Tuesday, 9 February 2021

Automotive Applications for Linear Actuators

The automotive industry is both growing and rapidly changing. Manufacturers and hobbyists alike are always on the hunt for new ways to automate functions while keeping development costs low

Linear actuators can be found performing many functions in modern vehicles including cars, RVs and heavy equipment. Linear actuators perform some of the most basic functions of modern vehicles behind the scenes including applying parking brakes, opening and closing vent doors to direct your heat and A/C, opening and closing windows, power tailgates, sliding doors and more. Automotive actuators range from tiny devices integrated into other components through to large actuators that open your SUVs tailgate.

Linear actuators are also becoming popular with enthusiasts who want to add a custom motion element to their vehicle or restore a lost piece of functionality. A common example of this is using actuators to open flip-up headlights that once were controlled by a vacuum system. 

Installing a linear actuator can be a cost-effective solution to your motion problem while avoiding the issues that come with using weak rotary servos, complicated drive systems or super expensive micro actautors.

We enjoy seeing our products integrated into automotive projects. Some of the more common installations we see include:
  • Replacing vacuum-actuated pop-up headlights on classic cars
  • Installing electric pop-out rear windows on older cars
  • Engine idle control for PTO operations
  • Engine idle control for high-performance vehicles
  • Electric interior elements such as glove box or hidden compartments
  • Air intake vent control
  • Motorcycle windscreen automation
  • Electric parking brake conversions

Our 'S' series actuators are ideal more many automotive installations as they're controlled by a simple 2-wire system using reversing polarity. This allows you to use a wide variety of latching or momentary switches, depending on your needs.

If you're considering a adding a custom motion element to your project vehicle, or developing an automotive product that requires linear motion, we would love to hear about your project.

Starting from the planning phase, Actuonix will stick with you every step of the way.. When you choose to install Actuonix Motion Devices in your vehicle, you're choosing a product that's designed by our team in Canada and backed by more than a decade of experience. There are an increasing number of cheaply-made, offshore clones of our products on other sites, but when you buy genuine Actuonix actuators, you're getting an original Canadian design. 
Sunday, 3 January 2021

10 Different Options For Controlling Linear Actuators




If you're new to linear actuators, you might not realize that there are many different options for linear actuator control. Long gone are the days where all you could get was a simple 2-wire device that operates via reversing polarity. Those are still available of course but manufacturers are offering a variety of different input modes to cater to hobbyists, arduino enthusiasts as well as the technical needs of equipment manufacturers.

Below you will find ten different options for controlling linear actuators. This list is intended to give you an overview of what's possible for linear actuator control. It's not exhaustive, there are other options out there but these are the ones that will work for most people.


Rocker Switch

actuator rocker switch

The rocker switch is a great option for basic control of 2-wire linear actuators. You can use either a latching or momentary DPDT switch to move your actuator in and out. Rocker switches are ideal for automotive and heavy equipment applications where 12V power is readily available.

Push Button

push button linear actuator

Similar to the rocker switch in functionality, the lighted DPDT push-button switch is a little more stylish and is great for applications where you want the control to really stand out.

Wireless Remote Controller

remote control linear actuator
If you want the ability to extend or retract your actuator from a distance, our Wireless Remote Control kit is for you. It features a range of up to 100 meters and is ideal for situations where you need to control your actuator at a distance. Opening locks, opening gates and compartments are some examples of where the wireless remote might com in handy.

Photocell

linear actuator arduino

If you're an arduino user, you can use it with a photo sensor to extend or retract your actuator based on the amount of light available. This is great for chicken coops. You can automatically close your chicken coop door at night and open it in the morning, saving yourself the hassle of leaving the house to do it manually.


Potentiometer

linear actuator potentiometer

P series actuators can be controlled with a sliding or rotary potentiometer via our LAC board. This is ideal for applications where you need to select a certain point along the actuator's travel and have lots of control over position.

RC

RC Linear Servo

R series linear servos can be controlled via a standard RC receiver. This means that adding functionality to your RC car boat or drone is as simple as plugging an R series linear servos into an unused channel on your receiver. This opens up a wide range of options for customization from retractable landing gear, grabber arms, sail adjustment and more.


