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This article will take an in-depth look at electric
The article will bring more detail on topics such as:
Principle of Electric Actuators
Types of Electric Actuators
Applications & Benefits of Electric Actuators
And Much More…
Chapter 1: Principle of Electric Actuators
This chapter will discuss what electric actuators are, their
manufacturing and components, how they function, and their
What are Electric Actuators?
Electric actuators are devices capable of creating motion of a
load, or an action that requires a force like clamping, making
use of an electric motor to create the force that is necessary.
As the spindle or rotor rotates, rotary motion is created by an
electric motor. In the structure of an electrical actuator,
there is a helical screw to which the motor spindle is coupled
via the drive shaft. This will rotate in a ball screw nut.
Manufacturing Electric Actuators
To produce an electric linear actuator, the manufacturing
process begins with the electric motor. Each electric motor
consists of two main components which are: Stator – a permanent
magnet that is stationary; Rotor – sits in the center of the
stator and is forced to undergo the magnetic field generated by
the stator, thereby causing a spin in motion of the rotor.
Each part is crafted carefully from an assembly line that is
within the electric linear actuator factory that is fully
automated. Every step is monitored, from the copper coils
wounded on the rotor, to the insertion of the shaft screw into
the motor. Each batch is carefully examined by the quality
assurance experts. There is a concurrent production of different
parts of the motors to optimize the assembly line of each linear
The raw materials and finished parts are transported to the next
production line by mechanical arms and conveyor belts. After the
electric linear actuators have been finished, the final stage of
the assembly is more hands-on. This is done by professionally
trained assembly workers following a manufacturing document
created by engineers to assemble the final pieces. Quality
assurance experts monitor each step carefully, examining the
components finished before going to the next step.
After the complete assembly of the actuators, they are sent to
the Quality control team to be inspected for the first article.
The first article inspection verifies the dimension’s accuracy,
making sure that every parameter is met. Stress testing is done
by the first article unit, to ensure that they meet the IP
rating, operating temperature, and duty cycle requirements.
After the satisfaction of the Quality control team by the
results, then the whole batch is approved to be shipped out to
the distribution center. Once arriving at the distribution
center, the products are received into a warehouse. The units
are then inspected again by the product engineer for a few
minutes to ensure that the products meet all the specification
requirements and are not damaged as they were being transported.
The products are then added into the stock units and ready for
purchase. After purchasing some products, the logistics team
tests the units again before they carefully pack them and
prepare them for shipping.
The Components of an Electric Actuator
The various components of an electric actuator will be discussed
in this section.
This is a metal piece that is u shaped, with holes in each end
through which a pin, bolt, or fastening device is run. The
actuator is allowed to be mounted to the application by clevis
attachments on the front and rear.
This is also called the cover tube. It’s an extruded aluminum
tube that protects the linear actuators outside and houses all
of the inner components of the actuator.
This is also called the extension tube, translation tube,
piston, or drive tube. The inner tube is usually made from
aluminum or stainless steel. The inner tube is where the spindle
is located, while retracted. This tube is attached to the drive
nut that is threaded and extends and retracts when the nut’s
motion along the rotating spindle.
This is also called the rotating screw, lead screw, or lifting
screw. It is a long rod that is straight that turns in a tool or
machine. This segment of the linear actuator rotates, retracting
or extending the inner tube, which generates linear motion. The
steel spindle ensures strength and durability. There are
different ways of threading the spindle for various speed and
This is located at the end of the spindle. It serves to prevent
the inner tube’s overextension.
Wiper Sealing Component
This is a sealing component that is attached to the end of the
outer tube. It prevents contaminants such as dust and liquids
from entering the spindle area of the actuator. It also ensures
that there is a proper seal between the inner and outer tubes,
influencing the IP rating of the actuator.
This travels along the spindle and is attached to the inner
tube. It is the component that permits retraction or extension
of the inner tube. The drive nut can be made from plastic or
metal and is keyed sometimes to prevent inner tube rotation.
These control the position of the fully extended and retracted
inner tube by cutting current electrically to the motor. These
switches do not allow the actuator to overextend or over
retract. To add on top of cutting current, limit switches are
also able to be used as signal sending devices.
