Thursday, 30 April 2020

Things to Consider When Selecting a Linear Actuator Manufacturer

micro linear actuator manufacturerSelecting a linear actuator manufacturer can be a critical part of the product design process. Building a relationship with a high-quality manufacturer that you can rely on can save you major headaches down the road.

How can you tell that an actuator manufacturer is the type of business that you can build a long-term relationship with? I've listed a few questions below that you should consider when selecting a supplier.



Do they actually manufacture their products?

This is critically important, especially in the actuator industry. There are several companies that are not producing their own products, rather, relabeling products purchased offshore and selling them under their brand name.

While there's nothing unethical about this practice, there are some major disadvantages to purchasing from this type of company including:


Pricing

You are going to pay more for the product. The company in the middle needs to make a profit. If you're buying in quantity, you should consider whether you're getting your products from the source, or from a reseller.


Quality

Quality control can be an issues if you're not buying directly from the manufacturer. The company in the middle is depending on the manufacturer to produce and ship good products. While this may not be an issue, it's wise to ensure that they at least test their products prior to shipping them to customers.


Customization

A reseller is unlikely to be able to offer much in the way of modification or custom actuators. If they didn't design and build it, it's unlikely they they will be able to help you much with regards to customization.


Reputation

How long have they been in businses? Can you depend on the company to be around in the years to come for service, support and future orders?


Do they have a broad range of products?

You want to get your product to market quickly. It's important to work with a manufacturer that offers a broad range of products in different sizes, force capabilities, stroke lengths and control options. This both enables you to try different devices to decide what will work best for your application, and makes it less likely that you will need to have a custom product designed.


Can they offer customization options?

If there isn't an off-the-shelf product available to suit your needs, can your manufacturer work with you to customize an actuator for your application, or even produce an entirely new device?

A quality company will be able to work with you to develop a custom linear motion solution for your needs.


Are they willing to offer volume discounts?

Now more than ever, companies are looking for ways to save money. When considering an actuator manufacturer, make sure to look into their volume discounts. A good manufacturer should be willing to offer some level of volume discount to high-volume customers.If you're buying actuators by the tens, hundreds or thousands.

At Actuonix, we will go out of our way to earn your business. We can work with you to find ways to reduce your costs including:
  •  volume discounts
  •  bulk packaging
  •  eliminating included accessories that you don't need

Documentation

You're probably going to need more information to integrate an actuator into your design. A reputable actuator supplier should be able to offer you datasheets, 3D files and drawings to assist you both before and after your purchase.

Actuonix Motion Devices offers all relevant documentation for our actuators right on the product page. You don't need to ask us for the info as its all right there for you.


Do they offer other, relevant products?

Can they offer controllers, switches, wires, alternate end-tips, remote controls and other means of controlling their products? What about control boards, power supplies and linear slide rails?

An actuator is the heart of your linear motion assembly, but you may need other, relevant products to make your project come to life and sourcing things from multiple suppliers makes more work for you. Make sure that your manufacturer can offer all of the linear motion components you need.


Do they stand behind their products?

We all know that it's infuriating to purchase a product and have it stop working shortly after. This experience can be made much worse if the company who sold you the product refuses to stand behind it.

Defective Actuonix actuators are rare as we test every single device for quality before shipping it out to the customer. We also offer a 180 day warranty to protect you against defects.


How is their reputation?

As with any purchase, you want to ensure that you're buying from a business with an established track record of quality products and great customer service. This is why you need to check into a company's reputation prior to purchasing from them.

What's their rating on Google? Do they have a rating on Facebook? Do they have any testimonials from existing clients, particularly volume customers?

Online reviewers can be harsh, and unfortunately, unhappy customers are often more likely to review than satisfied ones. That said, look for themes in reviews. Are there a lot of issues with quality control? Unavailable customer service reps? Do they sell on other platforms such as Amazon or Ebay?

