Wednesday, 8 August 2018

YouBionic Update!


Here's a great demonstration of YouBionic's latest prosthetic creation using Actuonix actuators.  YouBionic continues to design progressively more impressive 3D printable  prosthesis and robotics.  

Visit https://www.youbionic.com/ for more detail on how to print your own.


Explore a more detailed article at digitaltrends.com 
Monday, 30 July 2018

IOT WIFI CONTROL - NEW PRODUCT RELEASE!

Internet of things or IOT has finally hit the mainstream.  While home automation is still fragmented into many different standards and systems, Google and Amazon have brought simple and inexpensive WiFi home automation speakers to market, and services like IFTTT.com and Samsung Smartthings are making interfacing between standards much simpler.  So the question is, how do we make our projects move? 

Today, I'm going to give you a look at our latest product - the Actuonix IOT Servo Shield.  Plug in a Particle Photon WiFi module  and you're ready to control actuators using your cell phone (Android or IOS) or many of the Home Automation options offered by IFTTT.com .  The IFTTT service supports Google Home and Amazon Alexa, giving you custom voice control options.  The Actuonix IOT Servo Shield makes wiring a breeze.

There are many applications for a voice or internet controlled actuator, a few of our favorites are: a Chicken Coop door that opens automatically at sunrise and closes at sunset, a secret compartment that opens when you speak the secret phrase,  and a window that automatically opens or closes based on forecast weather.

We can't wait to see what everyone does with these!

More details: 

IOT Servo Shield and Particle Photon: 
https://www.actuonix.com/IOT-WiFi-Bundle-p/iot-shield-photon.htm

Actuonix Datasheet: 
https://s3.amazonaws.com/actuonix/Actuonix+IOT+Servo+Shield.pdf  

"If this then that" service:
www.ifttt.com 

The Wifi Module:
www.particle.com 

Here's a sneak peak of our next blog post: A WiFi controlled chicken coop door.  


As installed: 1 x 12V DC supply, 1x Double case, 1 x LAC, 1 x IOT WiFi Bundle, 1 x -R extension cable, 1 x T16-300-64-12-P.  

For shorter strokes, only an IOT WiFi Bundle, dc supply, and -R type actuator are needed.
Thursday, 31 May 2018

How To Use An External Limit Switch Kit With A Linear Actuator

Linear actuators come in many different stroke lengths to suit a variety of needs. That said, you may find yourself needing to customize your linear actuator by reducing the stroke. Usually, the simplest and fastest way to achieve this is by installing a linear actuator limit switch kit.


What is a linear actuator limit switch kit?


By default, many linear actuators have a means to either stop the actuator when it reaches its end of stroke, or prevent it from damaging itself. The most common ways of accomplishing this are by adding stall protection, to prevent the device from trying to push against its end-limit until it burns itself out, or an internal limit switch. On devices with limit switches, the moving mechanism within the actuator physically contacts a switch within the actuator that cuts power to the device.


linear actuator limit switch kit
Actuonix Limit Switch Kit


Some larger actuators have adjustable end limit switches. With Actuonix devices, the tiny size of the actuator makes this impossible. This is where an external limit switch kit comes in.

A limit switch kit is a set of two simple switches that when wired into your actuator's control circuit, replace the function of the internal switches. This kit is mounted externally and requires that the moving part of your mechanism actually makes contact with the switch on the retraction and/or extension strokes.

It can be the rod or block of the actuator itself, or any moving part of your mechanism that contacts the switch, your choice.


Pretty simple right?

Using one of these kits, you can customize the stroke of your actuator to whatever you want below the maximum, factory stroke of your device.



How do limit switches work?


External limit switches are used to break an electrical circuit when activated. Our limit switches have a sprung bar that when depressed, breaks the electrical connection that is driving the actuator, causing it to stop. Using a diode in the circuit allows the actuator to move in the opposite direction.

There are many different types of limit switches out there in a variety of sizes to accommodate everything from micro linear actuators to heavy duty linear actuators.



Pros and cons of installing an external limit switch kit


Pros:

  • Makes it simple to customize your actuator's stroke below the factory setting
  • Much cheaper than ordering a custom linear actuator (which must be done at higher quantities)
  • Simple to wire up and effective

Cons:
  • It increases the complexity of your project and may make your wiring a little more messyTakes a little more time to set up than just plugging your actuator in
  • Makes your design slightly more complex

Which actuators are compatible with a limit switch kit?