Gears for Electric Actuators
These are made from plastic or steel and mate with other gears
to alter the relationship between a driving mechanism’s speed
and the driven part’s speed. The gear that is connected to a
power source like the motor is known as the drive gear.
This housing contains the gear motor as well as all internal
parts without leaving anything exposed to damage from the
external. Motor housing is typically made from high-quality
The direct current motor is where all of the electric actuator’s
power comes from. DC motors are found in different types. There
are the most commonly used motors called brushed motors. The
motors consist of the following components:
This is the stationary outside portion of the motor. It consists
of the housing of the motor, motor caps, and two permanent
magnets. A stationary magnetic field is generated by the stator
and it surrounds the rotor.
This is also called the armature. It is the motor’s inner part
that rotates. It consists of a motor shaft, silicon steel
laminate, copper windings, and commutator.
DC Motor Commutator
These are a pair of plates that are attached to the shaft of the
motor. They bring two connections for the coil of the
electromagnet. The commutator functions to reverse the polarity
of the motor and essentially keeps the motor in rotary motion
without losing torque.
These make use of sliding friction for the transmission of
electrical current from the stator to the motor’s rotor.
This part serves for the connection of the gear motor to the
bottom of the stator on the DC motor.
These are used for the communication of the actuator’s stroke
position. The feedback given by these components is sent to the
control box MCU. Linear actuators that contain position feedback
are typically required when an application includes high level
functions like synchronization and memory positioning. There are
multiple options of output sensor including:
Hall Effect Sensor
The output signal from this type of sensor is the magnetic field
density function, around the device. When the magnetic flux
density of the sensor goes beyond a certain pre-set threshold,
the sensor detects it and creates a hall voltage which is an
output voltage. A linear actuator having position feedback is
important due to its accuracy and reliability, exactly what the
hall sensor provides.
Potentiometer (POT) Sensor
This type of sensor consists of a wiper and two end connections
for changing an electrical signal output. During the turning of
the linear actuator lead screw, the resistance between the wiper
and the two end connections changes also. Each value of the
resistance corresponds to a position in the actuator’s stroke.
This type of sensor is a magnetic positional sensor. It is an
electrical switch and operated by a magnetic field that is
applied. It consists of a pair of contacts on reeds made from
ferrous metal in a glass envelope that is sealed. The contacts
may be open normally but close during the presence of a magnetic
field (closing the circuit as well as cutting the power of the
How an Electric Actuator Functions
The electric motor creates a rotary motion during the rotation
of the spindle or rotor. The motor spindle rotates in a ball
screw nut. This motor spindle is coupled directly to a helical
screw via the shaft of the drive.
The ball screw nut is driven forward or backward during the
rotation of the spindle, along the helical screw. There is an
attachment of a hollow piston rod to the ball screw nut and this
generates the linear motion into, or out of the linear actuator
during the clockwise or anti-clockwise rotary motion of the
An electric drive controls the motor, and allows the varying of
the speed of rotation, and hence the actuator's linear speed. A
mechanism for feedback provides positional information and the
linear actuator is capable of being programmed to move a certain
position, stop the position and then move on again, or return to
its position of rest.
The torque that can be generated is determined by the power of
the motor. Hence the power will also determine the force that
can be put to useful motion through the actuator.
Chapter 2: Types of Electric Actuators
The various types of electric actuators include:
Smart Linear Electric Actuator
This is a smart linear actuator with the dislocation of linear
output. This actuator has a high quality, stable precision
material and design, is durable and safe, has a broad
application environment, similar to all types of valve, ball
valves such as control and butterfly.
Rotary Electric Cut Off Actuator
These types of actuators allow the integrated standard signal.
They alter the signals into an angular displacement that are
equivalent so as to control the valve mechanically and achieve
the automatic modification task.
In the automatic change, the mechanical, physical and
bi-directional intrusion free control of the system responsible
for regulation can be recognized. It consists of two parts which
are the actuator and servo amplifier. At a distance, it can be
controlled physically or rapidly.