At Actuonix, we take pride in our high level of customer service and customer satisfaction. If you're in the market for micro actuators for your product, we would be happy to help by working with you to find a cost-effective solution to your linear motion needs.

Contact us today for more details.
Tuesday, 21 April 2020

Servo Actuators vs. Linear Actuators - What's The Difference?

If you're searching for a linear motion solution for the first time, you might find yourself a little bit confused that there are several different terms used to describe what appear to be identical products: linear actuator, servo actuator, linear servo and several others. 

This can be confusing and my aim here is to clear it up and help you understand what is meant by 'actuator' vs 'servo'.


It's important to know that other than the connection cable, all of the differences are internal. Linear actuators and linear servos are indeed identical when viewed from the outside. They function exactly the same way, in and out.

So what's the difference between an actuator and a servo?

An actuator operates in the same manner as an electric motor. When power is applied, the motor will spin, and when power is removed, the motor will stop. Actuators are exactly the same. They are simple devices that only recognize on or off. They are incapable of position control on their own.

A servo actuator is different in that it can receive a command to go to a specific position, and then act on that command. It's not a simple power on-power off equation. A servo can be told what to do and then do it on it's own.

servo actuator

Though they look the same, they're actually quite different in how they function. This makes them ideal for different applications.


Actuators are ideal for projects and situations where what you need is the same range of linear motion all the time. You can apply power and it will extend until the end-limit switch shuts off the power. Reverse the polarity and the same will happen in retraction.


Linear servos are ideal for more complex applications where you need the device to respond to an external command for a certain position. This is how standard RC servos work.

A linear servo must have 3 or more wires. Power, ground and a signal wire to tell the servo what position it should go to.

Looking at the pictures below, it's easy to understand how some might be a little confused.



servo actuators

So to summarize, an actuator is a simple device that can not complete a task without being told to do so, and a servo actuator is 'smart' in that it can accept an input signal and go to that position on it's own.


It's actually fairly simple, but this distinction can cause some confusion. I hope this article has helped you understand the difference and hopefully give you the foundation you need to choose the best device for your application.


Need some help choosing the correct device for your next project? Give our sales department a shout, they would be happy to help you!







Saturday, 28 March 2020

Home Automation Ideas Using Micro Linear Actuators

When it comes to home automation, there are more options available to you today than ever. From smart light bulbs to smart thermostats, camera systems, televisions, and smart appliances, there are a ton of options for you to consider when looking for ways to add automation to your home.

We get calls regularly from people who want to build something custom, something a little bit different that can’t be found at Best Buy. Below, I’m going to cover a few custom home automation projects that we have helped our customers take on over the years. Maybe this list will inspire you to find new ways to optimize your daily life through automation.


Whether you’re looking to make a practical upgrade to your home or just impress your friends, I hope you are able to use these home automation ideas to inspire your next project.



Animal Doors


Animal doors are fairly common. The issues with them is that there isn’t really a way to lock most animal doors. This means that your animal can potentially escape at times when you don’t want them out. Or even worse, intruders could use your animal door to enter your home, like this guy for example…


Using one of our L12 linear actuators, this customer created a block for his cat door, that automatically activated when his garage door opened. This prevents the cat from escaping when the owner is entering or exiting the garage. Pretty clever idea!



Cupboards/drawers


Using linear actuators, you can automate the cupboards and drawers in your home. Maybe you want to add a motion element to your china cabinet to impress your friends, or automate a drawer just for fun!


This is also a great way to make a storage space inaccessible to children. If you want to keep them out of the knife drawer, you can set it up to operate in and out via linear actuator and mount the switch out of their reach.



Locks


There are some great automated locks on the market already. These work well if you’re trying to secure the front or rear door of your home. There are two main issues with most of them however, they’re really expensive, and they’re only suited to the standard style of locking mechanism used on doors. 


