
● Spindle or lead screw
● Rod
● Drive nut
The push/pull force generated by a linear actuator allows machines to lift, lower, or otherwiseadjust a target based on an operator’s external signals. Electric actuators remain safe to use and easy to install. Typically, machines utilize actuators to perform repetitive tasks that mayprove too hazardous to execute manually.

As the number of applications for linear actuators continues to grow, the consumer publicbecomes more exposed to their purpose and function. We now see linear actuators in homes,used for various convenient tasks like lifting a pop-up television or standing desk.

Variable speed linear actuators provide operators with an increased level of control over a given subject matter, improving a specified task’s overall safety and producing more reliable, accurate results.

Electric linear actuators cost less, last longer, and require less clearance than most hydraulic and pneumatic actuators. Plus, they represent an environmentally friendly, energy-efficient solution to many everyday tasks.

Types of Variable Speed Linear Actuators

Designs for variable speed linear actuators continue to evolve and improve. They have become more precise, accurate, and efficient over time, leading to the development of high-speed actuators. Let’s go over the main types of variable speed linear actuators.


Rod actuators represent the most commonly known type of actuator. This type of actuator comes in two main forms: classic and bullet. Let’s discuss both styles of rod actuators in turn.


Classic or standard rod actuators serve as the most widely seen style of linear actuators. They consist of:
AC or DC motor – The motor converts electricity into rotational motion.
Gears – The gears slow the rotational force, increase torque, and transfer energy to the lead screw.
Lead screw – The lead screw rotates, forcing the rod into inward and outward linear motion.
Rod – The rod’s movement allows the actuator to push, pull, and adjust an object.

With classic rod actuators, the motor remains mounted to the side of the rod. In most cases, it sits parallel to the rest of the actuator. In other cases, such as some ultra high-speed linear actuators, it rests perpendicular to the rest of the device.


Inventors developed the bullet rod actuator to fit into tight spaces. Instead of a side-mounted
motor, bullet actuators possess an in-line motor, creating a slimmer, sleeker profile. The thinner
profile allows for new applications that previously seemed too intricate for the extra bulk of a
side-mounted motor. As a result, bullet actuators have a more extended design than classic


Much like rod actuators, track actuators possess an AC or DC motor, gears, and lead screw. However, in place of a rod, track actuators have a carriage that slides along the length of the rotating lead screw. The length of a track actuator’s stroke remains limited to the length of the lead screw or spindle. The limits on range-of-motion make track actuators simpler to integrate.
One major drawback of track actuators involves the tracks themselves because they sit outside the device. This design exposes the tracks to grease, grime, dust, and other debris, which can gum up the works and impede the carriage from sliding up and down the tracks.

Lifting Columns

Lifting columns also possess a motor, gears, and lead screw but have neither a rod nor carriage. Instead, the lead screw pushes out one of several collapsing, telescopic columns. As their name implies, lifting columns lift objects along a vertical axis. This movement restricts the number of applications available to lifting columns, but it also allows manufacturers to make them more rugged than the other types of linear actuators.

The Benefits of Variable Speed Linear Actuators

A linear actuator with variable speed offers potentially limitless benefits due to the frequent discovery of new applications. However, certain benefits will apply to the use of all variable speed actuators. Let’s go over some of the most common benefits of variable speed linear actuators.

Simple Design

Compared to that of pneumatic and hydraulic options, the simpler design of an electric linear actuator allows for a greater range of applications. An electric linear actuator easily incorporates into existing machinery, requires fewer replacement parts, and demonstrates a high level of reliability.

Easy Installation

In most cases, electric linear actuators represent the easiest mechanical solution. Integration with other machine components proves trouble-free because the electrical energy input and electrical signal input allow a linear actuator to interface well with computer processors and other electrical equipment.


The simple design of a linear actuator increases the device’s overall durability. A well-made linear actuator will last for years, if not decades, without much maintenance. This longevity makes linear actuators an ideal mechanical solution when incorporated into products used by unsophisticated consumers.

Low Maintenance

The ever-growing popularity of electric linear actuators stems from their reliability, even without receiving regular maintenance. Owners of a linear actuator need only apply lubrication on rare occasions. Other than that, keeping the device free from damage represents the only care users
need to provide.

Low Operating Cost

Compared to hydraulic and pneumatic linear actuators, electric actuators cost very little tooperate. Whereas hydraulic and pneumatic actuators require constant power to maintain position, an electric actuator can hold its place without any energy consumed. Plus, electric actuators remain less likely to break down than hydraulic and pneumatic options.

