Tuesday, 27 June 2017

Micro Linear Actuators from Actuonix vs. Other Retailers



Actuonix has been manufacturing micro linear actuators since 2004. When we say 'manufacturing', we mean that we design our products in-house. Our team of engineers designs every one of our actuators from scratch, right here in Canada.

Before Actuonix (formerly Firgelli Technologies) started making micro linear actuators, there was nothing of the kind on the market. There were small actuators, but nothing in our price range and many of them were difficult to use, requiring complicated control systems.

In recent years we have seen products that look very similar to our L16 line of micro linear actuators appearing in various web stores as well as on EBay and Amazon. This is not a coincidence. Though slightly different in appearance, these products were designed to be a copy of our popular L16 models.

On top is our L16 micro linear actuator,  the device below is the knockoff model available from a few different outfits online.

micro linear actuator


Today, I want to talk frankly about our products, as well as these other actuators, and show you why we think that Actuonix is the superior choice.

So let’s get started…

Our actuators are an original product, designed by our in-house team of engineers in Canada. These other actuators are actually a copy of our original design. Several years ago, our L16 actuator was given to a Chinese factory by a competitor so that they can produce a copy of our product. These actuators are the end result of that effort.

Online retailers that claim to ‘manufacture’ these units are misleading their customers. They did not design nor manufacture their actuators, they simply order the units from a factory listed on Alibaba and apply their company sticker.  That’s why there are so many different outfits selling these identical copies of our product, whereas the original Actuonix actuators have our name molded into the plastic housing, and are only sold under our name. 

The failure rate on our actuators is extremely low thanks to our thorough testing department. Every single unit is tested at our Canadian facility by our expert staff before it ships. If a unit does not pass quality, it doesn’t ship, simple as that. This is how we are able to keep our failure rate to the customer so low.  

Other retailers are just that, retailers. As such they have no facility or personnel to test every actuator.  They rely on the quality control capability of the factory in China, and we all know how reliable that can be.
 
We stand behind our products, it is rare for our customers to have issues, but if they do, we do everything we can to ensure that they remain a happy customer. Even if they’re outside the warranty period, we try to work with our customers to try and resolve the situation to their satisfaction.

Custom micro linear actuators and bulk orders

I want to talk for a minute about buying in bulk. We sell thousands of our micro linear actuators to OEM manufacturers all over the world. Other than the quality and diversity of our products, a main reason that they continue to buy from us is that we offer the lowest bulk pricing for both stock units and custom linear actuators.

Because we manufacture our own products, we control the supply chain completely. This allows us to negotiate volume pricing on many individual components when we order large quantities. We love passing those savings down to customers who purchase our actuators in bulk.  Some other retailers may try to act as a middle man between you and the factory in China, which leaves you vulnerable to their ability to communicate. 

We also have the manufacturing muscle to get your large order built in a reasonable length of time. We have manufacturers who order from us by the thousands of units, and they are consistently impressed by our lead times. That’s another benefit of being completely in control of the manufacturing process.

Selection

Actuonix has more micro actuator models than anybody. At the time of this article, we have 164 unique models. These models come in strokes of 10mm, 20mm, 30mm, 50mm, 100mm, 140mm, 200mm and 300mm and a wide variety of gearing options plus a variety of accessories such as switches, remote controls, power supplies and control boards. Our team is always developing new products. We are in fact about to release a completely new line of actuators in the coming weeks so keep an eye out for that.

Shipping

All of our in-stock orders are shipped every day at 2pm. That means if you place an order at 1:30pm PST, it will leave our facility that day. We offer UPS as a shipping service. We only offer UPS because as a high-volume customer, we are able to negotiate the best rates through them. 

We pass our great shipping rates on to the customer. You only pay what we pay for shipping; Actuonix does not use shipping as a means to generate revenue. We can ship on your account as well using UPS, FedEX or DHL. All orders come with a tracking number.
best Micro linear actuators
Bottom: Actuonix Actuator tubed, wrapped and padded before shipment

All of our actuators come packaged in a protective tube, wrapped in paper and in a box padded with more packing material. Some of these competitor's devices come just sitting in a box with some paper. Your shipment is not well-protected this way.