What if you want to add a lock to a cupboard or cabinet, closet or shed door? Below is a potential solution. Check out this simple, automated locking mechanism. While this may not be the prettiest solution, it can be used in a wide variety of applications where it may not be seen. It’s also dead-simple and can be wifi-enabled using our IOT Wifi bundle.



Windows


Whether you have hinged or sliding windows, you can open and close them automatically using micro linear actuators. If you want to build something a little fancier, you could use arduino or our IOT wifi bundle to close your window at certain times, or based on a number of other parameters. Maybe a train passes by your home at the same time each day and you don’t want to manually close and re-open your windows. This could make a great solution.



Shutters/Blinds


Opening and closing shutters and blinds is typically fairly simple. But what about blinds that are mounted up high, out of your reach? What about shutters mounted to your skylight? For these applications, regular opening and closing the old-school way can quickly become a pain.


Using micro actuators, you can cause your shutters or blinds to open and close at the push of a button or, as above, based on some other criteria.



Hidden Storage


There are a variety of reasons that you may want a hidden storage compartment in your home. Hiding valuables from burglars, keeping valuables or weapons away from children, or just adding a cool James Bond-style element to your home. Micro actuators make it simple to create hidden storage behind a painting, a hidden panel or in a variety of other places.



Pop up features (spice rack)


If you live in a small space such as an RV, tiny home or small condominium, one great way to optimize your kitchen space is to add a feature such as a spice or knife rack, or other storage spaces that rises up out of the counter. This can save you valuable above-counter space for food prep or other things.



Final thoughts


If you’re looking for some new and unique ways to automate your home, I hope this list has inspired a few ideas. The great thing about modern home automation is that you’re not really restricted much by technology. There are thousands of smart devices out there not including the unique and interesting things that you can build yourself.




Sunday, 1 March 2020

How To Limit Travel On Linear Actuators Without Adjustable Limit Switches

Though we carry more micro-linear motion products than anybody, there are times when our customers have a stroke-length requirement that can't be met with an off the shelf product. While some larger actuators come with adjustable end limit switches, this isn't practical on micro actuators.

There are however, several ways to adjust the stroke of your micro actuator.


The ability to adjust the stroke of an electric linear actuator for greater precision is incredibly useful. There are hundreds of applications that might require a custom stroke including:
  • Micro robotics applications
  • Opening and closing drawers and cupboards for home automation
  • Animatronic displays
  • Industrial or medical applications with tight tolerances
  • Automotive customizations
  • RC applications such as air brakes, landing gear, flaps or retractable canopies

There are some linear actuators with adjustable end-limit switches, most are non-adjustable. I'm going to walk through what you can do to get the custom stroke linear actuator that you need.

There are three ways to adjust the stroke of a linear actuator.
  • Adjust the actuator's extension and retraction
  • Adjust only the retraction
  • Adjust only the extension.
Before you get started with a custom linear motion system, consider whether it might be easier to modify your project. 

Sometimes simply adjusting a mounting point could net you the same result as any of the below solutions. If you're sure that you need the ability to adjust your actuator's stroke, keep reading.

What Are limit Switches?

There are many different types of linear actuators.  The simplest of these (such as our S series) have internal end-limit switches. These switches simply stop the actuator by cutting off the power when it reaches it's end of stroke when retracting or extending.

There are both adjustable and non-adjustable limit switches, with the non-adjustable type being far more common.

If an actuator does not have end-limit switches, or another means to shut down power at the end of it's stroke, damage to actuator is certain to occur as it will keep trying to drive until it burns out the motor or causes some other physical damage to the device.

Stall Protection

Stall protection is a feature found on Actuonix "R" and "I" series micro linear actuators, as well as "P" series when used with our Linear Actuator Control Board. This gives you similar functionality to an actuator with adjustable end limit switches.  The difference is that while end limit switches cut the power to the motor, inhibiting further movement in one direction, stall protection is a safety feature that kicks in when the motor 'stalls' or meets a certain amount of resistance.