Compact Size

Electric actuators take up far less space than pneumatic and hydraulic linear actuators. This benefit expands the number of applications for electric linear actuators because their smaller size allows for creative new ways to integrate them into complex machinery. Also, the compact profile of electric actuators leads to a smaller footprint of the machine into which it is integrated.


Individuals who have ever used a hydraulic and pneumatic linear actuator know how much noise they can produce. Upon reaching full extension or retraction, non-electrical actuators can create a loud banging sound. On the other hand, electric actuators create far less noise, making them suitable for more sensitive applications.

Environmentally Friendly

Electric actuators rely on relatively clean energy. A rare failure of an electric linear actuator produces no toxins or contaminants. However, the failure of a pneumatic or hydraulic actuator can lead to the expulsion of various forms of pollution into the local environment. For this reason, electric actuators serve as the preferred solution for sensitive projects.

Common Uses for Variable Speed Linear Actuators

It would prove impossible to count all of the current uses for variable speed linear actuators because new applications emerge every day. Human creativity has lent itself to developing thousands of systems with integrated linear actuators, from practical, useful projects to wacky, over-the-top art installations.

Take a look at some of the more common, practical uses for variable speed linear actuators:

● Agricultural equipment
● Food and beverage manufacturing
● Robotics
● Automatic sliding doors
● Sliding windows
● Adjustable solar panels
● Particulate collection containers
● Automatic sliding side steps in vehicles
● Mechanized hatches
● Automatic cutting devices b ● Kitchen appliance lifts
● Automatic valves
● Electronic throttle control
● Computer printers

Who Manufactures Variable Speed Linear Actuators

Variable speed linear actuators play a crucial role in countless machines. The versatility and cost-effectiveness of actuators generate high demand. To meet this demand, many companies manufacture variable speed linear actuators. Some manufacturers focus on making actuators for particular purposes. But, many companies create multipurpose actuators for general use.

Many of the companies that produce high-quality actuators operate out of the United States. For example, Creative Motion Control manufactures innovative linear actuators that possess unique grooved roller bearing and planetary roller screw designs. These designs contribute to longer lifespans for our actuators and increase their load capacity.

Businesses and consumers will find a wide variety of variable speed linear actuators on the market. For that reason, it remains vital to select the correct actuator for a particular project. Choosing a suitable, high-performance actuator provides increased efficiency and extended longevity while picking the wrong actuator will create current and future headaches.

You don’t have to go it alone. The friendly staff at Creative Motion Control remains available to all of our customers. Contact us to help you identify a suitable linear actuator for your specific application and provide any assistance that you may need.

How to Replace a Linear Actuator Micro Limit Switch

If you have some mechanical experience, you might know about linear actuators. If not, these are devices that create a movement along a straight line.

Manufacturers often include actuators in pneumatic or hydraulic machinery, and they can be either electrical or mechanical. Though linear actuators can be large enough to operate a swing boom crane, a small linear actuator can fit inside little nooks and tight spaces.

The actuator is a crucial component of limit switches or micro limit switches for the smaller variety. Here, we take a closer look at the switches for a small linear actuator and see how to replace them under various conditions.

What Are Limit Switches?

A limit switch is an electromechanical device that detects the presence or absence of an object. The purpose of the component is to create an endpoint an item can travel before it stops. The switches can also monitor an object’s movement limits and indicate if it has exceeded its limitations.

How Do Limit Switches Work?

Standard limit switches consist of a mechanical actuator with connections to multiple electrical contacts. When the object or target touches the actuator, the component’s plunger’s movement causes the contacts inside the switch to close its electrical connection for a normally open circuit. Likewise, it can open the connection for a normally closed circuit.

The limit switch controls or alters the state of the electrical switch with the actuator plunger’s movement. Unlike photoelectric, inductive, or capacitive proximity sensors that can perform the same function without making direct contact with a target, a limit switch requires a connection. Most limit switches have a mechanical operation, and their electrical contacts alternate between higher currents than proximity sensors.

Micro Limit Switches

A micro limit switch is a type of limit switch you can usually find on control circuits. They are much smaller than the standard variety, resulting in the need for a small linear actuator. Ideally, you can install micro switches in narrow spaces that other models could not fit inside.

The micro switch has two components operating on one terminal. One switch is to open the current (normally closed) and one to close it (normally opened). The technical configuration for the switch is Single Pole Double Throw or SPDT.

Most micro switch limit switches contain an actuating plunger near its top that travels a small distance to make contact with the target and trigger the electrical contacts to open or close. The switch will depress the plunger for a predetermined number of times before it starts an action.

It’s possible to change the micro switch’s contact positions because they allow for a small degree of movement. Also, a spring-loaded mechanism allows the contacts to snap into different places as needed.

