Know Your Pneumatics: Hints & Tips For Specifying Linear Actuators

Automation application - Know Your Pneumatics: Specifying Linear Actuators - Parker Hannifin - Pneumatic Division EuropePneumatic linear actuators are designed to move in a straight line and are one of the simplest, most cost effective and straightforward ways to accomplish linear motion. 

Introduction to Linear Actuators

Linear actuators are utilized throughout the industrial sector, in factory automation, transportation, packaging, life sciences and much more.

Pneumatic linear actuators are engineered to convert compressed air into a linear motion, most commonly with a piston rod extending and retracting, but can also be designed with a carriage that moves on the cylinder tube or guideway.

Construction & materials

Most linear actuators are constructed of aluminum, such as Parker's P1F-S series, which is suitable for a large number of applications.

Know Your Pneumatics: Hints and Tips for Specifying Linear Actuators - P1F ISO 15552 cut away - Parker Hannifin Pneumatic Division EuropeHowever, if you’re operating in a challenging environment or one that requires wash down such as food processing and packaging, then you may require one constructed of stainless steel to prevent contaminants caused by corrosion, such as Parker's P1S series.

In such environments, you should also consider specifying a linear actuator with excellent sealing technology to prevent against contaminants entering the cylinder.

Some offer wiper and metallic scraper options that will remove external debris and adherents from the piston rod.

Enhanced surface treatments, such as powder coatings and anodizing of the two typical pneumatic cylinder materials (aluminum and steel) can also protect against contamination in caustic wash down environments.


Operating the cylinder

Linear actuators can be specified in a variety of different bore and stroke lengths giving a range of speeds and forces so you can achieve the required movement.

They can also be specified as single actingKnow Your Pneumatics: Specifying Linear Actuators - P1D-T Large Bore ISO Cylinder - Parker Hannifin - Pneumatic Division Europe (single port to allow compressed air to enter the cylinder to move the piston to the desired position) or double acting (port at each end to move the piston forward and back by alternating the port that receives the air pressure) such as Parker's P1D-T Large Bore series.

Typically, the body of the actuator is connected to a support frame and the end of the piston rod is connected to the element of the machine that needs to be moved. A control valve directs compressed air into the extend port while opening (exhausting) the retract port.

Actuators are at the working end of a system, working alongside filters, pressure regulators, lubricators, control valves and flow controls all fed by a compressor. These components are connected together via piping or tubing and fittings.

Specifying a linear actuator

Typical questions to ask when specifying a linear actuator are:
  1. What are you using it for?
  2. What environment are you using it in?
  3. How much force do you need?
  4. How far does it need to travel, how much stroke do you need?
  5. How fast does it need to move?
  6. How often should the movement be achieved?


Learn more

To learn more about how to select a pneumatic cylinder for different environments, read our blog post Know Your Pneumatics: Selecting a Pneumatic Cylinder | Operating Environments 

Know Your Pneumatics: Linear Actuators - Kevin Hill, Product Manager, Pneumatic Actuators - Parker Hannifin - Pneumatic Division EuropeArticle contributed by Kevin Hill, European product manager pneumatic actuators, Pneumatic Division Europe, Parker Hannifin Corporation.

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Know Your Pneumatics: Rotary Actuator Basics


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Comments for Know Your Pneumatics: Hints & Tips For Specifying Linear Actuators

Harry B
Really well explained article about linear actuators. Can I know many types, actuators are available?

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