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!


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.


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.


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.


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.