Micro switch designs include a range of activating arms and electrical connections of around 250 volts of alternating current. They often have fixing holes for users to mount them to a fixed surface quickly.

Types of Limit Switches

Limit switches typically fall into one of these four categories.


These sensors operate similarly to animal whiskers, hence the name. The guitar string sensor attached to the head of the switch can detect nearby objects within its environment. When something disturbs the sensor, it sends a pulse to the switch to either stop and retract the actuator or stop and extend it.

You can find these micro switches in robotics or within assembly lines.


Bin filling and conveyor systems often include roller limit switches within their operations. The plunger has a roller operating head that can perform a horizontal or vertical motion to trigger the limit switch. Most roller switches include cams or rotating wheel bumps that actuate the switch contacts when the cam touches the roller.


This limit switch uses a physical lever to operate an electrical switch to perform a simple on and off function. The level or toggle can move back and forth to activate or deactivate the limit switch by allowing its electrical contact points to touch together and complete the circuit.

Lever limit switches can range in size to control mechanical functions, but they are usually large and can control anything from turn signal to cruise control in vintage cars with modern amenities.


Plunger limit switches work by pushing down on the linear actuator with rollers, pushbuttons, or pins. They are ideal for products with small spaces, and you can typically find them on assembly line operations.

Snap Action Micro Switch

The most common type of micro limit switch is the snap action variety. It uses an actuating lever to create a fast switch with minimal pressure on the actuator. It’s sufficient enough to produce at least a million operations, and you can find them in lamps, motors, and pressure switches.

Applications for Various Micro Limit Switches

You can find uses for these switches throughout various aspects of everyday life, including industrial equipment, consumer devices, building automation, and security applications. Their design requires them to be sensitive to pressure changes and movement, making them common in equipment that requires precise movements or measurements. These switches can also detect temperature.

Here are some of the practical applications for micro switches:

  • Microwaves: Manufacturers often include micro switches in devices, like microwaves, that use interlocking doors. For microwaves, a user must close the appliance’s door before they can turn it on.
  • Elevators: Micro switches are inside elevator doors to act as a safety switch.
  • Copiers and Printers: The device can detect when paper jams a copier or printer and signal the machine to stop until someone removes the clog.
  • Vending Machines: A switch can act as a leveling device to help vending machines disperse goods to consumers.
  • Washer and Dryer Machines: The switches in these appliances detect when the doors are open or closed so that the machine can turn off or on, respectively.

Other applications for these devices include:

  • Access control panels
  • HVAC units
  • Micro robotic applications
  • Timer controls
  • Turning mechanisms on surveillance cameras

How to Replace Small Linear Actuator Micro Limit Switch

These switches are simple, inexpensive, and generally require no maintenance during their long lifespan. Some models can last up to 10 million cycles.

However, if you need to replace a small linear actuator micro limit switch that isn’t functioning correctly, you can dismantle the device’s mounts and install a new one that fits your specifications.

It is worth noting that sometimes you may need to adjust the linear actuator’s stroke length to stop it before it fully retracts or extends and not replace the entire device. Because of a small linear actuator’s size, it may have an end-switch to cut the device’s power when it hits the end of its stroke in either direction or have an adjustable limit switch at all.

If the actuator doesn’t have the means to stop its power at the end of its stroke, the device can sustain damage as it burns out its motor and wears down its physical components.

External Limit Switch Kits for Linear Actuators

For linear actuators without a means to prevent damage to themselves from overworking, you can install an external limit switch kit to keep the device from burning out.

The limit switch kit consists of two switches with an external mount to connect to a control circuit to operate the actuator. You can adjust your actuator’s stroke with the equipment as long as any moving part of the mechanism makes contact with the switch, whether it’s a rod, block, or the actuator.

To install a small linear actuator limit switch kit, you will need:

  • A small linear actuator
  • An external limit switch kit
  • A power source
  • Your choice of a control switch
  • Wire stripper
  • Soldering iron or crimp connectors
  • Heat shrink tubing (for soldering connections only)

Connecting the external limit switch kit to the linear actuator is a simple process. To begin:

  1. Mount the external limit switches within the desired parameters for your actuator.
  2. Connect the control panel to the power source.
  3. Retract the actuator until the tip of the actuator is within these parameters.
  4. Connect the external limit switch to the ground cable within the kit. You can find this point between the linear actuator and the control source. Solder connections in place, if you wish, or use crimp connectors to prevent unintentional movement.
  5. Test the linear actuator’s movement to ensure that it retracts and extends when it touches the limit switches and doesn’t move farther than those parameters.

Looking for a Small Linear Actuator? Contact Us Today

A small linear actuator and limit micro switch have an abundance of everyday uses, whether you’re working with robotics, household appliances, building automation, or industrial devices.