You can install limit switches on any -S or -P Actuonix linear actuator. The -P series does not have internal switches, instead it has stall protection when used with the LAC board. This means that if you're not using it with an LAC it's possible to burn the device out if you run it to it's end limit and continue to apply power.

If you're planning on using a -P actuator without an LAC, it's a good idea to use a limit switch kit as well to avoid damaging the actuator.



How To Install A Linear Actuator Limit Switch Kit


A limit switch kit must be wired into the control circuit of your actuator. Here are some things that you will need:

Parts:

Actuonix -S series or -P series micro linear actuator
External limit switch kit
Control switch of your choice
Power source
Heat shrink tubing (if you're soldering the connections)


Tools:

Wire stripper
Soldering iron or connectors with crimping tool

All you need to do is simply wire the limit switches into your control circuit following the wiring diagram below.


how to install limit switches


Summary


Installing an external limit switch kit is a cheap and easy way to build a custom linear motion solution that meets your exact needs. Our kit comes with almost everything that you will need to install your kit including two switches and diodes.

Have a question? Feel free to reach out to our sales team. We are in the office Monday through Friday from 7:30am to 2:30pm Pacific Standard Time excluding Canadian and provincial holidays. If you leave a message or email outside of those hours we will get back to you the next business day.


Monday, 28 May 2018

High Speed Linear Actuators

Looking for a high speed miniature linear actuator for your next project or product? Look no further than our P16 and T16 lines. These devices are commonly used in applications that require a balance of speed and force.


high speed linear actuators



What are high speed linear actuators?

To say that something is 'high speed' is of course, completely relative. What's considered fast will vary from person to person. The fastest-moving actuators that we offer are the P16 and T16 lines in a 22:1 gear ratio. Unloaded, they move at 46mm/s.

That's fast.


The max force on those units is an impressive 11lbs. Not bad for units that weight less than 150 grams.

High speed linear actuator applications


There are many applications that require a fast actuator. These include:

Home and furniture automation

When you're driving a function on a piece of furniture, cabinetry or other home automation device, you probably don't want to wait too long for results. 

Robotics

Fast actuators are often required in quick-moving robotics projects. Check out the zapper arm on Doug's R2D2 droid. It's driven by a high speed T16 actuator.

Automobile automation

There are dozens of ideal applications for customizing your vehicle or motorcycle. Some of our favorite customer projects include:

Electric emergency brake conversion


Engine idle control


Automated interior features (glove box, ash tray, storage etc.)

Pop-out windows

Sliding motorcycle windshields


Auto-opening saddle bags

fast linear actuators


And much more, you get the point. When it comes to automation, there's really aren't limits anymore to what you can do to make your car or motorcycle your own. Our high speed linear actuators can help you make it happen.

Advantages and disadvantages of high speed actuators

Advantages

Typically higher cycle life. The DC motor within a linear actuator is often the first item to fail. A faster actuator makes the stroke in a shorter time. This means that all things being equal, a fast actuator will end up doing more actuations in its lifetime than a slow unit.

Get the job done fast. For most applications, there's really no reason to use a slow actuator. Unless your specific project requires slow movement or you need higher force, fast actuators are just more time-efficient.

Disadvantages

There's not many. The main thing is that you're not going to be able to move as much weight. With screw drive actuators, there's always a trade off between force and speed. With faster units, they just can't exert as much force as the slower ones.

High speed actuator design

Our high speed actuators are carefully engineered by our in-house, Canadian engineering team to provide reliable, smooth actuations over a long life span.

The main difference between our P16 and T16 lines of fast actuators, as compared to our other units, is the side by side motor and gearbox design. This results in the motor and gearbox compartment being larger than you will find in our other units, but results in a longer-lasting, more powerful device. Definitely a worthwhile tradeoff if you can spare the extra space in your design.

Other than the motor and gearbox design, the P16 actuators are similar to our L12 and L16 units. They use the same shaft and drive nut, as well as two of the same input types (-P and -S). They also use the same clevis end-tip so if you have designed a custom tip, it will be easily interchangeable.
out.

How to control high speed linear actuators

Our high speed linear actuators come with your choice of two control types: -P series and -S series. These are compatible with a wide variety of control systems that we offer on our site.

-S series linear actuators with limit switches

Our -S series actuators are simple, 2-wire devices that are controlled by reversing polarity on the leads. All of our P16 and T16 lines are 12V input (we do have 6V actuators in the L12, L16 and PQ12 lines).

You can control the -S series with a DPDT switch or button such as the ones you will find in the 'Control Boards, Switches and Potentiometers' section on our site. They also work with our wireless actuator remote control system as well as our timer relay.

