In terms of movement, actuators can either produce linear or rotary motion, and they can be powered electrically or hydraulically. That being said, there are several advantages and disadvantages to electric and hydraulic actuators, those of which we will outline in this blog.
To begin, a linear electric actuator utilizes electricity from a motor to generate power. As electricity flows through the system, the motors rotate a lead screw with a nut on a thread, and the direction that the nut moves on the lines determines the direction the screw turns. When you require speed and accuracy, electric actuators are your best option. This is because these systems can operate at up to 80% efficiency with the capacity to stop in any position.
Electric actuators tend to be compact, require little maintenance, and lack external components. Additionally, they have fail-safe brakes referred to as acme screw units that initiate self-locking if the motor loses power. However, a major disadvantage to these actuator types is that, while they have a good design, excellent efficiency, and simple construction, they are usually expensive. More than that, they are not ideal for hazardous operating environments, and they overheat when run continually.
Unlike electrical actuators, hydraulic actuators get their power from an incompressible hydraulic fluid consisting of differing oils. The liquid creates enough pressure to make the cylinders in the system move in straight lines. Unfortunately, the presence of the fluid makes the actuator susceptible to leakage; thus, they require a lot of maintenance and plumbing to ensure they remain in working condition.
Despite needing routine checks, hydraulic actuators are incredibly powerful with high load capacities, making them perfect for high-force applications. Furthermore, they operate well under intense pressure. Linear hydraulic types in particular offer decent speeds but have trouble controlling them as they usually produce a jerking motion when shifting from stillness to movement.
With regard to the benefit of electric actuators over hydraulic actuators, or vice versa, selecting one over the other lies in the job at hand. Nonetheless, electric actuators are preferred for their precision, safety, small size, and speed. In spite of these reasons, most businesses opt for their hydraulic counterparts because of their low cost.
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