Pricing

Our actuators range in price from $65-90USD. The pricing on our actuators varies depending on model and control type. These knockoff micro linear actuators cost between $64.99 and $69.99. We don't play the .99 game. We know our customers are aware that $69.99 is one cent less than $70.

The pricing looks similar on the surface but a key thing to remember is that when you buy from Actuonix, a hardware kit comes included with your actuator and contains everything you need to mount the actuator to your project. This kit is customized for the unit you purchase and includes a threaded end-tip that you can use for custom mounting. You also get a connector on the wire harness which the other actuators do not have. Of course if you do not need it, you can always just cut it off.

Project Sponsorships and Scholarships

Actuonix is always looking for new ways to give back to the engineering community. Just this year we have launched an engineering scholarship program as well as a FIRST Robotics Challenge team sponsorship program.

Additionally, we are always on the hunt for interesting humanitarian, student and hobbyist projects to sponsor. A few projects we have had the privilege of sponsoring this year include:


Service

We have service staff in-store from 7:30am to 3:30pm PST Monday through Friday excluding provincial and national holidays. We try to answer every call. If we're busy and can't answer your call, we are usually able to return your call same-day. The same is true for email; our typical response time during business hours is less than half an hour.

We know that the value and service Actuonix offers with every sale is second to none. We want to thank all of our loyal customers who have helped us become the most trusted name in the micro motion business. We look forward to working with you for years to come.
Tuesday, 20 June 2017

Tips For Extending The Life Of Your Linear Actuator



It's easy to get a long service life out of your micro linear actuators. Actuonix devices are built to last and each unit is tested before it leaves our facility. That said, there are a few things that you need to keep in mind to get the most possible life from your linear actuators.

As with any other electronic devices, they're designed to be used in a specific way. If they are installed or operated in a way other than intended by the manufacturer, it's possible to cause your actuator to fail early. Follow the advice below to maximize your investment and get the most out of your actuator purchase.

1. Keep within the rated duty cycle

linear actuator duty cycle
Duty cycle is basically how much of the time an actuator is operational stated as a percentage. A duty cycle of 20% means that an actuator is rated to be in operation 20% of the time. For more information on duty cycles check out this article. The duty cycle of an actuator as indicated on the data sheet is designed to give you the best balance of usability and lifespan. If your actuator has a 20% duty cycle and you run it at 30%, it will probably do that just fine for a while, but over time it will shorten the life of the device.

2. Minimize side load

Standard linear actuators are designed to push and pull a load. They are not designed to be side loaded. Side loading an actuator can significantly reduce it's life by increasing the internal friction which wears out the components much faster. If your application puts the actuator in a position where a side load will be present, consider using a linear slide rail in conjunction with your actuator. Another solution would be to use a track actuator. Track actuators are designed to take some side load and are idea of these types of situations.

3. Stay within the recommended voltage

Actuators have a rated voltage for a reason. If you apply more voltage than is recommended for a unit it may run faster for a while. Ultimately however, this will shorten the life of the motor and cause premature failure of the device. It is better to purchase an actuator that is rated for the voltage that you intend to use or alternately, find a way to reduce the voltage in your application.

4. Watch your force

Heavy Duty Linear Actuator

All things being equal, the lower the force that your application requires, the longer your actuator will last. An actuator rated for a 20lbs max is capable of pushing/pulling 20lbs of force. It is recommended that you operate your actuator as far below the max rated force as possible for maximum lifespan. If you require a high force consider moving up to a higher gearing ratio. This will reduce the speed of the device but increase it's lifespan.

5. Avoid extreme operating conditions

It's best of avoid using actuators in environments with extreme heat, cold, dirt or dust and moisture if possible. There are situations where a customer's needs can be accommodated. For example, in the past we have actuators with custom gear lube for low temperatures. For more information, check out our custom linear actuator page.