You can also control them directly from a 12V battery using alligator clips or directly from a 12V power supply. This is definitely the simplest device to use and is suitable for most projects.


The -S series has internal end of stroke limit switches. It will stop on it's own when it reaches its end of stroke. If you want to reduce your stroke length, you can add an external limit switch as seen in this video.

-P series high speed linear actuator with potentiometer

Our -P series actuator does not have end of limit switches. It does however, have position feedback. These are best suited to applications where you want to remotely control an actuator while monitoring it's position. You can also add an external limit switch kit to a -P actuator to have the best of both worlds.

The -P series high speed linear actuators were developed alongside and intended to be used with our linear actuator control board. Through the board, the -P series gets stall protection as well as five different input modes:

Voltage

Current

RC

USB

PWM


There is a control option here to suit any need. When used with an LAC board, it's super simple to use a high-speed -P series actuator in an RC project. 

High speed actuator mounting options

Unlike our competitors, we throw an actuator mounting kit in with every single device that we sell. That means, if you buy 20 actuators, you will receive 20 mounting kits.

This takes away the hassle of trying to figure out how to properly and securely mount a high speed actuator to your project.

Though our mounting kit may not be suitable for every application, it's a great starting point for designing your own custom mounting option that will cost you nothing. Our competitors charge almost $10 extra for a mounting kit (that doesn't have as much hardware).


That's not how we roll. You buy a high speed linear actuator from Actuonix, you're going to get everything you need to get it mounted up in the package.

Custom high speed linear actuator solutions

If you can't find exactly what you need on our site, get in touch and ask about a custom linear actuator! We have produced many custom units over the years. Below are some common customizations for our actuators:

Adjust connector cable length

Adjust connector cable length

Custom gearing ratio for faster speed or more power

Custom rod end clevis

Custom decals to match your design

Custom stroke length or limit switch placement


There are other customizations that we can perform as well. If you think that a custom actuator might be the best option for your business, give us a shout, we'd be happy to tell you about our customization options and lead times. Minimum order quantities apply.

Our high speed linear actuators offer an amazing 46mm/s of max unloaded speed in a tiny form factor. With strokes of 50mm, 100mm, 150mm, 200mm and 300mm, we offer a truly unique product that's unlike anything else on the market.

How much do high speed linear actuators cost?

All of our actuators, including our high speed units, cost less than $100USD. We strive to offer the best selection of products available anywhere, at a price that's affordable for OEMs and hobbyists alike.

We do offer volume discounts starting at just 10 units. Contact us for more details.



Thursday, 5 April 2018

Stepper Motor Linear Actuators - New Products Coming Soon!


Over the years, we've built our micro linear actuator offering to more than 160 unique models. Like most companies, we act on feedback from our customers and try to develop products that will suit their needs.

Today, I'm going to give you a look at our latest product in development - a new line of rod stepper actuators and track stepper actuators.


What Is A Stepper Linear Actuator?


A stepper actuator is simply a linear actuator that uses a stepper motor instead of a standard DC motor. Stepper motors are a different type of DC motor that is capable of far higher accuracy than standard DC motors. 

Normal DC motors will spin until the power to the motor is switched off somehow. This can be via a standard button or rocker switch or an end limit switch. The key is that it will turn until it is deenergized.

A stepper motor can be commanded to an exact position. When commanded, it will go to that position and then stop.


Basically, it takes the full rotation of the motor and breaks it down into hundreds of steps. Each step is a position that you can command the motor to.


Why Stepper Actuators?


Stepper actuators are not a new concept. There are lots of companies out there that produce larger or much more expensive stepper actuators. 

Over the years we have found that one thing our customers ask for regularly is more precision. Though it's possible to achieve reasonable precision from a DC motor, many medical, robotics or other positioning applications require higher precision than our DC actuators can offer. This is why we started developing this new line.

The Actuonix line of micro stepper actuators will be unique in that the cost (though not yet released), will be lower than anything previously available.


How To Control A Stepper Actuator


We have decided that rather than building our own stepper control board/software solution, we will be offering a control board from Pololu, a trusted brand in micro-electronics. The Pololu Tic T825 will be available for purchase in our store at the same time as the stepper actuators.


When Will This New Line Be Released?


At this time, we can't say exactly when our stepper actuators will be available, though it will be sometime this year. Product development takes time and as with all of our models, the stepper line will be the result of thorough testing and revision to ensure that we're putting out the absolute best product that we can.