If you would like more information about these devices or know what type of actuator you need, contact our Creative Motion Control team. Our team of expert technicians, researchers, and engineers make the best linear motion products on the market. To speak with a team member about your needs or request a quote, call (425) 800-8045 today.

Small Linear Actuator Can Accomplish Big Things

What Is a Small Linear Actuator?

An actuator is the part of a machine that receives a signal from a control device and puts other pieces of equipment in motion. Sounds pretty important, right? Actuators are vital to make sure that each part of a machine fires in synchronization.

Let’s take a look at what actuators can accomplish and how to use them – particularly small, linear models.

Small Part, Big Results

A small, or micro, actuator operates on a precise scale. Some models may travel just millimeters and can be finely adjusted by fractions of nanometers to provide tight control. This type of small linear actuator – 12V or less may be all the power they need – keeps machines running precisely.

However, do not mistake small for weak or unimportant. A well-chosen small linear actuator can accomplish big things.

Straight-Line Motion

When we describe a micro actuator as linear, we mean that the part produces movement along a straight path. This type of motion is seen in pneumatic and hydraulic devices. The other main type of actuators provides rotary, or circular, action.

In a micro linear actuator, small nuts, covers, and sliding tubes create a smooth path for the machinery to function. You might find some of these parts described as a small electric linear actuator, small DC linear actuator, or small linear thermoelectric actuator, but they all provide smooth motion along a single path in a compact piece of equipment.

Micro Linear Actuator Maintenance and Replacement

Of course, to keep your equipment running smoothly, you need to keep an eye on your parts and perform regular maintenance, such as replacing fluids. Measure your machine performance to determine when parts may need to be serviced. Older equipment may need to be replaced periodically.

If you are building a new machine or looking for a replacement part, consider the following options. If you need more information, an experienced professional can help you choose the right tool for the job. Creative Motion Control has a team of engineers, researchers, and technicians who can help you select the most appropriate equipment.

What Types of Micro Linear Actuators Are Available?

Actuators can be powered by hydraulic pistons, pneumatics, thermal energy, magnets, mechanical force, and, recently, supercoiled polymers. These types of machines power everything from exercise equipment to prosthetic limbs to bus brakes.

However, with a micro linear actuator, small electronics are a more likely source of power. They can provide the necessary charge to move many times their weight while remaining small enough to fit in precise machinery. As an added benefit, electrical equipment is environmentally friendly, and your micro linear actuator will produce practically no carbon footprint.

Luckily, there is a bevy of options for the professional or hobbyist looking for a small electric linear actuator.

Small DC Linear Actuator

DC stands for direct current, a type of electrical power. A small DC linear actuator can be powered by little charge. For example, some models require as little as 6V and weigh around 10 to 15 grams.

Equipment of this size and weight is ideal for small spaces requiring precise movement. Roboticists, medical manufacturers, and aerospace engineers all use this type of small DC linear actuator. However, it’s also an attractive size for hobbyists who need equipment that can pack a punch while operating in tight spaces.

Small 12 Volt Linear Actuator

A small 12-volt linear actuator is a particular type of small electric linear actuator that deserves special mention. This size of equipment provides a good balance of compact size and power.

For example, a 12V linear actuator may measure less than one foot or up to two and a half feet (when fully extended). With weights of about one to two pounds, each small 12V linear actuator can support several times its own weight. An actuator of this size may be able to move a dynamic force of up to 15 pounds or support 30 pounds of static force.

Built to survive temperatures ranging from far below freezing to over 100 degrees Fahrenheit, a small linear actuator can pack a wallop in a tiny frame and is rugged enough to stand up in many pieces of equipment.

Small Linear Thermoelectric Actuator

Like most equipment that depends on magnetic force, a small linear thermoelectric actuator is usually built with shape memory alloys that move when heated. This provides a great deal of force in a relatively small package, and a small linear thermoelectric actuator can be an appropriate choice if selected with care.

Users should be careful with all small electric actuators around water and other conductive material. With a small linear thermoelectric actuator, users must also be careful about the ambient temperature. Very hot or very cold conditions may make the equipment less productive, or even hazardous, so when considering which micro linear actuator is right for the job, consider the environment (or environments) in which it will have to work.

Which Micro Linear Actuator is Right for Me?

When looking for the right micro linear actuator for your job, consider the following factors.

  • Power Source
  • Motion and Accuracy
  • Compatible Peripherals
  • Safety Concerns
  • Job Site
  • Size and Weight
  • Dependability
  • Capacity
  • Price

Let’s look at each in turn.