Linear Electric Cut Off Actuator
This type of electric actuator is available with two sorts of
power supply models like AC single-phase power supply and AC
three-phase power supply. To attain a prearranged linear
reciprocating motion, the latest electric actuator is
established from the regulator control signal.
This electric actuator sequence is employed as the regulating
valve actuator. The control valve itself needs a change function
that varies, and the opening of the valve signal function of the
electric actuator and physical function. Hence it finds its
extensive use in industries such as metallurgical, power
generation, papermaking, environmental protection,
petrochemical, and light industries.
Rotary Electric Regulating Type Actuator
This is a full electronic actuator type that gets 4mA – 20mA or
1V – 5V dc input signals from the operator, PC, or regulator to
work with a single phase AC power supply of 220V like the power
supply of the driving, and is available with a servo system.
There is no necessity for an extra servo amplifier. The
controller of the input component accepts the integrated
circuits that are complex and mixed, and is hardened by resin
pouring and topic to aging behavior.
Thus being high inconsistency and opposing moisture and
vibration. When there is an acceptance of the base and crank for
fitting, the determination of the location of the crank zero
ends can be done randomly within 0 to 360 degrees Celsius. To
add on top, the electrical actuator has the temperature,
overload, and torque switch safeties. It is a product of high
inconsistency, high in control precision, and with a variety of
changeable mechanisms for angular travel, it is competent in
figuring out the angular travel electric regulating valve.
SMC Electric Actuator
These types of electric actuators provide different advantages;
acceleration and speed are controlled and can also be predicted.
There can be an achievement of several positions with high
accuracy and repeatability. Forces can be almost automatic. With
no requirement for condensed air, there are fewer energy costs
as well as infrastructure. These types of actuators are designed
with a center on easy process and arrangement.
The function parameters are fixed. In addition, there is an easy
mode that lets you operate rapidly. The following are the
different types of SMC electric actuators: sliders, AC servo
sliders, rod and guided rod, AC servo rod, slide tables, rotary,
grippers, miniature, controllers, and drivers.
Comparison of Electric Actuators and Counterparts
This section will compare and contrast electric actuators to
Electric vs. Pneumatic Actuators
Comparing electric actuators vs pneumatic actuators shows that:
The diving force of these actuators is the biggest difference
between them. Pneumatic actuators need an air supply of 60 – 125
PSI. The solenoid (pilot) valve is controlled by either an AC or
DC voltage. When there is no air supply available, electric
actuators come into play.
The size of double acting actuators is up to 70% smaller as
compared to electric actuators.
To close or open the valve, pneumatic actuators take half a
second to one full second, depending on the model. Electric
actuators, on the other hand, take approximately six seconds or
Pneumatic and Electric Temperature
Pneumatic actuators suit a wide variety of ambient temperatures,
and their rated temperature range is -20 degrees Fahrenheit and
350 degrees Fahrenheit. Electric actuators are susceptible to
overheating in applications that involve high temperatures and
are often rated between 40 degrees Fahrenheit and 150 degrees
Fahrenheit. However, the temperature restrictions vary according
to the product and the guidelines of the company for rating
Durability and Longevity
The cycle of high quality rack and pinion style pneumatic
actuators is up to 1,000,000 +/- times when they are used within
the specifications. The cycle of electric actuators is 250,000
+/- but they depend on the application.
The spring-return or failsafe option is a safety feature for
valve actuators. In the case that there is power or signal
failure, the valve is set to the safe position by the
spring-return, determined by the operator. For pneumatic
actuators, there is a wide availability of spring-return
failsafe options. With electric actuators, this feature is not
as easily implemented.
Cost of Electric and Pneumatic
Electric ball valves generally cost more than pneumatic ball
valves. When used within specifications, pneumatic ball valves
have a lifespan that is long and may deliver the best overall
value according to your application.
Electric vs. Hydraulic Actuators
Comparing electric actuators vs hydraulic actuators shows that:
Force = pressure x area in hydraulic cylinder systems. So even a
cylinder that is 3 inches can achieve 15,000 lbf (66,723.3kN) at
2200 psi. Hydraulic cylinders are however oversized more often
so an application’s actual force requirements may be obscured.