PWM

Using P series linear actuators with an LAC board, you can control the actuator with a single digital output pin from an external microcontroller.  The desired actuator position is encoded as the duty cycle of a 3.3 Volt, 1 kHz square wave on LAC connector X6 pin 5, where the percent duty cycle sets the actuator position to the same percent of full stroke extension. 100% duty cycle represents full extension, and 0% duty cycle represents full retraction.


USB

If you want to control your actuator from your computer, we've got you covered. Our USB configuration software allows you to send commands to your actuator right from your Windows computer. This can be useful for product development and testing where you have a computer nearby and want to be able to experiment with different settings on the fly.


4-20 mA Interface Mode

This is one of the five control modes supported by our LAC board. This mode is compatible with PLC devices typically used in industrial control applications. Most consumers won't use this option so I won't go into detail here. For more info on how to use this control mode, see our LAC board data sheet.


Timer Relay

Linear actuator timer
If you need your actuator to extend or retract for a specific period of time in seconds, minutes or hours, then you can use a timer relay to accomplish that. This is useful for applications where you need something accomplished on a regular cycle and want to keep your cost down and avoid arduino programming.

I hope that this list has given you a better idea of the options you have when it comes to linear actuator control. 



Sunday, 7 June 2020

Why Choose Actuonix Motion Devices?



micro linear actuators


The leader in micro motion since 2005.


Actuonix Motion Devices (formerly Firgelli Technologies) has been a leading manufacturer of micro linear actuators and servos since 2005. All of our products are designed from scratch, by our in-house team of engineers. We pride ourselves on providing affordable, quality micro-motion solutions to a wide variety of industries.

Whether you're designing a new product for an OEM company or customizing a scale RC model, we're confident that we can offer you the right linear motion solution for your project.

More Strokes, Gearing Options and Control Options

With over 160 different models, we have the widest variety of products in the industry. We offer strokes ranging from 10mm-300mm and forces up to 67lbs. In addition, we have 4 different series of actuators with different options for control. 

This means that whether you're using an RC receiver, an arduino, VEX, a custom controller or simple reversing polarity, we've got the right actuator for your project. Need something to work with a PLC or your DAQ? We've got you covered there too. You don't need to waste time trying to make the wrong product work for your application.

We're constantly developing new products in an effort to better serve our customers. In the last three years we have released a line of track actuators, our IOT servo shield to open up new means of controlling our actuators and most recently, a line of stepper motor actuators.

Additionally, we are constantly updating our existing products in an ongoing effort to make our actuators even better. Good enough is never good enough at Actuonix.

Quality

With more than a decade in business, our engineers are world-class professionals at developing linear motion devices. Constantly on the hunt for new ways to improve on design and functionality, our products are load-tested to failure to make sure that everything we sell lives up to your expectations. 

We also test every single actuator for quality before it leaves our facility to make sure that you're getting a device that will last.

Outstanding Service

Actuonix offers customer service by email or phone from 7:30am-3:00pm PST. Our trained sales and support staff know our products inside and out and will help you choose the best device for your application.

Custom Actuators

Actuonix Motion Devices offers a custom linear actuator design service. With a minimum order quanitity of 500 units, we can make customizations such as:

  • Adding your choice of electrical connector
  • Modifying the length of the connection wire
  • Changing the position of the limit switches to adjust stroke
  • Fitting the product with a custom rod tip attachment to suit your project
  • Fitting a custom gear ratio motor to change the speed/force
  • Using custom lubricants for low temperature operation

Bulk Discounts

We also offer our customers bulk discounts for orders of more than 10 actuators, as well as student discounts for actuators that are shipped to an educational facility. Are you on a FIRST robotics team? Our line of linear actuators is FIRST compliant to get your machine moving for the next competition.

Shipping

We ship worldwide via UPS or Fedex, and are happy to use your account with another carrier if you prefer. Orders leave our facility between 1pm and 3pm weekdays. For in-stock orders, we try to ship same-day

With a knowledgeable team and products that have stood the test of time, we're confident that Actuonix is the right choice to make your project move. For more information, contact us today!


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.