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

Electrical 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.

DIY Linear Actuator: Should You Build or Buy a Linear Actuator

You may have thought of the idea of making your very own DIY Linear Actuator. Whether you’re looking for a linear actuator for something simple like controlling a greenhouse vent or more complex, like a TV lift system, you have two options to acquire one—buy it or build it.

Deciding which option to go with can be challenging. Both have different processes, advantages, disadvantages, and results. To help you make the final call, let’s take a closer look at the options, guiding you through the considerations, benefits, and setbacks of buying or building an actuator.

What Is a Linear Actuator?

A linear actuator is a device that changes the rotational motor motion to provide push and pull movements, allowing the actuator to lift, drop, tilt, slide, and tip items at the push of a button.

There are several areas linear actuators are implemented in. Some application areas include:

  • Throttle control
  • Home automation
  • Robotics and animatronics
  • Farming implementation
  • Motorized hatches

Linear actuators give you complete control over a range of fluid and safe movements. They are also energy efficient, often having a long lifespan, and require minimal maintenance.

Types of Linear Actuators

Linear actuators fall into three main categories, each differing in operation and application, including:

Hydraulic linear actuators

This type of linear actuators utilizes pressurized hydraulic fluid to function. They are great for applications that require precision control, mechanical stiffness, and high amounts of force.

However, they can be quite loud, produce a lot of heat, and need regular maintenance. Their operation also requires additional equipment like pumps, release valves, and fluid valves. 

Pneumatic linear actuators

These actuators make use of pressurized air and are used in areas where speed is a concern. Some of these areas include pumps, dentistry, air compressors, nail guns, mail tubes, and more.

Electric linear actuators

Electric linear actuators consist of a motor, a lead screw, and a series of gears that push the central rod in and out. From robotics to material handling and solar panel operation, electric linear actuators’ application areas are widespread.

Building or Buying a Linear Actuator

Beyond deciding the type of linear actuator to use for your project, there is also the matter of opting for either a DIY linear actuator or buying one. Here is what each of those options would involve:

Buying a Linear Actuator

When buying a linear actuator, you will need to take certain considerations into account, such as:

  • Your desired size
  • The amount of force your project requires
  • The movement, either vertical or horizontal, of the rod shaft
  • Mounting
  • How far and fast the rod will move
  • How frequent you intend to use it

Your criteria and project needs will determine the actuator you need. Ensure that you have as much information as possible before your purchase. With this information in mind, an experienced and licensed supplier can guide you through the process and help you purchase the right actuator for your project.

If it is your first time buying a linear actuator, it can be difficult to keep track of all the industry jargon— feel free to ask as many questions as you need.

Benefits of Buying a Linear Actuator

  • Easily integrable with electronic and motion control systems
  • Requires minimal maintenance and has a longer lifespan
  • Lower power requirements
  • Safety failure features
  • Often less noisy

Setbacks of Buying an Actuator

  • Potentially costly—make sure you review your available budget beforehand
  • Installation could require technical knowledge and be a lengthy process
  • May have a high load rating  

DIY: Building Your Linear Actuator

While building your homemade linear actuator would take into account several of the same considerations involved when buying one, it is an entirely different option. For many, the primary motivation behind DIY linear actuators is the reduced cost.

How to Build a Linear Actuator

While the exact process of building homemade linear actuators will depend on your specific goals, it will generally involve the following steps:

Acquire the needed materials and tools

You will need materials such as resin, a motor, M10 nuts and bolts, petroleum jelly, and more. Besides the material, you will also need tools such as a mallet, hacksaw, and a flathead screwdriver, among others. 

The exact tools and materials you will need will depend on your requirements and the project’s scope, and acquiring some of them could incur extra costs (make sure to take this into account when deciding to build or buy).

Make the drive coupling

There are three different types of drive couplings. The first is a rigid coupling. The main issue with this option is the friction and flexing caused if the shaft is misaligned.

The second type is a flexible drive coupling, which is the recommended option. Flexible couplings solve the issue of friction and flexing. You also have the option of purchasing a ready-made, flexible drive coupling.

Make the push arm

Make the base, motor mount bracket, and thrust bearing mount

When making the motor mount bracket, you might have to put washers under each screw’s head to prevent the screws from going in too far and distorting the motor casing.

Since the motor coupling is not built to transfer longitudinal force, the thrust bearing mount helps transfer the push rod’s force to the base without straining the motor coupling or the motor itself.

Add limit switching

Limit switches are micro-switches that have a lever arm and roller. Include an IN and OUT limit switch.