To achieve force in a hydraulic actuator, it must wait for the
building up of pressure.
Electric actuators make use of the current passing through the
servo motor to produce torque for the driving of the power screw
and generate force. Multiple electric force linear actuators
make use of roller screws which have excellent force
transmission capabilities. With an electric linear actuator, the
force is instantaneous.
In simple end to end position applications, a hydraulic actuator
works well. However, motion profiles that are complex may need
expensive servo hydraulic systems. An electric actuator with a
servo motor provides control that is infinitely over position,
acceleration or deceleration, velocity, output force and more.
On the fly, it is possible to make adjustments. The levels of
accuracy and repeatability are far better than those of a
Hydraulic and Electric Velocity
It can be difficult to deliver high force for both hydraulic and
electric actuators. For a hydraulic cylinder, for the
achievement of high speeds at higher forces there must be
sufficient pressurized oil in the system for pushing the oil in
the cylinder in the time that is required. There may be a need
for an accumulation system to hold the pressurized volume.
An electric actuation system is dependent on the motor RPM,
torque, and the characteristics of the screw to deliver high
force. But there is a limit in speed due to the decrease in RPM
that occurs as the torque increases when the servo gets larger.
On the positive side, the electric actuator doesn’t have to
stroke each cycle’s whole length because of the control that it
has over the entire motion profile. The actuator may be capable
of delivering peak velocities since it is able to execute
shorter, more intelligent moves.
The footprint of a hydraulic cylinder is compact at the work
point, but the hydraulic power unit, which serves in the
regulation of oil pressure and flow, needs a lot of floor space.
To add on top, additional components like gauges, heat
exchangers, accumulators, and cables may be needed. An electric
actuator has an overall small footprint with its combination of
actuator, drive, motor, cables, and cabinet. In an electric
servo mechanism, only a fraction of the space required for a
hydraulic cylinder with HPU is taken.
Hydraulic systems are very sensitive to temperature. In the
cold, the oil gets thicker and slower moving causing sluggish
and inconsistent performance. The oil may be degraded or the
seals ruined by high temperatures from overheating or the
environment. To maintain operating temperature in the cold, an
added tank heater is utilized, while overheating is mitigated by
a heat exchanger.
The system costs are increased by the addition of either piece
of equipment. Electric actuation systems are less sensitive to
temperature since they can be chosen to run at a designated
temperature for the given amount of work required. For fast
response in the cold, electric actuators can be specified with
extreme temperature grease.
Life and Maintenance
Hydraulic cylinders are rugged devices that provide long life
service when they are properly maintained. However, maintenance
needs staff time, new seals, oils and filters, and machine
downtime. If there is a correct sizing of the electric linear
actuator for the application, there is no downtime because there
is no maintenance required. The selection of a proper electric
rod begins with an accurate calculation of actuator life.
Basic hydraulic actuation systems don’t have capabilities for
data collection and reporting. Only expensive, complex
servo-hydraulic systems can track and monitor position, force,
velocity, etc. at the work point. The capability of sensing is
built into an electric actuator’s servo system. The monitoring
of motor current tracks force and repeatability. The motor’s
feedback registers the position and velocity and the reporting
is done through the PLC and the drive.
Typically, hydraulic systems are 40 to 50% efficient in
converting electrical energy to motion. Electric linear
actuators typically operate in the 75 to 80 % efficiency range.
Hydraulic actuation systems leak. Leaks create contaminant
products, safety hazards, and pollute the environment. The
clean-up is costly. Electric actuation is one of the cleanest
technologies compared to its counterparts. The only potential
contaminant is grease on the roller screw, and special greases
can be specified.
Leading Manufacturers and Suppliers
Chapter 3: Applications & Benefits of Electric Actuators
This chapter will discuss the applications and benefits of
Applications of Electric Actuators
The applications of electric actuators include:
Electric actuators are utilized in driverless transport
vehicles in the automotive industry. They are also used in the
automotive industry for the selection of jointing methods and
dispensing-welding, gluing, and riveting.
