Why Are Linear Actuators so Expensive?

The ultimate guide to what drives Linear Actuator costs

An Inexpensive Linear Actuator

We get this question a lot. People argue about the price of a linear actuator. Some actuators may be inexpensive, but you get what you pay for.  Consider our classic linear actuator pictured above.  Notice how many parts are required to make a quality actuator like this!  Over 100 parts are necessary to build a linear motion control product of this caliber and this takes time and costs money.  Sure we could cheap out and use a brass brushing instead of a bearing or forget the O-rings, but then you are stuck with an actuator that won’t last long. So to answer the question, “Why do linear actuators cost so much?” it is because they are a complex piece of electro-mechanical machinery with many moving parts and the quality of these parts and the material they are made from affect the cost.

Why are linear actuators expensive?

How Are Manufacturers Cutting Costs?

There are many cheap linear actuators on the market, just look at Amazon or EBay.  An online search will provide many options to purchase an actuator for less than $100 but you really get what you pay for with a low-cost linear actuator.  They will likely not have any bearings or O-rings and the motors won’t have many copper windings in them, meaning the motor power will be reduced with a low life-span.   Unfortunately, yes you do get what you pay for. 

Linear actuators vary greatly in price because of several factors.  The following considerations will greatly affect the cost of an actuator:

  1. Low duty cycle

The duty cycle is a period of work minus a period of rest. A linear actuator has on and off phases. When a linear actuator is working, it uses energy to move the load and due to inevitable overheating, it has to stop for some time. But this process happens so fast you almost cannot notice it. So, the less time your linear actuator has to take rest, the more expensive it will be.

  1. Stroke length

A stroke length is a characteristic that allows your linear actuator to retract and reach maximum length in the minimal amount of time. The longer the stroke the more material is required to make that extra stroke and the more on-time the motor needs to make it move that stroke duration.

  1. Operational temperature

Operational temperature is the unit that manifests which temperatures your motion controls application will bear. Linear actuators are prone to be overheating if overworked, so most cheap actuators can’t work at high temperatures and are not applicable for places with hot climates, their cheaper materials simply cannot take the heat. And again, some of the linear actuators don’t work or work incorrectly in places with cold climate, that is why the lubricants and greases in the motor of a linear actuator starts freezing at low temperatures for cheaper actuators where low quality grease and oils are used. This is why if you are thinking about building an automation in a place with very hot or very cold climate should consider buying a more expensive variant that is made exactly for the right temperature.

Why are linear actuators so expensive?

Why should you buy a more expensive linear actuator when you can buy a cheaper variant? The thing is, motion controls are quite serious and if one element like a motor will be out of order, the whole movement and linear motion can break, which will lead to overall problems. It is better to buy a more expensive actuator once than buying hundreds of cheaper variants. A linear actuator is a thing that is supposed to serve your application a long time, that is why a quality made Actuator is so expensive.

Cost drivers for Actuators

There are several factors that drives up the cost to produce Linear Actuators in volumes.  The most expensive part is the motor which has copper windings around the armature and also magnets. Both Magnets and copper are expensive commodities. Not only that but magnets come in many different forms from rare earth neodymium magnets that are super expensive but are also very strong but also the coper wire used in the motor can differ depending on what you want to pay. Obviously lower cost magnets and copper are going to result in lower motor speeds and forces which is the backbone of any Electric Linear Actuator, and the worst part is that neither of these items you can see on the actuator either because they are both fully hidden away from view. 

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