Power Source

We’ve focused on electrical equipment on this page because that’s a common power source for machinery pieces at this scale. In particular, we’ve discussed some benefits of a small 12-volt linear actuator, which offers a mix of a compact size with serious power.

However, another option may be more appropriate for the work you have in mind depending on your space and power demands.

Motion and Accuracy

This probably goes without saying, but double-check that you are not buying a rotary piece of equipment if you are looking for a micro linear actuator.

This is also a good opportunity to think about the accuracy of the device you have in mind. Actuator precision at this scale is measured in nanometers. Different manufacturers guarantee different amounts of accuracy, so try to determine your needs before you invest.

Compatible Peripherals

Does your micro linear actuator require an external control board or other separate equipment? You shouldn’t rule out an appropriate piece just because it depends on a secondary piece of machinery, but make sure it fits with your current set-up or factor the purchase of additional peripherals into your costs.

Safety Concerns

As previously discussed, it’s vital to be careful with electronic devices around water and other conductive material. Remember to consider all the places your machinery will have to function to determine the safest equipment.

If you’ll be taking your machinery on the road, you might consider a micro linear actuator specifically designed for travel.

Size and Weight

If you’re in the market for a micro linear actuator, you probably value a tight fit and light frame. Keep in mind that many products have several models under one name. Specific models may only vary by a few inches, but at this scale, that could make the difference between a piece of equipment that works and one that rattles around or can’t squeeze into place.


To make sure you’re buying a dependable product, make your purchase from a reputable seller. Creative Motion Control specializes in rugged actuators built to last, with a unique oil lubrication system to keep your gear running smoothly for the long term. Anodized body parts protect equipment from dust and grime and make machinery easy to clean.


Remember that actuators are measured by both their dynamic (moving) power and their static (holding) power. A wise buyer considers both numbers to choose a micro linear actuator that can withstand the toughest demands whether the equipment is in motion or supporting a static load.


Some machine parts are built for aerospace engineers and biomedical researchers and may include features that a casual hobbyist doesn’t need. While all machines are important, buyers may be able to find a lower-cost micro linear actuator to suit their needs.

Of course, if you are shopping for all the bells and whistles, an experienced manufacturer can help you select the model that provides all the features you require.

Also, remember to factor the cost of any necessary peripherals into your budget if your chosen micro linear actuator requires additional equipment you don’t already own.

A Micro Linear Actuator Can Accomplish Big Things

When it comes to linear actuators, bigger is not always better. A small device can move many times its own weight while remaining light and compact enough to fit into tight spaces and make your machinery hum.

If you are looking for precise movement, consider purchasing a small electric linear actuator. With their small size, this gear allows highly accurate control over your machinery, whether you are a professional or a dedicated amateur.

Need a Micro Linear Actuator? Contact Creative Motion Control Today

Our team of engineers and researchers has been providing high-quality actuators since 2002. Call us today at (425) 800-8045 to discuss your needs, and one of our professionals will be happy to talk about your equipment and provide a quote.

Everything You Need to Know about How to Choose a Linear Actuator

Linear actuators are used in everything from industrial and agricultural machinery, robotics, cutting tools to everyday apparatus to control movements within a machine. Unlike electric motors that use a circular motion, linear actuators create straight motion. Linear actuators are powered by electricity, pressurized fluid, air, or manually.

Without actuators, industry would come to a standstill. That’s because actuators keep things moving—from automated production plants to values that pump fuel and fluids through machinery. Deciding which actuator is right for you depends on what you’re using it for and what works best for your work environment.

Difference Between Linear Actuators and Rotary Actuators

Actuators incorporate motors, cylinders, and other devices to produce rotation or linear movement. Rack and pinion systems, roller screws, and other types of power transmission components connect the motors or cylinders to their moving loads.

Motion and power source differentiate actuators. There are two main types of actuators: linear and rotary.

  • Linear actuators move objects along a straight line, typically in a back-and-forth motion. Movement of linear objects is described as distance. Linear actuators are used in everything from computers to industrial equipment. Regardless of where they’re used, the function is the same: to move something a precise distance.
  • Rotary actuators rotate objects so they can move at any angle. They can rotate continuously, incrementally, or a set amount—90 degrees, for example. The movement is measured in degrees.

In some cases, linear actuators begin with a rotary motor, but the rotation is converted to linear motion through a power screw or other device. Electric linear actuators developed by engineers at Washington-based Creative Motion Control use roller screws to transform rotary motion into linear movement. Roller screws have at least two times the load capacity of ball screws.

Both linear and rotary actuators often are used to operate control valves—a power-operated device used to regulate or manipulate the flow of fluids, such as gas, oil, water, and steam. The actuator delivers a signal to the control valve that opens or closes it and helps it regulate flow. A gate valve is a common linear control valve, and a butterfly valve is a common rotary valve.

