What Is a High-Speed Actuator?

Alex Newth

An actuator is a mechanical device that uses its energy to move or control something else, such as a hospital bed. A high-speed actuator also provides such movement and in a faster form, though there isn't a set speed that makes an actuator qualify as high speed. A high-speed actuator is available in different forms, including linear, pneumatic, gas and moving-coil varieties. While many forms are available, the linear actuator may be the most common choice among the high-speed varieties, in large part because it is the simplest type of actuator. While high-speed actuators can move faster than normal, they produce lower amounts of energy, so they cannot lift or move heavy objects very well.

Woman holding a book
Woman holding a book

High-speed actuators are very similar to other actuators. They move back and forth, just like any other actuator. The primary difference is that they move much faster, though there is no official speed that distinguishes a regular actuator from a high-speed device.

A high-speed moving coil actuator uses a coil device to move back and forth. Inside the actuator, a wire twists and moves to produce motion. These actuators need to be reset using a position resetting device, which makes prolonged high-speed movements difficult and also requires more energy from the actuator.

Pneumatic and gas actuators are very similar actuator models. A gas actuator uses compressed gas to provide the pressure required in an actuator, while a pneumatic actuator uses air pressure to do the same. The gas actuator is considered the most efficient and cost-effective form of actuator, because compressed gas is easily obtained and has the least amount of friction on the internal mechanisms of the actuator. By using pressure, this actuator can move at high speeds, but these models can be difficult to fix if problems arise.

Linear actuators are very simple, usually making them better for high-speed operations. There is no need for a resetting device or gas pressure; a linear actuator just uses a motor to move back and forth in a straight line. The parts are much simpler than other actuators, so this high-speed actuator is easier to fix and tends to cost less in the process. These actuators tend to last longer, as well, because there is no need for complex rotations like there is with the moving coil actuator, nor is gas or air pressure blasted through the actuator like there is with gas and pneumatic models. At the same time, a linear device cannot lift the same amount of weight as the other actuators, making it best for lightweight applications.

While a high-speed actuator may be good for moving objects quickly, it has less overall usable energy, and does not work well with heavy objects. This is because more force is needed to move the high-speed actuator, so there is less force available for pushing an object. Operators likely will need to choose between power and speed, because it is very difficult to have both in one actuator.

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