That said, if you have a project that you feel would be a good fit for this new line of actuators, feel free to reach out to mikeg@actuonix.com and we will see what we can do to get you an early release model in exchange for some feedback on the product and photos of the actuator in your application.


Tuesday, 13 March 2018

How To Control A Linear Servo Using A DMX Stage Lighting and Special Effects System

There are dozens of different ways to drive servos and linear servos. We semi-regularly hear about systems that we're not familiar with.

Recently, we had a customer inquire about whether or not our linear servos work with a DMX Stage Lighting system. We'd never been asked that before, so we did some research.


What is a DMX Stage Lighting System?

The DMX type system is a popular standard in performing arts and commercial lighting. DMX stands for 'Digital Multiplex'. Basically, this means that the many channels in the system are transmitted through a single cable.

 Complex lighting and effect routines can be programmed or manually controlled with these systems.  Being that micro linear actuators are an ideal size for physical effects, the ability to control these with the same system is a great convenience.

Which Actuators Should I Use With A DMX System?

Actuonix -R actuators are your best bet. These can be easily connected using a DMX Servo Controller.  There are a number of companies offering a wide array of these controllers.  Only need to control a single actuator, then a single channel controller will work. Need more? no problem, choose a 4, 8, or even 96 channel controller.

For higher power and speed, Actuonix P16-P and T16-P type actuators can also be connected to a DMX Servo controller(An LAC interface board is needed for each).


When choosing a controller, keep in mind our L12/PQ12 -R's need at least 0.5A per actuator (1A per L16-R actuator).  If your DMX servo controller is not able to supply sufficient current, an external power supply can be used.

Instead of connecting the actuator's red wire to the DMX servo controller, you will connect it to an external DC power supply.  The external DC power supply ground wire must also be connected to the actuator's black wire.

Where To Buy A DMX Servo Controller?

There are several online stores that carry servo controllers that work with the DMX system. See below for some links to servo controllers.

A few suppliers of DMX Servo Controllers:

https://nodna.de/USB-DMX-8-channel-Digital-Output-Module (noDNA is an Actuonix Distributor)

Hopefully this article has given you an idea of how to get started with using a DMX system to drive linear servos. If you need assistance choosing a servo or actuator that will suit your project, please contact our sales team at sales@actuonix.com or at 1-888-225-9198 and we'll be happy to assist you.
Wednesday, 21 February 2018

How To Control A Linear Servo With Your Phone Via Bluetooth


We use our phones for much of what we do these days, but did you know that you can control a linear servo with your cell phone?

There are dozens of different ways to control linear actuators. From simple switches to more complex PLCs, RC control and arduino - no matter what you're trying to build, there's a control type to suit your needs.

After seeing a video on YouTube demonstrating how to control a servo with bluetooth and an android phone, I thought it would be fun to do something similar with a linear servo.

We've never covered this before because our wireless linear actuator remote control is a good solution for most who want to drive their actuator remotely.

If you want to control your linear servo using your cell phone or tablet and bluetooth, you can build your own setup just like we've got here for around $150

Step 1 - Collect Your Parts

Linear Servo Bluetooth Control Circuit Parts
Bluetooth Linear Actuator Circuit

Now that you have your parts, it's time to get cracking on putting it all together. In this example, I'm using two different power supplies - one for the arduino board, and one for the actuator. The actuator will function driven directly from an Arduino board but generally it is recommended to power it separately.

This can be accomplished using just an HC-05 bluetooth module but it's easier to just get the shield, plug it in and you're good to go.

Step 2 - Wire Up Your Circuit

linear actuator bluetooth


Step 3 - Download The App

You'll need to download a servo motor control app to your device. There are quite a few apps out there, we're using Arduino Servo Motor Control. Of the ones we tried, this one was the most reliable. It can be found here.

Step 4 - Upload Your Code

You're going some arduino code to control your servo. Fortunately the developer of the Arduino Motor Control app offers a simple bit of code that makes it simple to get going if you're not good with code (like me). There is a link to the code sample on the app's description here.

Step 5 - Connect Your Phone To The Bluetooth Module

I don't go into detail about how to accomplish this but it's more or less the same as connecting any other bluetooth device to your phone. The documentation for the both the bluetooth module and shield can be found under the 'Useful Links' tab on the RobotShop product page.

Step 6 - Build Something Awesome

Now you're connected, you can use the app to drive your linear servo in and out using the slider within the app.


Here is a video demonstrating the setup outlined above.