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Ask the Experts – How do I choose a pneumatic actuator?

Pneumatic actuators are a fundamental requirement for many processing plants and manufacturing facilities. They are often selected due to their ability to work tirelessly on compressed air with high force to speed ratios. Plus, the implementation of pneumatic actuators is relatively low, which only helps in making them an even more popular solution for many applications.

There are, however, a raft of different pneumatic actuators available and it can be hard to choose the correct one for your application. Do you opt for a single, or double-acting actuator? A rod, or rodless? Or, a linear or rotary actuator? We spoke to the experts at Best Pneumatics to find out how you choose the correct pneumatic actuator for your application and what things you need to consider when making that choice. Read on to find out more.

What do you need to know before you choose a pneumatic actuator?

There are five primary considerations to make before you select a pneumatic actuator. We will look at each of them in more detail below.

The directional force required for your actuator

It is essential to consider the direction force required of your pneumatic actuator. Understanding whether you require the actuator to work in one direction or if it needs to have the ability to move backwards and forwards, or up and down, will help you select the correct actuator for your application.

The team at Best Pneumatics explain that “single-acting cylinders use one airport to let compressed air enter the cylinder to move the piston to the desired position”. This is what enables them to work in just one direction. Whereas, “double-acting cylinders have an airport at each end and will move the piston forward and back by alternating the port that receives the high-pressure air”. This enables double-acting pneumatic actuators to work in both directions.

What load do you need this actuator to move?

Think about how much work you need the actuator to do. Pneumatic cylinders have no fine-grained control. The force of the piston is supplied until the extent of the cylinder is reached.

BEST Pneumatics explain that “the theoretical force available in a pneumatic actuator is the piston surface area multiplied by the supplied air pressure. In single-action cylinders, the return mechanism force must be subtracted.” Therefore, you must work out how much of a load you need your actuator to carry before making a decision on which pneumatic actuator to choose.

Establish the required distance of travel for the load on your actuator

When you are selecting a pneumatic actuator for an industrial application, you should consider the required distance of travel for the load. This critical distance determines the stroke length of the actuator.

We established that actuators with rods are better for extension of loads. However, rodless actuators have a stroke length that is roughly equal to that of the overall assembly, but they can carry a higher load. It is essential to consider the distance your pneumatic actuator will need to travel each time it moves, before selecting a pneumatic actuator.

Consider the working space available for the actuator

“The amount of space available for the actuator to operate in defines either the cylinder or piston length or a rodless actuator’s physical dimensions” explain the team at Best Pneumatics.

Rodless pneumatic actuators have an overall smaller footprint, which is why they are often favoured in environments with limited space. It is important to consider how much physical space the actuator will have to work before you select a pneumatic actuator for your application.

Establish what level of control you need from your pneumatic actuator

If you’re looking for accuracy and repeatability, a rodless actuator may be best suited. Rodless pneumatic actuators have greater precision and control compared to other linear actuators. However, if you are looking for speed and force, they may not be well suited.

To select the correct pneumatic actuator, you must consider the level of control you need it to exert. Best Pneumatics have a wide range of pneumatic actuators, from rotary to linear, single to double-acting or guided actuators. With their extensive range, they are bound to have one that is well suited to your requirements.

Speak to the experts

If you’re still not too sure on which type of pneumatic actuator to go for, why not speak to the experts at Best Pneumatics. Their team is on hand to help you select the most appropriate pneumatic actuator for your application. Call their team of pneumatics experts on 01245 39055 or email sales@bestpneumatics.com.

Company Profile

Best Pneumatic Systems

Best Pneumatic Systems is a supplier of an extensive range of premium pneumatic components and process products.

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