Different Types Of Linear Motion

Different Types Of Linear Motion

Gregory Kimbell
Gregory Kimbell
PA Engineer

Do you know your actuator types?

Actuators have three basic types: hydraulic, pneumatic and electric. They all do the same job, they just have different means of achieving linear motion. Additionally, they also each have their drawbacks and advantages. Knowing how each to achieve motion will help you in your decision-making process.


While these actuators may be cheap, they do require a certain amount of peripheral equipment that can add up to more than it's worth. You won't only be paying for the peripheral equipment, but you'll also be paying for any maintenance or spare parts if something goes wrong.

An example of a hydraulic actuator is a car jack.


While hydraulics use liquid to create motion, pneumatics use air and sometimes compressed gas. The system takes in air and expels it creating the desired amount of pressure. This type of system is also used commonly for rotary motion.

The advantage of pneumatic actuators is their price. They can be the cheapest actuators available, but they may not be the most ideal for the project or application.


These actuators rely on electric motors to function. Energy is delivered to the nut, and the nut is turned. As it rotates, it moves along the screw, creating linear motion. Actuators can be both DC or AC powered, and unlike their pneumatic and hydraulic alternatives, they are quiet, clean and efficient. Electrics require very little maintenance, if not none at all, and they can be made for a large number of applications, projects, and industries.

Progressive Automations has a range of actuators and accessories. Visit our product page to see our selection of high-quality, reliable actuators. If you have any questions, feel free to contact our customer service department between 9 am-5 pm at 1.800.676.6123 or email us at sales@progressiveautomations.com. We would be happy to discuss your project and your actuator needs with you.