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An actuator is a type of motor that is responsible for

moving or controlling a mechanism or system.
It is operated by a source of energy, typically electric
current, hydraulic uid pressure, or pneumatic pressure,
and converts that energy into motion. An actuator is the
mechanism by which a control system acts upon an en-
vironment. The control system can be simple (a xed
mechanical or electronic system), software-based (e.g. a
printer driver, robot control system), a human, or any
other input.

1 History

2 Types

2.1 Hydraulic

A hydraulic actuator consists of a cylinder or uid motor

that uses hydraulic power to facilitate mechanical oper-
ation. The mechanical motion gives an output in terms
of linear, rotary or oscillatory motion. Because liquid is
nearly incompressible, a hydraulic actuator can exert con- Pneumatic rack and pinion actuators for valve controls of water
siderable force, but is limited in acceleration and speed. pipes
The hydraulic cylinder consists of a hollow cylindrical
tube along which a piston can slide. The term double act-
ing is used when pressure is applied on each side of the 2.3 Electric
piston. A dierence in pressure between the two side of
the piston results in motion of piston to either side. The
term single acting is used when the uid pressure is ap- An electric actuator is powered by a motor that converts
plied to just one side of the piston. The piston can move electrical energy to mechanical torque. The electrical
in only one direction, a spring being frequently used to energy is used to actuate equipment such as multi-turn
give the piston a return stroke. valves. It is one of the cleanest and most readily available
forms of actuator because it does not involve oil.

2.2 Pneumatic

A pneumatic actuator converts energy formed by vacuum

or compressed air at high pressure into either linear or 2.4 Thermal or magnetic (shape memory
rotary motion. Pneumatic energy is desirable for main alloys)
engine controls because it can quickly respond in start-
ing and stopping as the power source does not need to be Actuators which can be actuated by applying thermal or
stored in reserve for operation. magnetic energy have been used in commercial applica-
Pneumatic actuators enables large forces to be produced tions. They tend to be compact, lightweight, economical
from relatively small pressure changes. These forces are and with high power density. These actuators use shape
often used with valves to move diaphragms and so aect memory materials (SMMs), such as shape memory alloys
the ow of liquid through the valve. (SMAs) or magnetic shape-memory alloys (MSMAs).[1]


2.5 Mechanical or shaft) a linear member (e.g. cable, rack, chain

or belt) moves. By moving the linear member, the
A mechanical actuator functions by converting rotary wheel/axle rotates.[2]
motion into linear motion to execute movement. It in-
volves gears, rails, pulleys, chains and other devices to
operate. An example is a rack and pinion. 3.3 Virtual instrumentation
In virtual instrumentation, actuators and sensors are the
3 Examples and applications hardware complements of virtual instruments.

In engineering, actuators are frequently used as mecha-

nisms to introduce motion, or to clamp an object so as
4 Performance metrics
to prevent motion. In electronic engineering, actuators
are a subdivision of transducers. They are devices which Performance metrics for actuators include speed, accel-
transform an input signal (mainly an electrical signal) into eration, and force (alternatively, angular speed, angular
motion. acceleration, and torque), as well as energy eciency and
considerations such as mass, volume, operating condi-
tions, and durability, among others.
3.1 Examples of actuators
Comb drive 4.1 Force
Digital micromirror device When considering force in actuators for applications, two
Electric motor main metrics should be considered. These two are static
and dynamic loads. Static load is the force capability of
Electroactive polymer the actuator while not in motion. Conversely, the dy-
namic load of the actuator is the force capability while
Hydraulic piston in motion. The two aspects rarely have the same weight
Piezoelectric actuator capability and must be considered separately.

Pneumatic actuator
4.2 Speed
Speed should be considered primarily at a no-load pace,
since the speed will invariably decrease as the load
Thermal bimorph amount increases. The rate the speed will decrease will
directly correlate with the amount of force and the initial
3.2 Circular to linear conversion
Motors are mostly used when circular motions are 4.3 Operating conditions
needed, but can also be used for linear applications by
transforming circular to linear motion with a lead screw Actuators are commonly rated using the standard IP Code
or similar mechanism. On the other hand, some actua- rating system. Those that are rated for dangerous envi-
tors are intrinsically linear, such as piezoelectric actua- ronments will have a higher IP rating than those for per-
tors. Conversion between circular and linear motion is sonal or common industrial use.
commonly made via a few simple types of mechanism
4.4 Durability
Screw: Screw jack, ball screw and roller screw actu-
This will be determined by each individual manufacturer,
ators all operate on the principle of the simple ma-
depending on usage and quality.
chine known as the screw. By rotating the actuators
nut, the screw shaft moves in a line. By moving the
screw shaft, the nut rotates.
5 See also
Wheel and axle: Hoist, winch, rack and pinion,
chain drive, belt drive, rigid chain and rigid belt actu- End eector
ators operate on the principle of the wheel and axle.
By rotating a wheel/axle (e.g. drum, gear, pulley Hard disk drive actuator

Linear actuator

Load cell

Nanotube nanomotor
Robot actuators

Torque motor

6 References
[1] Jani, J. M.; Leary, M.; Subic, A.; Gibson, M. A.
(2013). A Review of Shape Memory Alloy Research,
Applications and Opportunities. Materials & Design.

[2] Sclater, N., Mechanisms and Mechanical Devices Source-

book, 4th Edition (2007), 25, McGraw-Hill

7 External links
Automotive Actuators

8 Text and image sources, contributors, and licenses

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die Williams, Anky24, Danroc1, Sibbypow and Anonymous: 172

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