Electric actuators are utilized in the food and beverage
industry, for making PET bottles, filling, and labeling
systems. They are also used in robotic applications like
Electric actuators are utilized in materials handling for
operations like servo presses and clamping and most commonly
used in the packaging sector.
Electric actuators are used in electronics and electronic
assembly, robotics, machine tools and multiple industrial
In upstream, midstream as well as downstream oil and gas
plants, electric actuators are used.
Electric actuators are used in pulp and paper plants.
Benefits of Electric Actuators
The benefits of electric actuators include:
Electric actuators are much easier to integrate than hydraulic
or pneumatic actuators. Electric actuators come with
programmable controllers and microprocessors for the management
of the operation of most modern industrial machinery.
Electric actuators offer high levels of precision in the control
of motion. This is due to the enabling of the torque, speed, and
force that they do to modify at different stages during motion.
Safety and Convenience
These types of actuators are not susceptible to contamination or
leakages like their counterparts. Therefore they are considered
to be cleaner, safer, and more convenient options.
These types of actuators are more economical in the long run
than other actuators. Electric actuators need less maintenance,
are easy to operate and install and are rugged. They also last
longer and are reliable when used in different environmental
Other benefits of electric actuators are listed below:
They can be easily assembled because of their simple quick
connect wires and cables.
Electric actuators are more compact with smaller footprints
and they don’t make any annoying noise during their operation.
Setting the acceleration and deceleration is easy
No external sensor
Electric actuators help in the adaptation of machines to
Drawbacks of Electric Actuators
Some of the drawbacks of electric actuators include:
Higher initial equipment cost
They are sensitive to vibrations
The higher the thrust, the less the speed
The high the speed, the less the thrust
More complex technology
However, the benefits of electric actuators outweigh the
electric actuator drawbacks.
How to Select an Electric Actuator
The electric actuator is required for an application that
requires force. In the case of a pneumatic linear actuator, the
force is generated by pressure acting on the piston’s surface
area. In the case of electric actuators, the force is generated
from the torque capability of the motor. The load that must be
moved, any surface frictional forces and the elevation angle, or
declination, of the load are critical parameters that must be
taken into consideration.
In the case of pneumatic actuators, there is a certain distance
that must be moved by the load that determines the actuator’s
stroke. The same goes for an electric actuator also but with
some subtle differences. To protect against over-run, the
maximum stroke is the usable stroke, but less than four times
the helical screws pitch. A number of positions are possible for
use of an electric actuator; therefore the total movement must
be taken account of by the required stroke. There are different
screw pitches available depending on the bore, permitting
combinations of components to meet many application
Another consideration that must be made is when an electric
actuator is preferable to a pneumatic solution. If there is a
situation in which there is no compressed air supply, the only
alternative is electric, if hydraulic solutions are not
available also. Electric actuators have a key advantage of the
requirement for multiple positions in an application. Other
advantages that must be considered in the selection are low
noise, high accuracy, load stiffness, flexibility through
control characteristics and overall lower operating costs.
Efficiency and Energy Savings of Electric Actuators
Electric actuators offer control and positioning that is
extremely accurate. To add on top, electric actuators help adapt
machines to processes that are flexible and have a low operating
cost. Therefore the electric system is energy efficient and can
provide cost savings in multiple cases.
Electric actuators are the most efficient option in applications
where there is a requirement for multiple positioning points.
This is because of the fact that pneumatic cylinders require
themselves to be coupled with multiple accessories to perform
these same types of motion. This will lead to a higher cost and
low accuracy and efficiency in the long term use. The ability of
electric actuators to start and stop almost immediately as soon
as a command is given is another way they beat hydraulic or
In electric actuators, there is no delay and lag. Pneumatic
cylinders need your compressor to run constantly for the
maintenance of pressure. On the other hand, electric actuators
only need to run when there is a requirement of work. This means
that electricity costs for your business are saved.
Electric linear actuators are devices that convert electrical
energy into motion. There are different types of electrical
actuators offering different capabilities. Electric actuators
are more advantageous than their counterparts since they can be
easily assembled, are more precise and cost less, only to
mention a few benefits. They can also be safely used in a wide
variety of applications.
Leading Manufacturers and Suppliers
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