Which Are the Fastest: Linear Actuators or Rotary Actuators?

Linear actuators are the most commonly used actuator in current control systems. They are the ones that use an electric motor and a planetary gear train to generate linear motion.

On the other hand, rotary actuators consist of a motor, rotor assembly, and synchronous speed reduction gears that create rotary motion. Both actuators are perfect for achieving the task of moving a load to the desired location.

Different Between Linear and Rotary Actuators

Linear actuators have a motor, pulley, and gear train inside. The motor rotates the pulley and gear train working in conjunction to convert linear motion into rotary motion.

The gear train is replaced by a rotor assembly with several teeth on its circumference in rotary actuators. The rotor spins at a constant speed while the output shaft is connected.

In most cases, the rotary actuator is used in applications like pumps and valves. 

Which Are the Fastest: Linear Actuators or Rotary Actuators?

A linear actuator’s speed depends on the gear train’s size. The larger the gear train, the slower its speed will be. This is because the ratio between input and output speeds is fixed.

Any reduction in the speed of the input translates into an equal reduction in output. Rotary actuators have a synchronous speed system of gears that can be programmed to any desired output speed through pre-programmed controller software.

These rotary actuators can be programmed to rotate at the desired speed, depending upon the application.

Application of Rotary Actuators in Various Industries

Rotary actuators are used in various industries for performing multiple tasks. They can be used for actuating valves and gradually reducing the speed of a cylinder in the process.

They can also perform many other tasks like positioning control for industrial robots, pump control, and so on.

The main advantage of rotary actuators over linear actuators is that they can work accurately throughout their speed range.

Linear actuators, on the other hand, do not work as well as rotary ones when they are adjusted to a slow speed. Each actuator’s speed depends on the gear ratio inside the gear train.

Applications of Linear Actuators

Linear actuators are used in applications that do not require the control of rotary motion. They can be used in applications like positioning control for industrial robots or other applications that cannot afford any linear motion effects, such as valves.

Electric linear actuator motors are used in some applications for rotating monolithic spindle housings. The housing has a rotational movement but cannot move from its orbit due to the fixed position of the base table.

This application also minimizes the slipping of machined parts as it enables precise positioning of the parts. 

What To Consider When Choosing Actuators

The choice of the actuator depends upon the application and the application environment if any. It also depends upon the needs of the system.

The use of linear actuator for applications like valves and pumps are no longer necessary in modern control systems.

The use of rotary actuators has become common for applications that require precise positioning control.

It is essential that the actuator types and their mechanisms are entirely understood to be used in applications where they are most helpful.

Maintenance Considerations

Both linear and rotary actuator maintenance is mainly focused on the gear train. The gear train must be inspected regularly for wear and tear.

The gears, therefore, need to be lubricated from time to time whenever the load changes. It is also essential to inspect the shafts of both actuators at equal intervals to ensure that they are aligned with each other and working correctly.

A malfunctioning actuator could lead to unwanted results like poor positioning control, poor accuracy, or even damage to a machine.

The Bottom Line

Both linear actuators and rotary actuators have their applications and areas of use. But which one is faster? The answer is rotary actuators are faster than linear actuators. This is because they have a gear train of finite speed to convert the input motion into output motion, while the rotary actuator can be programmed to rotate at any speed desired. Rotary actuators can also produce larger torques at lower speeds compared to linear actuating systems.

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