For some applications, an actuator can be modified to work in extreme conditions or placed in an enclosure for protection. Before placing an actuator in an extreme environment make sure to check with the unit's manufacturer and ensure that it can handle what you're asking of it.

If you follow the above recommendations and treat your micro linear actuators with care, you should get a great service life out of them.
Monday, 19 June 2017

Linear Actuators For The Medical Industry



medical linear actuators

Micro linear actuators can be found throughout the healthcare industry. You often can not see them in the devices that help keep us healthy but they're discreetly performing critical functions behind the scenes. Medical applications range from simple tasks to more sophisticated, challenging applications that require more precise movement and greater force. 

This industry is projected to see steady growth through 2023. As this industry continues to grow, we are committed to helping manufacturers increase their profits with our ever-increasing line of high-quality linear actuators for medical devices.

Low Cost Actuators For Medical Devices

We all know that the cost of health care is always rising. There are of course many reasons for this but one primary cause is that medical component manufacturers charge hundreds and even thousands of dollars for small linear actuators. These devices are of course high quality and rated for use in the health industry but do these parts really need to be so expensive?

Actuonix Motion Devices takes pride in producing low cost micro linear actuators for medical devices and other applications. For years we have been proving some of the top medical device manufacturers in the world with micro motion devices for testing and positioning as well as many other applications. Our customers are in many different areas of the medical industry including optical, dental, medical devices and prosthetics to name just a few.

Custom Linear Motion Solutions For Medical Industry Applications

At Actuonix, we carry a line of more than 160 unique models to suit your individual needs. It's likely that we have a device that will suit your application right off the shelf. Some manufacturers however require more precise stroke lengths, clevis end-tips, control wires or other custom features. For those companies we offer a custom linear actuator design service.

For years, high-volume manufacturers have trusted Actuonix to provide them with the custom linear motion solution they need. Our custom modifications range from custom cable lengths to different gearing ratios for more powerful micro linear actuators as well as custom stroke lengths and connectors. Whatever it is that you are designing, our team of engineers will work with you to build the perfect linear motion solution for your medical application.

Looking Forward

Micro electric actuator advancements are changing how medical equipment designers approach their designs. Medical institutions are demanding smaller sizes, more power and lower costs. At Actuonix, we have an actuator that will strike the ideal balance of power, size and cost. More models are always in development as we strive to offer the best selection of affordable micro linear actuators for the medical industry.

If you need help choosing an actuator that will suit your application, don't hesitate to contact our sales team. They are happy to assist you in choosing the micro motion device that will best suit your specifications.
Thursday, 15 June 2017

Micro Linear Actuators In Prosthetics



As a manufacturer of electric micro linear actuators, one of the industries that we're most excited to be directly involved with is the production of prosthetics. In recent years, we have had the privilege of working with several companies that manufacture prosthetics.

Prosthetic technology is rapidly evolving, and the cost of that technology continues to drop. It's possible that in ten or twenty years, every amputee on earth could have access to a prosthetic limb. This would have a huge impact on quality of life for millions of people worldwide.

How have prosthetics improved in recent years?


Materials

The cost of materials has dropped in recent years. 3D printing allows manufacturers to design and produce parts in small quantities for a low cost. Engineers, students and hobbyists can now afford to try their hand at designing prosthetics.


Functionality

The latest prosthetic hands have some advanced features that allow the user to really take full control of the limb. Some of the features that are coming available in prosthetic hands for example are pivoting opposable thumbs, rotating wrists and temperature sensing capabilities.


Cost

3D printing is fairly inexpensive, and printers are now available at colleges, universities and even some public libraries. The availability of inexpensive micro linear actuators also reduce costs considerably. A prosthetic hand might have as many as 6 actuators so this is a cost that can add up. All of our most popular miniature actuators for prosthetics are less than $100USD. Bulk pricing is also offered allowing manufacturers to save more money.