If you need a linear actuator with a custom stroke length, you have options. You don't necessarily need a linear actuator with adjustable limit switches. Below are 5 options to get the custom stroke you need.

1. Use an LAC (Linear Actuator Control) board

adjustable end limit switches


Using a "P" series actuator with an LAC board increases the functionality of the actuator. One of the features it offers is the ability to set custom end-limits on both ends of the stroke. It's as simple as turning two pots to the desired position and then disconnecting and reconnecting power to the board. 

The LAC board is not only simple to use, but it's affordable. When you buy a "P" series actuator, we offer the LAC board for 1/2 price, which is only $20. For most applications, this is going to be your best bet for setting a custom stroke length.

2. Use an RC radio

Our "R" series linear servos, are a direct plug-and-play replacement for rotary hobby servos. If you're  controlling your project via RC, you can set custom end of stroke limits in most modern radios. I use a Spektrum DX8 and it offers this functionality.

3. Install an external limit switch kit

linear actuator with adjustable limit switches

An external limit switch kit is a small mechanical switch that will either make or break a connection when contacted by the actuator at a certain point.  You to set custom end limits on an "S" or "P" series actuator. It's inexpensive and relatively easy to install. If you need help installing an end limit switch kit you can find the data sheet here.

4. Use an arduino

This might work well for you if your project is already using Arduino. It's more complicated than simple limit switches or even using an LAC board. I won't cover this in detail here as there are several ways to accomplish custom end-limits with Arduino and that's a whole article on it's own. For support using Arduino with micro linear actuators, I highly recommend signing up for the forums at Trossen Robotics.  There are lots of great, helpful Arduino users over there.

5.  Order a custom product

If you need a large quantity of actuators, it would be a big task to install limit switches on them all. We can help you out by building you a custom micro linear actuator with limit switches set to your specifications.

This would require a quantity order of at least 500 units. If you need a lot of actuators for an OEM product than this is a great, cost effective way to get the custom stroke that you need.

The point is that you have options. You don't necessarily need a linear actuator with adjustable limit switches to achieve your desired stroke. You can get the same result several different ways. The options listed above are the simplest and most cost-effective for most individuals and companies.

If you have any questions about using a micro linear actuator with a custom stroke feel free to contact our sales department weekdays from 7:30am to 3:30pm.



Friday, 24 January 2020

Cheap Linear Actuator | How To Buy Inexpensive Actuators

At Actuonix, we take pride in producing inexpensive linear actuators that are built to a high standard of quality. Our low-cost line of micro linear actuators is the result of years of product development and incremental improvement. 
Unlike some linear actuator companies, we don't buy our products from mass-manufacturers and re-brand them. We design every product from scratch, build and test prototypes and adjust our designs over and over to make sure that by the time our products reach the customer, they're going to get the job done.
Actuators aren't an investment that you make at the drop of a hat. It takes time and effort to find affordable linear actuators that meet a high standard of quality and can stand the test of time. At Actuonix Motion Devices, every single actuator that we sell is thoroughly tested before leaving our facility. We do this so that we can maintain a high standard of product quality, while still producing the cheapest linear actuators on the market.
If you want even more ways to save money on your next purchase of linear actuators, there are a few ideas listed below.

How To Get Cheap Actuators

1. Buy in bulk

linear actuators bulk

Everybody knows that buying in bulk is one of the best ways to get a discount. Linear actuators are no exception. At Actuonix, we're pleased to be able to offer bulk pricing to customers that order our products in quantities of ten or more.
If your business is in the market for actuators, consider amalgamating several product purchases into one.  The more actuators that you buy per transaction, the greater discount we can offer you. We're also willing to work with you to further reduce your cost by bulk-packaging your actuators and/or not shipping you items that you may not use such as the mounting hardware kit that comes standard with all of our products.