How to Choose a Linear Actuator

Determining motion and force is key in selecting between a linear or rotary actuator. If you need a device to perform a tugging or circular motion, choose a rotary actuator. If you need a pushing motion, select a linear actuator. For now, let’s take a look at how to choose a linear actuator.

There are three main types of linear actuators:

  • Electric
  • Hydraulic
  • Pneumatic

Linear actuator products are used in many industries, including:

Each actuator type is essential to specific applications. However, recent advances in technology and manufacturing have allowed the devices to be interchangeable in some situations. Linear motion manufacturer Creative Motion Control has developed innovative new electric linear actuators to handle a wide range of applications.

Because of their flexibility, precision, and ease of use, electric linear actuators are a top choice for most linear project needs. However, each type of linear actuator has its benefits and drawbacks. It’s important to weigh each linear actuator’s functions, benefits, and disadvantages before deciding on the right actuator for your project.

Electric linear actuators

Electric linear actuators convert rotary motion into linear motion. These devices are designed to have fewer working parts than other actuators, which reduces maintenance and improves ease of use. Electric linear devices provide the highest precision control of any actuator.

Electric linear actuators work by using an electric motor to generate a high-speed motion slowed by a gearbox. This increases the torque that turns the lead screw. The lead screw prompts the linear motion of the drive nut.

Electric linear actuators are highly adaptable for almost any purpose. Key benefits include:

  • Highest precision-control of any actuator
  • Available in many sizes for superior project flexibility
  • Allow for multiple actuators to accurately move in sync
  • Provide instant feedback
  • Easy to reprogram
  • Offer complete control of motion, with custom speeds and stroke lengths
  • Make less noise than other actuators
  • Don’t leak fluid, so they’re safe for the environment
  • Can be modified for greater control over velocity, torque, position, and force

Electric linear actuators are highly flexible, but they can cost more than other linear actuators. However, over the life of the device, electric linear actuators actually prove to be less expensive than fuel-powered actuators because of their energy efficiency. In addition, because electric models are environmentally friendly, you save on costly cleanups from actuators that leak toxic chemicals.

Many industries use these high-performance electric linear actuators for:

  • Valve and damper control for the power industry
  • Valve regulation in car engines
  • Bearing pressing systems in manufacturing
  • Synchronized bottle filling in the food industry
  • Edge guide systems in the paper and sheet metal industry for web control
  • Plastic industry tensioning
  • Auto assembly line parts movement
  • AC and DC motors

Hydraulic linear actuators

These actuators are powered by oil or another form of pressurized hydraulic fluid. Using a piston-cylinder configuration, liquid from a pump moves the piston in the cylinder. As the liquid is pressurized, the piston moves inside the cylinder to create a linear force.

Hydraulic linear actuators are most commonly used for high force. Heavy-duty machinery like construction equipment often relies on the force produced by these actuators. Hydraulic actuators also are used on car transport carriers that require a great amount of pressure to raise and lower vehicles.

Benefits of hydraulic linear actuators include:

  • Produce extremely high force—the most force of any actuator
  • Hold force and torque constant without needing to pump more pressure
  • Produce very high speeds
  • Tolerate harsh conditions and heavy shock loads
  • Last long with proper maintenance

Drawbacks include:

  • Prone to leak fluids, which leads to a loss in efficiency
  • Need a specialized sensor to monitor actuator data
  • Allow only manual adjustments, which jeopardizes precision
  • Can be extremely noisy
  • Demand high maintenance

Pneumatic Linear Actuators

Pneumatic linear actuators function similarly to hydraulic models. However, pneumatic actuators use air rather than fluid to drive movement. A piston-cylinder system compresses the air to create a linear force.

Pneumatic linear actuators are composed of a piston inside a hollow cylinder, making it a very simple system. A compressor moves the piston, which builds pressure and creates linear force. These actuators are commonly used for sensors, air compressors, switches, pumps, mining, nail guns, and medical equipment.

Benefits include:

  • Simple system at a low cost
  • Resist overheating and can withstand wet and moist work environments
  • Resistant to explosion and shock
  • High force and speed

Disadvantages include:

  • Require a compressor to run constantly to maintain air pressure
  • Must be custom-sized for specific jobs, which adds to the cost and complexity of the system
  • Can experience damage if air becomes contaminated from fluids
  • Achieving position accuracy is difficult
  • Require high maintenance

Other Considerations in Choosing a Linear Actuator

When considering how to choose a linear actuator, it’s important to take your work environment into account. You don’t want to use an electric linear actuator in a damp environment, and placing an extremely loud hydraulic actuator in a small space could blow your staffs’ eardrums out.

