How to Overcome Mechanical Noise when Operating a Linear Actuator

How to Overcome Mechanical Noise when Operating a Linear Actuator

Frank Zhang
Frank Zhang
PA Engineer

When operating linear actuators, there are many specifications users need to understand - Speed, force, current draw, etc., but one element of the linear actuator specification can be tricky to gauge: The noise level. The users often won’t know for sure until they run the application with the linear actuators in them to realize the noise level is too high. It is possible to return your actuators and replace it with an actuator with a lower noise level, but it will cost you time and money to send the unit back and purchase a new one, it is also possible there is no unit with a lower noise level that would fit into your application. This does not mean the user is doomed to bear with the loud mechanical noise generated by the linear actuator forever, there are ways to overcome the noise issue. In this article, we will go over several solutions to the mechanical noise problem from linear actuators.

Gearbox

The most common mechanical noise in linear actuators usually comes from the gearbox. The gears can turn incredibly fast depending on the gear ratio the gearbox uses. Since noise created can be very loud, you can apply grease to the gearbox to reduce this noise. This will also reduce the friction between the gears and therefore reduce the noise. Note that when the actuator is operating in a high-temperature environment, the grease inside the gearbox can melt away, so it is ideal to reapply some gear grease after the units have been operated for a long time in a high-temperature environment.

On the other end of the spectrum, if the actuator is operating continuously in a very cold environment, the grease that acts as a lubricant can become condensed or even frozen. This will definitely cause the unit to generate a lot of noise and may even break down. If that is the case, it is better to replace the grease in the gearbox with new lubricant that has a lower functional temperature.

The last thing to look out for on noise from the gearbox is the type of gears the linear actuator uses. Typically, metal gears generate more noise, polymer or plastic gears generate less noise. It is possible to replace your gears from metal to plastic, but you need to be very careful when doing that. Metal gears are generally used due to its longevity and strong structure, by replacing them with plastic gears, you run the risk of reducing the lifecycle of your unit or even reducing the load capacity of the actuator. You should consult with the linear actuators’ manufacturer before making this decision.

Mount Position - Reduce Surface Area

A lot of the noise from a linear actuator comes from the vibration in the actuator housing. As the electric motor runs, it causes vibration throughout the body of the linear actuator. When that vibration makes contact with a hard surface area, it will generate a lot of noise. Therefore, it is a good idea to reduce the surface area making contact with the linear actuator, this will prevent most of the vibration noise. If that is not possible, you can also apply some soft material between the actuator housing and the hard surface area to reduce the noise.

Find A New Actuator

If the above options still don't reduce the noise from your actuator, then it is time to find a new one! When looking for a replacement actuator to your current one, there are a few points you should pay attention to.

First of all, if your old actuator is using ball screw, then you should look for an actuator that uses ACME screw instead. Ball screw generally has great efficiency on power but tends to make a loud of noise when operating, on the other hand, ACME screw, has lower efficiency, but it is much quieter when running.

Second, you can find a new actuator with more load capacity than your old one, when the linear actuator is operating closer to its full capacity, it tends to generate more noise. Try to find an actuator with higher load, it can drive your application just as good, but with lower noise.

Read our blog to learn more about the ACME screw & Ball Screw.

Actuators are great tools to drive any application, but sometimes it just creates too much noise in its operation. Use the above tip and tricks to improve your setup, it will make working or living with a linear actuator a lot more pleasant.

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