Linear Actuators Tips

Written by daniel r. mueller
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Linear Actuators Tips
An electric motor, when combined with a worm screw and push rod, converts rotary movement to linear movement. (motor.jpg image by Aussiebloke from

A linear actuator converts the rotary movement of a motor into linear movement. The most common variant of linear actuator is the worm screw and push rod version; however, it is possible to construct pneumatic, hydraulic and steam-driven versions.

Build a Linear Actuator to Save Money

Prefabricated linear actuators can be quite expensive, but technicians comfortable enough with their skills can do it themselves. Building a basic linear actuator will require you know how to use a lathe, have a supply of steel rods to form the push rod and the worm screws and know how to construct a metal case for the finished assembly.

Choosing an Actuator Motor

The best type of motor for a linear actuator is a DC inversion comparable motor. These types of motors change rotational direction when the polarity of the input current changes. This capability translates into an actuator that can extend or retract with the flip of a switch that controls the electrical polarity, making for a much more versatile device than a one-way actuator requiring a hand reset. The actuator motor needs to have enough torque to comfortably move the gears and piston. To a limited extent, the level of torque can be reduced by applying mechanical lubrication grease or graphite powder to reduce friction resistance within the mechanism. Higher torque motors are preferable in most applications where you can choose the motor types.

Actuator Control Circuit Design Tips

A good actuator should have two separate control circuits, one to turn it off and on and another for controlling the motor electrical input polarity, which allows for both extension and retraction functions. The most basic form of polarity switch simply physically changes the positive flow to the negative contact, and vice versa. Additional testing is important for actuators powered by AC/DC converters to ensure a correct volt and amperage level is reaching the motor in both polarity modes.

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