Tuesday, 15 August 2017

2017 Engineering Scholarship Winners


Earlier this year, we launched a scholarship program for engineering students. Our aim was to give back to the engineering community by supporting talented young engineers who had trouble meeting their financial needs for school. 

Our goal is to promote education in the various engineering disciplines and make it more accessible to young women and men who might be considering it as a career path.

We offered two scholarships of $1000 each. We are excited to announce that we have selected the recipients for the 2017 year - Samuel Akinwande and Martin Freeman. 


Samuel Akinwande


engineering scholarship

Samuel is a rising sophomore in mechanical engineering at the University of Houston. A dedicated student and talented young man, he was accepted there at just 16 years old. 

He is currently under a National Science Foundation research grant to develop a torque-sensing device for a pediatric exoskeleton. Previously he has worked at the Texas Heart Institute as a research assistant on the design of a minimally invasive ventricular assist device.

Samuel is definitely going places and we're excited to be part of his journey.


Martin Freeman


engineering scholarship

Martin provided us with the bio below.

"I am a robotics enthusiast from Newark, New Jersey currently studying mechanical engineering at the University of British Columbia with a focus on the field of mechatronics. With BC’s beautiful landscapes situated right in my backyard, I love to get out as much as I can by foot, boat, kayak or even motorcycle to keep my life balanced and my mind centered. Building and taking things apart is a recurring process I’ve nested into quite comfortably over my life, so I am always looking forward to what new project I can get my hands on next to diversify my skill set. 

Since the start of my degree, I have been fortunate enough to get the chance to apply my aptitude for robotics in several interesting start-up companies, and look forward to helping bring humanity to space this next spring through my internship at spaceflight company Blue Origin. Both space and robotics are two industries I am eager to break into and I am looking forward to soon pursuing graduate studies to learn everything I can. Opportunities like the Actuonix scholarship program help young engineers like myself keep the fire alive and pursue the most prodigious of dreams, and for that I am extremely grateful."

We want to thank everybody who took the time to apply for this award. Because of a post we made on Reddit a few months back we were inundated with applications and it was a pleasure to read through them and see the amazing things that young engineers are working on.


Tuesday, 8 August 2017

Preventing Side Load Failure



Let's talk about side loads (also called overhung loads) for a minute. A side load is any load that is exerted perpendicular to the direction of a linear actuator's travel.

side load

All actuators are limited in the amount of side load that they can handle. Side loading any type of actuator will reduce it's life and should be avoided. The side load rating for a device can be found on the corresponding data sheet. Putting too much side load on an actuator can have various negative effects including:
  • Reduced actuator speed
  • Reduced actuator lifespan
  • Increased project costs resulting from frequent parts replacement

Actuator's Intended Use

Linear actuators are intended to be loaded in-line with the device. When moving in or out it should be pushing or pulling the load directly with minimal side load. We provide a figure for maximum side load because we know that nothing is perfect and there will always be a small amount of side load on the device. Just understand that side loading is hard on a rod actuator and even a small amount can reduce the life of the unit.

Related article: Tips For Extending The Life Of Your Linear Actuator

How Side Loading Affects Actuators

There are a few different ways. First, side loading increases internal friction. This causes the motor to work harder and can reduce the motor's life. Second, excessive loads perpendicular to the device can prematurely wear out the drive nut and/or lead screw. Third, loads above the rated figure could result in structural failure of the device.

In order to ensure that you're not overloading your device, always check the datasheet. Actuonix provides a figure for the maximum allowable side load at full extension in newtons. This makes it easy for you to figure out if you're exceeding that load or not.

Alternatives To Side Loading

If your project requires a significant side load, you have a few options.

1. Redesign your mechanism to reduce side load.

Changing the amount of side load required from your actuator may just mean a minor adjustment to the design of your project. If you can not make such an adjustment, consider one of the next two options.

2. Use a linear slide rail. 

linear slide

Linear slide rails are simple to use and reasonably inexpensive. To use a slide rail you need to mount the rail to something that is permanently fixed in position. You then mount the moving mechanism that is causing the side load to the sliding block on the rail. Last, you connect the actuator to drive the slide block, and your load, along the rail. The slide rail can handle much more side load then the actuator and doing this you will prevent overhung load failure of your actuator.

3. Use a track actuator

mini track actuator

A track actuator is similar in operation to a standard rod actuator in that is uses a lead screw and drive nut. The key difference is rather than extending a shaft in and out, the body of the actuator itself is longer and a mounting block slides in and out with the load attached. A track actuator is convenient because it offers the functionality of an actuator and a slide rail, but keeps your design simple as it's one device instead of two. This also helps keep your costs down.

Repeated failure

If you're experiencing repeated equipment failure or shorter than expected actuator life, check the side load and make sure it's in spec. You may be experiencing overhung load failure. Being over the manufacturers recommended side load figure can reduce the life of your device considerably.

If you have any questions about how to support a side load, or the capabilities of the device you're using, give Actuonix a call. We can help you with the product information you need before you load your actuator.

If you have any questions about our products or how to integrate them into your project, give us a shout, we're always happy to help.

Friday, 4 August 2017

Can I Modify My Actuator?



For some customers, a stock unit will not do the trick. Integrating our products into your designs can take some level of customization. 

Our actuators are not meant to be disassembled or heavily modified by customers. There are however some basic changes that you might want to make to help integrate our products with your design. Below are a few examples of alterations you can make to Actuonix micro linear actuators.

Please be advised that any alterations you make to a stock actuator may void your warranty. If you're unsure, please contact us for details.

Paint

Yes - you can paint your actuator. I know there are some RC enthusiasts out there who like to spray their actuators in Caterpillar yellow or John Deere green. Painting the exterior of your device will not affect it's functionality whatsoever so long as you follow these guidelines.


You can only paint the plastic housing and outer (square) shaft. Do not paint the circular actuator shaft. Painting this part could impede it's ability to retract into the device. This could also result in bits of paint chipping off inside the actuator and damaging the drive nut, lead screw or motor assemblies. You can also paint the clevis end-tip so long as you remove it first or make sure to protect the actuator shaft.

End tip

Custom end tips are a popular way to customize a linear actuator. All of our rod actuators come with a clevis end tip attached to the device and a threaded end tip in the hardware bag in case you want to mount it that way. Note - do not remove your end tip before watching this video. The video shows you how to do it without damaging your device.

We have several customers who build their own end tips for custom mounting solutions. Some of them use plastic and even aluminum. The internal threads on our actuator shafts are an M8x1.25. 

Plug

All of our devices come with a plug mounted at the end of the cable for your convenience. If you prefer, you can remove the stock plug and replace it with a custom plug that is more suitable to your application.

Stroke

It is possible to customize the stroke of your -S or -P series actuator using an external limit switch kit. The kit comes with two limit switches. You can choose to use just one to limit only extension or retraction or you can utilize both switches to set a completely custom stroke. This can also be accomplished with our LAC board and a -P series actuator.

Related post: Choosing The Correct Linear Actuator For Your Application.

Speed

It is not possible to increase the speed of stock actuators. If you require a faster actuator we can build a custom device for you. Typically there is a MOQ of 500 for this type of modification. If you just need to reduce the speed of your device, we recommend using a -P series actuator with our linear actuator control board. You can dial the speed down by simple turning a pot on the board.
Linear actuator controller

If you have any other questions about custom actuator solutions or how to modify an actuator to suit your needs, give us a call. Our product specialists will be happy to work with you to help find a device that will integrate smoothly into your project.