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Janet - NY
by Ajay Arora
Actuators can be powered by human effort, like the way a screw can lift a car. Many of these devices are driven by electric motors. An electric garage door opener is an electro-mechanical device that takes the rotational energy of the motor and converts it into linear motion which moves the door.
Some types are incorporated with hydraulic of pneumatic cylinders, but this type has a disadvantage over an electro-mechanical one. Hydraulic and pneumatic systems can create tremendous force, but leakage of fluid or gas in a potential problem. Electrics do not have this problem.
There are several factors that be optimized in the design of an actuator depending on the application. Travel relates to the distance it moves. Some are designed for micro-movement. such as in a computer hard drive where they may only travel the distance of one pixel. In heavy duties, like one in a scissor lift, the distance of travel might be many feet.
Accuracy is another factor of actuator design. In the mini-actuators inside a computer hard drive, or in a solenoid coil, precision of one ten thousandth of an inch may be required. In a heavy duty of a dump truck, precision of an inch or two may be sufficient.
The force required by the actuator to perform its job is another design consideration. Gears can be incorporated into the device so that a small motor is capable of producing the large force, like one that might be used to close a valve in a refiner.
The cutting edge of design is now focused on mini-actuators. They are being used increasingly in applications in the fields of robotics, electronics and precision assembly line functions. The future may even hold nano-sized ones that will have uses in medicine and advanced robotics.
Heavy-duty components are also seeing advances in design. Refinements in responsiveness and precision used in aeronautical equipment are continually evolving. These kinds are not integral parts of all modern aircraft landing systems.
Many companies offer custom engineering for actuators for specialized purposes. Design consultants can work with customers to produce products that are needed for virtually any application. Heavy duty ones can be tailor made for micro precision, or mini's can be designed for exerting exceptional force.