With the IN switch installed near the bearing mount, the OUT switch detects the push arm’s presence at a predetermined point from the IN switch. The location of that point depends on how far you want your rod to extend.

Attend to the wiring

The push and pull movement of the rod is made possible by reversing the polarity of the voltage you apply. When wiring your actuator, ensure that the wires you use have the thickness needed to carry the motor current. The wires should also be multi-strand to enable them to cope with the motor’s vibration.

You will need diodes to allow the limit switch to stop and drive the motor in the opposite direction. Mount the diodes on a prototype circuit board, which you will then screw to the base located under the coupling.

Though the diodes will often not carry current, they will still need to carry the motor’s starting current. 

Test your linear actuators performance

After you finish with the wiring, the next step is testing your actuator’s performance. Here, measure the time it takes for the actuator to retract and extend, trying it with various loads and different motor currents.

With homemade linear motion systems, every project is different and will come with unique challenges. These challenges could range from selecting the type of drive to installing the threaded rod and outer casing. You might even encounter situations that require technical skills beyond what you are capable of.

You’ll also need an appropriate workspace if the build requires you to heat PVC or use glue, which can produce toxic fumes. Never perform these actions in an unventilated space.

Benefits of Building an Actuator

  • Customization—you can build an actuator specific to your needs
  • Potentially less costly
  • Familiarity—buy building your own actuator, you’ll know how it works well enough to identify and rectify any problems yourself

Setbacks of Building an Actuator

  • Takes time and effort to do
  • Not as fast as buying an actuator
  • Could be an overwhelming and frustrating undertaking if you don’t have the necessary knowledge and skills
  • There’s always a chance it won’t work, and your time, effort, and funds will go to waste

Buy or Build a Linear Actuator: Which Option Should You Go For?

Whether it’s better to buy or go to the DIY route depends entirely on you, your skill level, available time, and acceptable risk level. 

If you’re still having trouble deciding, there is a three-point test you could implement to aid in your decision making. These are specific questions revolving around three main factors: time, expertise, and actual cost.

Weighing the time both options would take against your project’s urgency could help you determine which option better suits you. Looking at your available expertise will also help you gauge your ability to deliver your desired output if you were to build the actuator yourself.

The possibility of stumbling across problems during your DIY project adds several hidden costs that you might be unaware of initially. Looking at the project’s actual costs allows you to analyze how much purchasing the needed materials and tools and rectifying possible errors will cost you.

If you opt to buy your linear actuator, at Creative Motion Control, we help bring some of the advantages of a homemade actuator without any downsides. We combine great technology with exceptional customer support and service, delivering custom products capable of attaining unmatched performance and innovation.

Our designs and products firmly place us a leader in the linear motion control production industry. From engineering to manufacturing to sales, and delivery, we are here to serve you. Opt for the convenience a DIY linear actuator cannot provide. Reach out to Creative Motion Control and get a quote today.

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Linear Actuator Uses: Common Applications

Linear actuators offer a cost-effective solution to move loads in a straight line. The device comes in multiple forms, ranging from telescoping to twisted and coiled. You may be wondering, “What are the uses for a linear actuator?” Here are nine of the most common uses for a linear actuator to help you make the most of this invaluable tool.

What Is a Linear Actuator?

A linear actuator changes the rotational motion of a motor into a straight line. Conventional electric motors move in a circle, while linear actuators move forward and backward. The push and pull action allows the device to slide, tip, and lift items with the push of a button.

The design provides operators accurate and precise control over the production. The fluid movement means the linear actuator requires minimal maintenance over its lifespan and comes with natural energy efficiency. They are easier to install than their hydraulic or pneumatic counterparts, cost less, and take up significantly less room.

Electric Motorized Linear Actuators

When to Use a Linear Actuator

Manufacturers leverage linear actuators in tools and industrial machines, such as printers, sprayers, computers, and valves. Choosing an actuator depends on the product, with hydraulic actuators powering hydraulic car jacks and pneumatic actuators often powering pistons and ignition chambers. Each of these devices offers an affordable, repeatable, and consistent motion because of the integration.

Most Common Uses for Linear Actuator

Material Handling

The many uses for a linear actuator have improved automation in the workplace. It streamlines manufacturing while lowering the cost of production. The electric linear actuators have transformed into a vital and necessary tool to achieve optimal material handling.

Linear actuators are responsible for moving loads from point A to point B. The electromechanical version has the added ability to stop the movement mid-stroke. Some of the other types of actuators in material handling include industrial, high-speed, and micro models.

Linear actuators enable safe, secure, and precise motion, primarily when operators use them in conjunction with sensors or other smart technologies. The combination allows workers to complete previously repetitive tasks with minimal manual intervention.

