We are independent & ad-supported. We may earn a commission for purchases made through our links.
Advertiser Disclosure
Our website is an independent, advertising-supported platform. We provide our content free of charge to our readers, and to keep it that way, we rely on revenue generated through advertisements and affiliate partnerships. This means that when you click on certain links on our site and make a purchase, we may earn a commission. Learn more.
How We Make Money
We sustain our operations through affiliate commissions and advertising. If you click on an affiliate link and make a purchase, we may receive a commission from the merchant at no additional cost to you. We also display advertisements on our website, which help generate revenue to support our work and keep our content free for readers. Our editorial team operates independently of our advertising and affiliate partnerships to ensure that our content remains unbiased and focused on providing you with the best information and recommendations based on thorough research and honest evaluations. To remain transparent, we’ve provided a list of our current affiliate partners here.

What Is an Electric Linear Actuator?

By Joe Williams
Updated May 17, 2024
Our promise to you
WiseGeek is dedicated to creating trustworthy, high-quality content that always prioritizes transparency, integrity, and inclusivity above all else. Our ensure that our content creation and review process includes rigorous fact-checking, evidence-based, and continual updates to ensure accuracy and reliability.

Our Promise to you

Founded in 2002, our company has been a trusted resource for readers seeking informative and engaging content. Our dedication to quality remains unwavering—and will never change. We follow a strict editorial policy, ensuring that our content is authored by highly qualified professionals and edited by subject matter experts. This guarantees that everything we publish is objective, accurate, and trustworthy.

Over the years, we've refined our approach to cover a wide range of topics, providing readers with reliable and practical advice to enhance their knowledge and skills. That's why millions of readers turn to us each year. Join us in celebrating the joy of learning, guided by standards you can trust.

Editorial Standards

At WiseGeek, we are committed to creating content that you can trust. Our editorial process is designed to ensure that every piece of content we publish is accurate, reliable, and informative.

Our team of experienced writers and editors follows a strict set of guidelines to ensure the highest quality content. We conduct thorough research, fact-check all information, and rely on credible sources to back up our claims. Our content is reviewed by subject-matter experts to ensure accuracy and clarity.

We believe in transparency and maintain editorial independence from our advertisers. Our team does not receive direct compensation from advertisers, allowing us to create unbiased content that prioritizes your interests.

A linear actuator is a device that generates linear motion from some source of energy. It can push, pull or move back and forth. The actuator generally accomplishes this task through some mechanical or hydraulic means. An electric linear actuator is a type of mechanical actuator that uses an electric motor to create motion, which is frequently non-linear in nature. A linear actuator converts this motion into linear motion.

An electric linear actuator makes this conversion with three basic types of mechanisms. The first is a screw actuator, the second is a wheel-and-axle actuator, and the third is a cam actuator. The electric motor in a screw actuator rotates a nut, which causes the shaft of the screw to move in a straight line. The rotation of a wheel-and-axle actuator causes a cable, belt or rack to move in a linear manner. The cam in a cam actuator has an eccentric shape that provides linear motion when it rotates against the base of a shaft.

The types of electric motors can include a direct current (DC) brush motor, DC brushless motor, induction motor or stepper motor. These motors typically create rotary motion, although the specific method varies according to the application requirements of the electric linear actuator. Some applications might require the motor to exert a large amount of force, whereas other applications might require a greater emphasis on accuracy.

An oil refinery might require an electric motor to drive a linear actuator with great force and speed. This application typically requires a high-power induction motor that uses alternating current. A linear actuator in laboratory instrumentation is more likely to need a low-power stepper motor that turns a fine-pitch screw to provide linear movement that is accurate to a thousandth of an inch (.0254 mm).

The standard construction technique for an electric linear actuator treats the electric motor as a separate component from the actuator. The motor in this type of construction typically is inside its own casing and attaches to the exterior of the actuator. The drive shaft of the motor then connects to the actuator’s drive screw.

Some applications require an electric linear actuator to use a compact construction technique. This generally involves treating the motor and actuator as part of the same unit to occupy the smallest possible volume. A common design approach to this problem is to hollow out the motor’s drive shaft so that the actuator’s drive screw and nut can fit inside the shaft. This design eliminates the need for a gear between the drive screw and the motor.

WiseGeek is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Discussion Comments
WiseGeek, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.

WiseGeek, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.