An actuator is a fundamental piece of machinery that converts energy from a source of power into the energy of rotational motion. A more common name for an actuator is a motor. The energy for an actuator may come from chemical fuel, electricity or some other source. Linear actuators convert energy from rotational motion into linear motion.
The simplest type of linear actuator is the humble screw. Here, the metabolic energy from the person holding the screwdriver is used to rotate the nut at the end of the screw, while the shaft of the actuator moves in a straight line. Linear actuators are everywhere. Here, we discuss the use of actuators in automotive automation.Linear actuators are widely used any time part of a vehicle needs to be lifted, lowered, opened or closed. Examples include:
The video below shows a linear actuator in the process of lifting the flip front electric hood of an Austin Mini. In the video, the device is being tested by the designer. Ultimately, the driver will be able to control the lifting and lowering of the hood from inside the car.
Pretty classy, huh? Oil changes and tune-ups are a snap! Activating your linear activator at a car show to open and close your hood and trunk at the push of a button never fails to impress. The uses of linear actuators in automotive customization are limited only by the imagination. Ryan Cole of ILL Industries and Sam Kimmel of Kimmel Auto Works teamed together using actuators to build a raising and lowering 32" HD TV behind the seats of a Mercedes SL500.
Mini actuators have many uses in automobile customization, both full-sized and for the hobbyist. Mini actuators appear in car door openers, swiveling mirrors, self-opening doors, toy dump trucks and anything else the hobbyist can dream up. In terms of size and force, you could be looking at actuators with 1-24" in size and between 15 and 150 lbs of force. Top-quality mini actuators are essential if you expect the best results.
With a handful of actuators and some creative thinking, researchers from the Bremen DFKI (Robotics Innovation Center) were able to produce an efficient and maneuverable, albeit odd-looking electric car. Four actuators were incorporated into the independent suspension. Easily maneuverable into the tiniest of parking spaces, this single-person vehicle is a cute little grocery-grabber.
New and exciting uses for linear actuators are coming to light every day. The recent lowering of prices and greater accessibility means that hobbyists and innovators everywhere are able to integrate equipment into their designs that were normally reserved for scientists and industrial engineers. Maybe one can help your project.