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.

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