Superior to a human hand?

Prosthetic hands have evolved to the point where they are in some regards, superior to biological hands. New-age prosthetics have outstanding grip strength and some offer wrist-rotation that is well outside the human range of motion.

Here are a few companies on the cutting edge of prosthetic hand design


Open Bionics

Miniature linear actuators for prosthetics

Open Bionics was founded by Joel Gibbard and Samantha Payne in 2014. Their vision is to get a prosthetic hand to every amputee globally. This is a huge goal, but their ADA hand is making it possible. The ADA hand is a 3D printable, open-source prosthetic hand designed by Open Bionics.

Anybody can download the plans and purchase the parts to build their own ADA hand for a fraction of what a traditional prosthetic hand costs.

Open Bionics also has some exciting new initiatives. They have partnered with Marvel to make a line of hands for children that feature popular kid's movie themes including Star Wars, Iron Man and Frozen. These new hands are something that young amputees can get excited about. It also gives their peers something other than their disability to focus on.


YouBionic

micro linear actuators for prosthetics

Federico Ciccerese is another leader in 3D printed hands. He founded YouBionic and developed their first 3D printed hand with a price tag of 1200GBP. According to this 2014 article on 3Dprint.com, his main goals were that the prosthesis be affordable, have easily replaceable electronic and printable parts, and have natural-looking movements. The electronics of the hand are based on the affordable arduino platform and are readily available.


Future

The low-cost prosthetic hands that are available on the market right now are far superior to what anybody could have guessed 20 years ago. We're excited for what the future of this industry holds and with leaders like the above mentioned companies at the forefront of this technology, there will be much to get excited about.
Friday, 2 June 2017

How To Adjust Linear Actuator Speed



Linear actuators come in hundreds of different varieties. 6V, 12V, 24V, different stroke lengths and control options etc. There's a lot out there to choose from.

It can still be difficult however to find a device that suits your specific needs. In a previous post we covered how to adjust linear actuator end limits. Today I'm going to show you four ways that you can adjust the speed of a linear actuator. Depending on your needs, skills and budget, you have some options.

1. Use an LAC board or motor controller

linear actuators for arduino

A linear actuator control board gives you control over an actuator's speed, end-limits and sensitivity. It also gives you the option of controlling your actuator with one of five different input signals. An LAC board can only be used with Actuonix 'P' series micro linear actuators, as well as some large-scale actuators that have position feedback.

The board has a pot that is used to control the speed of the actuator. The maximum speed can not be increased this way but it makes it easy to slow an actuator down.

2. Use an Arduino

arduino actuators

If you're controlling your actuator via Arduino, you have some control over the speed at which it travels. The code you use is going to be specific to your project but a discussion on the topic can be found on the Arduino forums here.

3. Adjust input voltage

A simple way to lower the speed of a linear actuator is to reduce the voltage at which you drive it. The speed of Actuonix actuators is approximately proportional to voltage. This means that if you were to drive one of our 12V actuators at 6V, the speed would be roughly half of what it is a 12V. This is approximate but if you have access to an adjustable power supply you can dial your voltage down to get the speed you need.

4. Buy an actuator with different gearing

I realize this doesn't exactly qualify as "adjusting" actuator speed but it's worth noting. Actuonix models come in several different gearing ratios to help accommodate the speed and force specs of your project. 

For example, the three gearing ratios in our T16 linear track actuators offer speeds of 4.8mm/s, 18mm/s and 46mm/s. Simply using a different gearing ratio can bring you much closer to the speed that you're trying to achieve.




If you can find a gearing ratio that works for you out of box, that's the best case scenario. If you need control over the speed it's best to purchase an actuator that's a little faster than you need as you can slow it down without damage. Trying to speed an actuator up by increasing the operating voltage will more than likely decrease the lifespan of the unit.

Need help choosing the correct actuator for your project? Contact our knowledgeable sales staff for assistance.