Some of the visible applications include sorting machines, feed systems, and clamps. One example is using pneumatic actuators along with conveyor belts. An electric actuator provides greater efficiency because it doesn’t slow down the control capabilities.


Linear actuators make movement possible in robots. They allow robotic machinery to interact with its environment through wheels, clamps, arms, and legs. Some of the most popular linear actuators to get robots moving include:

  • Motorized threaded rods
  • Pneumatic cylinders
  • Scotch yokes
  • Solenoids
  • Pneumatic muscles

Imagine that a robotic arm has a gripper on the end. When the operator presses a button, a sensor communicates to the arm to clasp the box in position A. The clamp secures the package and moves it to position B, before releasing the box onto the conveyor belt or desired work surface.

The gripping mechanism works because of the linear actuator. It talks to the smart technology when the clamp reaches the appropriate constraints and maintains it, so the package doesn’t drop or shift during transit. A linear actuator presents a more consistent and reliable option than a hydraulic actuator, which uses hydraulic fluid for movement and control.

Food and Beverage Manufacturing

The industrial-scale of today’s food and beverage industry requires high levels of automation to meet demand. Manufacturers must streamline processing, treatment, packaging, and other processes to ensure timely distribution. Linear actuators play a crucial role in making these actions possible.

Each type of linear actuator has a distinct role in automation. Rod-style models clean production areas, which makes them a premier choice for dairy and beverage plants. Electric rod-style linear actuators offer versatility, thanks to multiple profile options, which makes them ideal for different types of food production tools.

Linear actuators improve efficiency while maintaining a sanitized environment, reducing the odds of contamination. Visit a food production facility, and actuators are visible in meat separators, toasters, de-boning devices, and food processors. They also exist in ubiquitous appliances, like conveyors and pouch machines.

Window Automation

Adjusting a window at ground level is straightforward but can be extremely difficult when it’s out of reach. The solution: linear actuators. They offer a practical solution that lets people easily open and close windows and enjoy the comforts of modern living.

Window automation marks one of the most common uses of a large linear actuator, also known as a push-rod motor. The device quietly and conveniently contracts or extends, even in extreme heat and cold. The best odds of seeing a large linear actuator at work in window automation include:

  • Shutters
  • Skylights
  • Casement windows
  • Top or bottom hung windows

The wide range of uses means linear actuators are visible in everything, from workshops to warehouses to waiting halls. A single installation replaces the need for manual operation while improving overall ventilation and airflow. A linear actuator also centralizes the control panel instead of having several different places. 

Agricultural Machinery

Modern agricultural machinery has never been more reliable, in part, because of linear actuators. The devices assist farmers, workers, and other laborers in completing various agricultural tasks, on top of withstanding harsh weather conditions and exposure to herbicides, pesticides, and fertilizers.

Ground zero for linear actuators is in the fields. They give operators control for the height and angle of sprayers for thorough and consistent coverage. Actuators can aid in opening and closing hatches while simplifying the mechanisms to operate machinery. 

Linear actuators exist inside tractors to improve work quality and reduce labor. An actuator ensures accurate steering wheel adjustments, toggles ventilation, and adjusts the rearview windows into the correct operating position. The straightforward integrations mean operators increase control of their tractors without sacrificing performance.

Many of these same mechanisms apply to seed drills and combine harvesters. Drills require pinpoint accuracy when planting seeds, so farmers can improve land usage and minimize waste. Combine harvesters benefit from seamless functionality through the integration of linear actuators in grain tank extensions, grain tank covers, and concave adjustments.

Solar Panel Operation

The push for alternative energy sources has coincided with an uptick in solar panel usage. Conventional panels use hydraulics or other similar devices, but recent innovations have made harnessing the sun’s power more efficient. Electric linear actuators give panels the ability to track the sun, moving with the sunlight to maximize the amount of direct absorption.

Installing linear actuators provides solar panel users the most bang for their buck. The useful machines absorb more solar energy while withstanding the hot and harsh working environment. Linear actuators can even withstand high-pressure jets, debris, and dust.

Cutting Equipment

Machines spare humans from as much danger as possible when cutting. They take over repetitive tasks or risky assignments that require more endurance and power than creative prowess. Linear actuators power these machines to ensure accurate cuts with every slice.

Common uses for a large linear actuator include wood, glass, metal, and paper cutting devices. The blade can cut straight lines or jigsaw patterns, based on the actuator’s configuration. The same applies to metal cutting, which requires copious mechanical strength.

