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What Is An Actuator? Pneumatic Actuators And Their Uses

Posted by SMC Pneumatics USA on 4/20/2020 to Basic Pneumatics
What Is An Actuator? Pneumatic Actuators And Their Uses

Chances are that you’ve heard a ton of talk about how pneumatic actuators are safe, effective and even clean. You’ve probably heard people gush about how they can help with workplace automation and do many other things. However, chances are also that you may not know fully what people are talking about when they use these terms. You may know that an actuator is a device, but not its uses.

Some in the engineering community have put together some really great ideas that can help your business. Most importantly they’re really easy to understand.

Actuators are reliable sources of motion control that rely on pressurized air, like any other pneumatic component. They convert the energy from this compressed stream into linear motion or rotary motion. As a result, they’re extremely useful in any situation where you’d need valves to open or close regularly.

Types & Applications For Pneumatic Actuators

When compressed air enters a chamber in the actuator, the gas builds up pressure. Eventually, it has enough pressure in comparison to the outside ambient pressure to offer a controlled kinetic motion. This might go in a circle or in a straight line. Primarily, you’ll see two different types of pneumatic linear actuators on the market.

Single-action cylinders feature one sole port that that is free to allow air to flow into the cylinder. As pressure increases and pushes the piston, it moves either forwards or backward depending on the specific action of its mechanism.

Meanwhile, double-acting cylinders have a pair of ports with one on each end of the piston. The first pressure force pushed the piston forward and then the second blow it back. This is different than the action in a single-acting cylinder since it doesn’t require a spring.

Over time, a number of different applications have been developed to use these tools in a variety of circumstances. They’re essential in many types of mail tubes and packaging machinery. Production machines use them to drive certain operations.

This is especially crucial in areas where the use of electricity poses a hazard. If there are any kind of concerns about sparking, then you would do well to avoid the use of anything but compressed air.

Speaking of electricity, pneumatic actuators have proven themselves quite capable in all of these applications and even proven themselves to work as well if not better than electricity in many of them. Engineers and technicians often have a habit of looking at pneumatic technology as something that fills a certain niche when other technologies aren’t available to do so.

However, the current state of actuator design is helping to change this perception. Of course, those who prefer to use pneumatic technology as a result of its inherent safety are continuing to turn to it in droves.

On the other hand, those who might not have ever thought to use compressed air-driven equipment are now starting to consider its usage. Many places they never would have used it previously. Workflow automation has a great deal to do with this.

The Push For Automation

As we mentioned, an actuator can exhibit either rotary motion or linear motion, which means they can provide the power for many different types of operations. The actuator converts electronic signals or air pressure into kinetic energy.

Some people use them for opening and shutting valves or conducting other repetitive operations. You’re likely to see them in a number of applications related to the replacement of preexisting repetitious chores, which they’re perfect for doing.

If this sounds familiar, then you might want to turn to one of these convenient pieces of equipment even if they don’t necessarily end up in a situation where you can ensure a clean environment. After all, there have been some fairly major developments in this field as well.

Stainless steel gear, for instance, can hold up to corrosion fairly well. Granted, anything with at least some iron content in it will succumb to oxidization, but this material does its best to stand up to it in almost every circumstance. That’s very important for those who have to work in relatively wet situations as well as those that might prove uncomfortable in other ways.

At the same time, stainless steel should prove easy to clean. Irrespective of what sort of material your actuators are made out of, however, you can be sure that they’ll provide sufficient power for your particular use case. This is due, at least in part, to special features offered by many modern models.

Special Features Of Pneumatic Actuators

Consider SMC’s NCM series, which offers options like food-grade grease so you can use them in situations where you’d have to package products intended for human consumption. They’re available in six different bore sizes with automatic switch capability. Viton wipers and seals, as well as a urethane cushion, are also offered.

Those who plan on using them inside of refrigeration units or in areas that will be exceptionally warm can request a special extreme temperature model that will be able to withstand these conditions better than a standard one might be able to do so. Once again, this should be great news for those who find themselves regularly working in the food services industry that needs to package or process materials right on the job site.

Overall, this can translate into greatly reduced maintenance demands since pneumatic actuators are relatively simple devices and tend to be quite durable. As long as you use them in a manner consistent with their labeling, they should offer you a long operational life. This might even help to reduce costs over a long period of time.

Unlike other pieces of equipment that they might be replacing, you won’t have to replace them on any regular basis. That means you’ll be saving every period of time they last that you’d otherwise have needed to swap in a new part. Keep this in mind if you ever have to design a new manufacturing operation or even streamline an existing workflow using new equipment.

Find The Right Pneumatic Actuators For Your Firm At SMC Pneumatics

Naturally, we’ve made sure to keep plenty of these gadgets in stock at SMC Pneumatics so you can always find them when you need them. Considering their wide variety of applications, you may end up needing them sooner rather than later. Find regular or electrical actuators, depending on the demands of your control system.
Those who have special concerns can always get in touch with us because our knowledgeable representatives are standing by to help. Contact us with the form on our site today and we’ll do our absolute best to answer any questions you might have about pneumatic actuators and all of their particular uses.

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