Important factors in how to choose a linear actuator include:

  • Operating conditions: It’s important to choose the proper actuator to suit the operating environment. If the space doesn’t have an electric supply or experiences extreme temperatures, you should consider a hydraulic or pneumatic actuator. However, if you have access to electricity, choosing an electric linear actuator is almost always the best option.
  • Environmental issues: Unlike hydraulic and pneumatic actuators, electric linear actuators don’t use hazardous oils or fluids. This eliminates the risk of leaks that contaminate the environment. They also are more than 90% energy efficient.
  • Space constraints: Determine how much space is available for your system. Electric linear actuators typically take up less floor space than other actuators because they are self-contained and don’t require external supporting equipment.

Need Help with How to Choose a Linear Actuator? Call Creative Motion Control

Regardless of which device you choose, linear actuators are an essential part of manufacturing and day-to-day life. These devices allow industries to transform manual functions into efficient and precise automated ones. To make sure you’re choosing the right actuator for your company, count on Creative Motion Control, a leading manufacturer of American-made linear motion control products.

Since 2002, Creative Motion Control has developed and delivered innovative motion control technologies. The company’s team of engineers and scientists has designed the future of high-force electromechanical linear motion. Its products deliver unmatched performance with higher load capacity, longer life, and improved efficiency.

Creative Motion Control has the expertise and the products to help you select the best linear actuators on the market. Located in Woodinville, Washington, Creative Motion Control sells and delivers actuators, roller screws, and grooved roller bearings across the country. Contact Creative Motion Control at 866-497-7202 to discuss your needs or request a quote.

What Are Different Types of Actuators?

Whether you’re a machine expert or someone who is still gaining knowledge about motor device parts, you are most likely aware of the actuator and its significance.

Actuators serve the general purpose of controlling movements within machines. However, there are various kinds of actuators that produce varying motions and use different power sources. Distinguishing the differences between these motion-controlling devices will help you troubleshoot parts or refine the processes within your machine.

Let’s take a look at the different types of actuators and their functions, as well as some tips for keeping them working at peak performance.

What is an Actuator?

An actuator is a machine part that initiates movements by receiving feedback from a control signal. Once it has power, the actuator creates specific motions depending on the purpose of the machine.

What Are Some Devices with Actuators?

Machines and systems have featured actuators since their popularization back in World War II. The most well-known examples of actuators include:

  • Electric motors: Any part of a piece of equipment or appliance that translates electrical energy into motion, such as those found in ventilation fans, blenders, or refrigerators, contains at least one actuator. Electric cars also use actuators.

  • Stepper motors: These actuators are best known for receiving digital pulses and converting them into mechanical motion. Stepper motors are often seen in robots, smart tools, or automated cutting equipment.

  • Hydraulic cylinders: These are linear-motion devices that operate using a tube, piston, and rod. Many vehicles operate using hydraulic motion, such as bulldozers, backhoes, or excavators.

What Are Some Different Types of Actuators?

Actuators can be classified by the motion they produce and the power source they use.


Actuators can create two main types of motion: linear and rotary. 

Linear Actuators

Implied by their name, linear actuators are devices that produce movement within a straight path. They can either be mechanical or electrical and are mostly seen in hydraulic or pneumatic devices. Any machine, equipment, or gadget that requires some form of straight motion typically has a linear actuator.

In a simple linear actuator, there is a nut, cover, and a sliding tube. The sliding tube provides the space for the motion, whereas the nut and cover provide the interlocking movement that keeps the actuator in a straight path. Other complex linear actuators will have additional parts, but the system mentioned above is the foundation for straight movement.

Rotary Actuators

In contrast to linear actuators, rotary actuators create a circular motion. From the term “rotary,” most machines use these rotating parts to complete a turning movement. They are often used in conjunction with a linear actuator if a machine requires moving forward, backward, up, or down.

Many rotary actuators are electrically powered, but some are powered using a hydraulic or pneumatic system. You can find rotary actuators in windshield wipers, electric fans, or manufacturing machines that transport goods from one area to another.

Source of Energy

To further distinguish different types of actuators, we can also sort them according to the power source or system they use to move. Below are the most common actuators according to energy source:

Hydraulic Actuators

Hydraulic actuators operate by the use of a fluid-filled cylinder with a piston suspended at the center. Commonly, hydraulic actuators produce linear movements, and a spring is attached to one end as a part of the return motion. These actuators are widely seen in exercise equipment such as steppers or car transport carriers.