Cleanliness stands out as one of the overlooked benefits of linear actuators in a cutting environment. Many people associate the desire for automated sanitation with food and beverage processing. The crisp cuts reduce the amount of debris and waste that can otherwise interfere with production.

Valve Operation

Today’s industry would not be possible without linear valve actuators turning electric, pneumatic, and hydraulic energy into a push and pull motion. The cost-effective product offers an attractive alternative to manual operation. It operates with a range of rising stem valves with optional features for integrated control.

The two primary models are diaphragm and piston actuators. The diaphragm version contains a section of rubber than encircles the edges of a cylinder or chamber. A connective rod at the center of the diaphragm moves whenever the device receives pressure, making it ideal for a low-pressure environment. 

Piston actuators contain a piston that moves along the cylinder’s body. The rod translates force on the piston to the valve, which leads to opening and closing. Piston actuators can withstand higher pressure workloads, travel further, and have more substantial thrust than diaphragm actuators.

Non-Industrial Applications

The most common uses for a linear actuator lie in industrial automation, but those are far from the only applications. The device has become increasingly popular in residential settings where counterparts, like hydraulic and pneumatic actuators, are not feasible. Many people use linear actuators for automation as a way to create more space in a compact home.

The Bottom Line

Linear actuators are an essential part of day-to-day life, whether you want to prop open your windows or simplify agricultural labor. The simple yet effective mechanics allows operators to transform manual functions into automated ones. The wide range of linear actuator uses makes it a must-have device, regardless of industry.

Creative Motion Control connects customers with the leading linear motion control products they need. Our team works with clients in engineering, manufacturing, sales, and other fields to ensure they conquer whatever challenges they face. Check out our catalogs to learn more about how Creative Motional Control can assist you.

Simple Guide to How Electric Motorized Linear Actuators Work

Electric Motorized Linear Actuators

Linear actuators are a common part of our everyday lives, and many people don’t know how much they actually rely on them. The earliest form of an actuator dates back to Roman Egypt. This machine component is available in many different forms, such as mechanical and hydraulic. The latest type of actuator is the motorized linear actuator. Creative Motion Control makes electric linear actuators. Our electric motorized linear actuators are compliant with IP65, have built-in anti-rotation, and can connect to almost any motor. 

What is a Linear Actuator?

In general, an actuator describes a device that needs input from an outside signal and an energy source. The input combines to create some sort of motion. There are two traditional types of actuators: linear and rotary. 

A linear actuator turns the input motion into pushing and pulling movements (also known as linear movements). The advantage of these actuators is that an operator gains complete control over an object. With the press of a button, you can drop, push, pull, slide, lift, or tilt an object. 

In simpler terms, actuators allow electricity to become a movement. A linear actuator doesn’t require much upkeep because it is such a simple and efficient system. The parts of a motorized linear actuator include:

  • An AC motor or DC motor
  • Different gears
  • A screw to push the rod shaft

Actuators are smaller than pneumatic or hydraulic systems. They are also a lot cheaper to employ.

How is a Linear Actuator Motorized?

A linear motorized actuator comes in handy when you need to handle any type of load. Many industries benefit from these systems, such as:

  • Industrial fields
  • Renewable energy
  • Naval applications
  • Healthcare

Different internal sets result in electric movement. When you look for a linear motorized actuator, you will find features such as force, stroke, speed, and more. Force refers to the weight you want to handle.

The weight that you want to keep is your static load, and the weight you want to move is the dynamic load. The stroke, in millimeters, is the linear movement you want. Finally, the speed tells you how much time you’ll need to do the stroke. 

The duty cycle is a numeric representation of the actuator’s phases for working and resting. You will find this ratio expressed in different ways depending on the type of actuator. Other terms to be familiar with are the power supply, gearbox, screw, and control. 

Types of Motors

A motorized linear actuator can come with a DC or AC motor. The most common motor type is 12-volt DC. If you require a high-force linear actuator, you might use a 24-volt DC motor. As for AC motor types, they are typically single or three-phase.

Motorized Linear Actuator Styles 

Depending on your needs, you may want a certain type of actuator. Some of these types are:

L-Drive. An L-drive actuator is driven by worm gear, which means it doesn’t have many gear ratio options. These motors do not make a lot of noise and are more efficient than other motor types.

Inline. Inline actuators are longer and can fit inside smaller spaces. Its parts consist of a drive spindle, planetary gear, and motor. 

Parallel drive. In these motorized actuators, the drive spindle and motor are parallel. This aspect gives you more speeds, but it may be noisier than an L-Drive.

Dual-motor. As the name suggests, a dual-motor allows for a two-directional movement. You can use less linear actuators if you have these.

