What are Track Linear Actuators?

When shopping for a linear actuator, you’ll see various styles of actuators, each with their own advantages and disadvantages. Two styles that seem to have similar specifications in terms of stroke length and load capacity are track linear actuators and rod linear actuators. Rod linear actuators are the stereotypical linear actuator you think of, but what are track linear actuators and why would you choose one over a rod actuator. This post will hopefully answer your questions about track actuators and highlight some situations where you should consider using a track actuator over a rod style actuator.

What are the Differences Between Track Linear Actuators & Rod Linear Actuators?

Both styles of actuators convert electrical energy to linear motion via a motor and gearbox, but the main difference is how that linear motion is delivered. In your standard rod linear actuator, the rotational motion from the gearbox is converted to linear motion by the use of a lead screw which extends and retracts the rod. The track linear actuator, also known as linear slide actuators, still makes use of a lead-screw to convert rotational motion to linear motion, but instead of a rod, it uses a sliding carriage that moves along the length of the lead screw. This means there is no telescopic motion, like with rod linear actuators, but has a fixed length that the carriage slides along. Outside of this difference, you will see that most track actuators will have similar specifications, like available stroke lengths and load capacities, as their rod actuator counterparts.

This fixed length is both a benefit and drawback of the track linear actuator. While the fix length will not provide telescopic motion needed in applications like opening a hatch or door, it is ideal for sliding applications. The fix length also makes designing around the actuator more predictable, as the actuator’s length won’t change, and track actuators are sturdier than rod actuators once installed, as there is no moving end point. Although, one drawback of their design is that the lead screw, which the sliding carriage moves along, is exposed and leaves it vulnerable to debris. This will be reflected in the IP rating of these actuators as they are typically rated lower than their rod actuator counterparts.  

Where are Track Linear Actuators Used?

As mentioned above, track linear actuators are ideal for sliding applications and are better suited to indoor situations due to their lower IP rating. Track actuators are often used in schools for sliding whiteboards and chalkboards or in custom cabinetry, like with motorized sliding doors. They can also be used in more industrial applications like in CNC machines and 3D printers to position components over a fix length. You can consider using a track linear actuator over a rod linear actuator in situations where you have movement in one direction and do not require telescopic motion. Firgelli Automations offers both a heavy duty track actuator and mini track actuator to meet your motorized sliding needs of your next project.

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