2. Student Discounts Are Available

College and university students may be eligible for an educational discount on Actuonix products. This discount is available on orders that are shipped to an educational facility. Providing engineering students with affordable linear actuators is just one way that Actuonix is committed to giving back to the engineering community. Students in other programs maybe eligible for discounts as well.

3. FIRST Robotics Team

Did you know that Actuonix linear servos are permitted for use in FRC builds? You can use our devices in this year's robot build. And as a FIRST Robotics team, you're eligible for a discount on our products. You can contact our sales department for more information.


FIRST robotics actuators

4. Become Part Of Our Build Team 


cheap actuators

Over the last 13 years in business, Actuonix has sponsored dozens of projects from all around the world. We sponsor a variety of projects including unique robotics, RC and Arduino builds. If you're interested in having your next project considered for sponsorship by Actuonix, check out this page for more info.


Frankly, when it comes to cheap linear actuators, there's just not much out there. There are several companies selling products that they've bought wholesale from companies like Alibaba and re branded. You never know what you're going to get with that type of product, and neither does the seller, because they didn't design and build it.
When you buy a low-cost micro linear actuator from Actuonix, you're getting a device that was imagined, designed, prototyped, tested and improved upon by our in-house team of engineers right here in Western Canada. In addition, you're getting a company with more than a decade of experience delivering reliable, affordable motion devices. Don't settle for less, install Actuonix in your next project.
Thursday, 5 December 2019

Custom Linear Actuators

Custom linear actuators

Updated for 2020!

Do you need a custom linear actuator for your next product or project? Actuonix Motion Devices can help. We pride ourselves on manufacturing the largest selection of affordable micro actuators available. Even still, we regularly get requests from customers who require a custom actuation solution that is outside of our regular range of products.

If your applications parameters dictate a custom actuator configuration, no problem. Our team of in-house engineers can work with you to customize a product that will suit your needs.



Custom Linear Actuators That Meet YOUR Specifications

At Actuonix, we manufacture all of our products. Unlike some of our competitors, our team of engineers designs every piece of our actuators from our headquarters in Western Canada. Because we control the entire production process, we can alter our designs to suit your needs.

Do Custom Electric Actuators Require A Minimum Order Quantity?

Yes, we require a minimum MOQ of 500 for basic actuator modifications. The MOQ may be more or less depending on what your particular needs are. Below are some examples of customizations that we can produce with a minimum order quantity of 500 units.

Change Electrical Connector

There are many different styles of connectors out there. If you're ordering a large number of actuators for your design, it might be worth having us customize a cable for you, rather than adapting your project to match the cables that we install on stock actuators.

Installing a custom linear actuator cable to match what's already available on your device will save you time and money.

Longer Or Shorter Connection Wire

Not only can we change the cable, we can also customize the length of the cable. Whether you want your cables to be 5 inches or 50 inches, we can work with you to produce a custom cable that will work for your application.

Combining a custom cable length with a custom plug can make the motion component of your design much easier to manage.


Modifying Limit Switch Position

Our internal limit switches are non-adjustable on stock actuators. That said, there are other ways to limit the stroke of your actuator that might work for you. These include using an LAC board, an external limit switch kit, or controlling your actuators via arduino.

If your requirements meet our minimum order quanitity and you want to limit the stroke without the use of external switches or an LAC board, talk to our sales team about modifying a stock product to your specifications. We can have the limit switch position modified at our factory.


Shortening Actuator Stroke 

If simply limiting actuator travel wouldn't work for you, and you need a device with a physically shorter stroke than what we offer, we can do that as well.

We have done this type of actuator customization for many customers in the past and know the process inside and out. 


Custom Rod End Attachments

All of our micro linear actuators (with the exception of our NXT and T16 lines) come with the stock clevis end tip. You will also find a threaded end tip inside the included hardware kit. Most of our clients are able to make one of these tips work for them. If however, you require a different means of attachment, we can work with you to design an end tip that will integrate seamlessly into your design.

If you don't require a large enough quantity for custom actuator production, you can manufacture your own end tips to suit your needs.

