Actuators - The Simple Guide

What is an Actuator?

Put simply, an actuator is a mechanical device that moves another device to serve a purpose. For example, TV lifts use an actuator to move the TV. It is, in the simplest of terms, the “mover”.  

In more technical terms, an actuator is a mechanical device that provides control, movement and positioning of objects. This can be done manually or with energy sources such as air, hydraulics, electrical current, etc. Actuators are a motor that turns the energy received into a torque (a measure of force) which then causes the object to move. Simple enough, right?

What are the Different Types of Linear Actuators

Now that you understand what linear actuators are, it’s time to dive into the . Don’t worry – it’s quite simple to understand, as the types of linear actuators are often broken down into four main categories that are based on how the actuator is powered. For example, there are:

  1. Hydraulic actuators
  2. Electric actuators
  3. Pneumatic actuators
  4. Mechanical actuators


What are Hydraulic Linear Actuators?

Just as the name suggests, hydraulic actuators are linear actuators that use hydraulic power to facilitate the movements. When compared to other types of linear actuators, these tend to take longer to speed up and slow down, making them great for breakable items, such as TV lifts. After all, you wouldn’t want your television lifting and lowering with incredible speeds as it would likely to result in damage.


What are Electric Actuators?

Electric actuators are devices that are powered by motors that take the electrical current and turn it into mechanical torque (a measure of force). There is no oil involved, making electric actuators to be considered one of the cleanest types of actuators available.


What are Pneumatic Actuators?

Pneumatic actuators are quite similar to hydraulic actuators. The difference is that, instead of using liquid energy, pneumatic actuators use energy in the form of compressed gas. These types of actuators are often ideal for major engine controls, as they provide quick responses and the ability to start and stop control and power source almost immediately.


What are Mechanical Actuators?

Mechanical actuators are devices that function by turning rotary motion into linear motion. They are commonly used for things such as pulleys, chains, rails, gears, etc. To put it into perspective, using a screwdriver that makes rotary motion to push a screw in or out is an example of mechanical actuators.


How to Choose a Linear Actuator

If you’re looking to take advantage of linear actuators, it’s time to determine what the best actuator is for you. Before doing anything else, it’s imperative to think about the purpose your actuator will be serving. For example, if you are building a TV lift, you may want to use hydraulic actuators that perform the motions slowly.

Once you have decided on the purpose of your actuator, you can begin to think about the requirements your actuator must provide.  Resorting back to the previous example, if you’ll be using the linear actuator for a TV lift, you require a steady, slow, controlled movement. Figuring out the speed and controlled movement will help you narrow in on the best types of actuators for your project.

If you’re still unsure as to what type of actuator you need, we highly recommend reading the descriptions of our vast collection of linear actuators to understand how they work to ensure you find the best solution for your project. We also offer a vast array of high quality materials needed to build with actuators, such as controllers, brackets, accessories, and more.


Now, if you want to skip the complicated building process, shop our collection of sit stand desks, TV lifts, side rails, column lifts and more, right here right now. We’ve done the building for you, so you can take advantage of linear actuators without having to build anything at all.


At Firgelli Automations, we carry the largest inventory of linear actuators that are designed by our in-house team of engineers.  So, whether you plan on building a project form scratch or want to harness the benefits of such incredible devices with products that use actuators, visit Firgelli Automations.

Share This Article

Need Help Finding the Right Actuator?

We precision engineer and manufacture our products so you get direct manufacturers pricing. We offer same day shipping and knowledgeable customer support. Try using our Actuator Calculator to get help picking the right actuator for your application.