Pneumatic Actuators

Pneumatic actuators are one of the most reliable options for machine motion. They use pressurized gases to create mechanical movement. Many companies prefer pneumatic-powered actuators because they can make very precise motions, especially when starting and stopping a machine.

Examples of equipment that uses pneumatic actuators include:

  • Bus brakes
  • Exercise machines
  • Vane motors
  • Pressure sensors
  • Pneumatic mailing systems

Electric Actuators

Electric actuators, as you may have guessed, require electricity to work. Well-known examples include electric cars, manufacturing machinery, and robotics equipment. Similar to pneumatic actuators, they also create precise motion as the flow of electrical power is constant.

The different types of electrical actuators include:

  • Electromechanical actuators: These actuators convert electric signals into rotary or linear movements and may even be capable of a combination of both.

  • Electrohydraulic actuators: This type of actuator is also powered electrically but gives movement to a hydraulic accumulator. The accumulator then provides the force for movement, usually seen in heavy industrial equipment.

Thermal and Magnetic Actuators

Thermal and magnetic actuators usually consist of shape memory alloys that can be heated to produce movement. The motion of thermal or magnetic actuators often comes from the Joule effect, but it can also occur when a coil is placed in a static magnetic field. The magnetic field causes constant motion called the Laplace-Lorentz force. Most thermal and magnetic actuators can produce a wide and powerful range of motion while remaining lightweight.

Mechanical Actuators

Some actuators are mostly mechanical, such as pulleys or rack and pinion systems. Another mechanical force is applied, such as pulling or pushing, and the actuator will leverage that single movement to produce the desired results. For instance, turning a single gear on a set of rack and pinions can mobilize an object from point A to point B. The tugging movement applied on the pulley can bring the other side upwards or towards the desired location.

Supercoiled Polymer Actuators

Supercoiled polymer actuators are a relatively new addition to the different types of actuators. They are used in robotics and prosthetic limbs as they can replicate the motion of human muscle via a coil that contracts and expands when heated or cooled.

How to Select the Right Actuator

Understanding the different types of actuators is a crucial step in making the best selection for your equipment. Since each kind has its unique purpose and energy requirements, we’ll go over factors that will help you arrive at the best decision.

Power Source Availability

The first thing you have to consider is the compatibility of your power source. If you own an industrial site with an electrical source, perhaps the best choice—and the option with the most selections—would be electric actuators. If there are no electrical sources in the area, or you want a piece of fully functional equipment without electricity, you can opt for pneumatic or hydraulic types.

Required Movement

Another important factor when choosing an actuator is the range of movement that you need for your equipment. Is it linear, rotary, or an integration of both? Custom-made actuators can combine or chronologically create these motions to help you concretize the final equipment.


Some actuators are more precise than others. For example, air brakes are created through pneumatic actuators because air pressure is known to be efficient in the start and stop movements. Other actuators have a larger margin of movement variations, such as those operated through hydraulics. 

Any industry that requires a high level of precision for safety and success of operation should consider actuator types that have specific movements.

Safety and Environmental Concerns

Safety is another factor to consider when choosing an actuator for your equipment. Electrical or thermal actuators should be used with caution in areas with extreme temperatures or conducting hazards. For example, operating electrical actuators close to a water body without sealing or other safety measures may create an occupational hazard.

If your company is also committed to a reduced carbon footprint, you’ll need to note each actuators’ environmental impact. Typically, electrical actuators have little to no carbon footprint.

Official Guidelines

There are also specific guidelines to follow for industrial actuators in certain areas. For example, locations with a high presence of combustible gases should adhere to the requirements imposed by the National Electrical Manufacturers Association (NEMA).

Maintaining Your Actuator

All equipment requires maintenance. Maintaining your actuators will help prevent major shutdowns, hazards, or loss of productivity. Here are some general tips to keep your actuators in top shape.

  • Regular inspection: Performing routine visual equipment checks will identify early signs of actuator issues. A mechanic with a keen eye is necessary to inspect for wear and tear.

  • Replenish and replace: Hydraulic actuators sometimes need cylinder fluid replenishment. Always double-check for leaks and signs of low hydraulic fluid levels. Replace loose or damaged nuts, bolts, coils, or screws in your actuator parts as well.

  • Measure performance data: In some cases, actuators won’t show external signs of a problem, but you can trace issues through performance. Automated graphs and output computation may be necessary if you want to catch deeper issues.

Need an Actuator? We Can Help

Whether you’ve already made a decision and need an actuator or are still undecided and need a bit more information about the different types of actuators, our team is standing by to help. Creative Motion Control is home to a skilled group of engineers, researchers, and technicians committed to providing the best actuators on the market. Contact us today at (425) 800-8045 to discuss your needs or request a quote.