The internal thread on the shaft is M8 x 1.25.


Fitting A Motor/Gearbox With A Custom Gear Ratio

Do you need a custom speed or force spec that is not available in our stock products?

Though our line of electric actuators comes with a variety of gearing options, there are others available. We can work with our motor supplier to provide actuators with a custom gear ratio to better suit your force and speed requirements.


Changing Lubricants To Facilitate Low-Temp Operation

If you are planning on operating our miniature actuators in an extreme environment, you may need to order devices with a custom gear oil to facilitate low-temperature operations. The stock gear oil works well in a wide range of temperatures but can become too thick when subjected to extremely low temperatures.

In addition to the linear actuator customizations mentioned above, we can make more significant design alterations up to and including designing a different clamshell, or an entirely new product. The minimum order quantity for major customizations begins at 2000 units.

If you're looking for an affordable custom actuator for your next product design, you're in the right place. Nobody can match Actuonix's selection of actuators. And if none of our 168 stock models work for your application, we can design something within your budget that will.

We want to you get the right micro linear actuator for your needs, at the an affordable price. That's why we included a complete mounting hardware kit with every actuator we sell. Other companies charge $8-10 for just the hardware kit. 

Contact us today to learn more about our custom linear actuator solutions.


Wednesday, 20 November 2019

Introducing Our New Line Of S20 Stepper Actuators!


For years, Actuonix has been providing affordable motion solutions to OEM designers, inventors, builders and hobbyists of all types. We’re proud that our products have been the backbone of some truly amazing projects. From animatronics, RC construction and 3D displays to complex medical devices, prosthetics and automotive applications, our actuators have served a wide range of clients. They’ve even been to space!

We’re always reaching for more. We want to serve more people, be involved in more projects and offer affordable motion solutions to those for whom we haven’t been a fit in the past. When we first started developing actuators over a decade ago, we wanted to offer a solution that would serve the widest range of customers at an affordable price. As this business has grown over the years, we have released new products to appeal to different builders.


One of the main pieces of feedback that we receive from some customers is that they wish we offered a product that offered a higher positioning accuracy than our current offerings.


We hear you. In fact, our new line has been in development for . Our engineers have been hard at work ensuring that our new line is the best it can possibly be. And the best part? As with all of our products, it’s affordable for OEM designers and hobbyists alike.



Introducing the Actuonix S20 line of stepper actuators




We’re proud to announce that our new S20 line of stepper actuators is now officially available in our store!


The S20 is a rod-style actuator that is built off of our popular L12 platform. Unlike our other actuators which use a DC motor and gearbox, the S20 line has a NEMA 8 motor mounted directly to the actuator shaft. The S20 offers high-precision positioning in a very compact package that is ideal for mounting in tight spaces.


The S20 is available in four different stroke lengths: 15mm (0.59"), 30mm (1.18"), 50mm (1.97") and 100mm (3.93") to ensure that we offer a stepper actuator solution that will work with your design



How to drive a stepper actuator

For those who need a means of driving their stepper actuator, we are now offering a TIC T825 Stepper Driver Board by Pololu.

The Pololu Tic family of stepper motor controllers makes it easy to add basic control of a bipolar stepper motor to a variety of projects. These versatile, general-purpose modules support six different control interfaces – USB for direct connection to a computer, TTL serial and I²C for use with a microcontroller, RC hobby servo pulses for use in an RC system, analog voltages for use with a potentiometer or analog joystick, and quadrature encoder for use with a rotary encoder dial – and offer many settings that can be configured using Pololu's free configuration utility (for Windows, Linux, and macOS). This software simplifies initial setup of the device and allows for in-system testing and monitoring of the controller via USB (a micro-B USB cable is required to connect the Tic to a computer).



Still have questions?

If you’re not sure whether or not a stepper actuator is the right choice for you, give us a call! We can help direct you to the best actuator for your project or for incorporating into your product design.