Gear motor. These motors are compact and work best when you need something flexible. You can match them with different spindles. 

You may also come across motorized lifting columns. These columns can contract and expand to help you lift loads high up. Additionally, lifting columns have guiding included in their structure. 

Advantages to a Motorized Linear Actuator

If you need simple and smooth movement, a motorized linear actuator is for you. You can control an immense amount of force with precision. 

Many people like to compare actuator systems to hydraulic systems. While hydraulic systems can also work with high forces, they require more space and investment. With hydraulics, you have to have valves and pipes, pumps, and a fluid tank.

In comparison to a hydraulic system, an actuator system offers:

  • Easier cleaning and installation
  • Better and more specific control
  • Lower operating costs
  • Lower contamination risks

An electrical actuator system is also non-toxic and better for the environment. If you need to do a job on a budget, it is the superior choice. 

Linear Actuators in the Real World

Because of their convenience, linear actuators have a lot of applications. You’ve probably encountered them without realizing it. The following are just some of the many uses for a motorized linear actuator in different sectors. 

Hospitals and Care Centers

Actuator systems can help patients be more comfortable. For example, the systems in hospital beds allow patients to adjust the settings via remote control. The hospital staff can save time because they don’t have to make these adjustments manually.

Care center staff also don’t have to worry about difficult physical work. Patient lifts, which use actuator systems, remove all heavy lifting so that professionals can focus on their patients. Other uses for linear actuators include:

  • Treatment chairs
  • Operating tables
  • X-rays
  • Electric hospital tables


Modern farmers need reliable systems to handle food and animals. Motorized linear actuators aid with:

  • Ventilation systems
  • Grain handling
  • Automated feeding
  • Climate control

When it comes to stables, electric actuators are useful because they work in any weather conditions. Farmers don’t have to worry about moisture, dust, or extensive maintenance. Actuators allow for improved animal health and efficient waste management.

Vehicles and Lawn Mowers

Electric actuators can fit into most vehicles, and they leave a negligible carbon footprint. These systems are valuable when it comes to accessible cars and vans and street sweepers. Actuators can help with wheelchair ramps, doors, special lifts, and tailgates. 

When it comes to outdoor equipment, actuators allow for:

  • Easy-to-install and low maintenance turnkeys
  • Energy efficiency and better ergonomics
  • Feedback to an intelligent control system 


A motorized linear actuator makes it easier to be environmentally friendly. In pellet heaters, actuator systems can effectively remove ashes and keep the grates in good condition. 

Actuators also aid solar panels when following the sun. They support many systems within solar power plants, and they work even in harsh weather conditions. Actuators work similarly for harnessing wind energy via turbines. 

Can You Sideload On a Linear Actuator?

Sideloading refers to applying a force that is perpendicular to your actuator. You should avoid sideloading because it can damage your linear actuator. You can use linear actuators for compression, tension, or both.

If you need to sideload or cross-load, there are system applications that can assist you. For example, you can add a slide rail to lessen the strain on the actuator.  

How to Choose a Linear Actuator

With so many actuator models, it can be hard to know which one is the best for your project. When you are ready to select one, it will help to consider the following factors. 

The Load

What is the weight of the load you need to support? This factor will affect the components of the actuator to make sure it can handle the load. You also want to know the direction and length that you need to operate the actuator. 

The diameter of the tubes, the motors, and the gears influence the strength of the system. You need to make sure you have the appropriate type to get your job done.

The Space

You should determine how much space your system will have to operate. As discussed in the actuator types section, different styles take up more space than others. If you have space restrictions, you may want to select an inline motorized linear actuator. 

The Speed

All devices have a suggested speed and load. Keeping within the required speed will help extend the life of your actuator. If you use a fast speed with a high force, you may encounter early wear-and-tear.

The Environment

Another factor to consider is where the actuator will operate. To narrow down your choices, you can ask yourself these questions:

  • Does it need to work inside or outside?
  • Will it have to deal with high-pressure or intensive cleaning?
  • Does it need to operate quietly?

All these questions will help you pick the correct motorized linear actuator. If you need professional assistance, contact Creative Motion Control.

Purchasing a Linear Actuator

For any application, you can find a motorized actuator that meets your requirements. You’ll also want to consider your budget. 

Now that you have a better understanding of how actuator systems work, you can put them to use. Actuators have hundreds of applications, and they can help your system run smoothly and efficiently. They have a long lifetime with minimal upkeep, so they’ll save you time and money in the long run. 

For a professionally developed motorized linear actuator, trust Creative Motion Control to meet your needs. To know more, contact us today.