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An actuator is a mechanical device for controlling or moving a mechanism. An actuator is usually powered by electricity, but can also be operated by hydraulic or pneumatic pressure or other power source. Actuators convert power or energy into motion, or to apply force.
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Examples of ActuatorsAt their most basic level, an actuator can be the simplest of machines, such as a screw or a wheel and axle -- in both cases one kind of energy (turning a nut on a screw, turning a wheel) converts into motion, or another kind of motion (the screw turning, the axle attached to the wheel turning). A more modern example of an actuator is the pneumatic cylinder or air cylinder. In this type of actuator the energy of compressed air is used to move a piston. In the scope of mechanical actuators, even the muscles in your body can be considered actuators that convert the energy from food into motion.
Types of ActuatorsIn modern engineering parlance, actuators can be divided into several categories:
- Linear Actuators include actuators that create a linear motion, or motion only in one direction. The pneumatic cylinder is considered a one-way linear actuator. Piezolectric actuators are intrinsically linear actuators.
- Rotary Actuators convert energy into a ro