Actuators: A Summary

An actuator is a mechanical or electromechanical that provides controlled and limited movements or positioning which are operated electrically, manually, or by various fluids including air, hydraulics, and more. Actuators carry out one of two motions: linear or rotary. Linear actuators convert energy into straight line motions, frequently in positioning applications, and feature a push and pull function. While rare, certain linear actuators are operated manually through the use of a rotating knob or hand wheel. Rotary actuators convert energy into rotary motion and are commonly used in ball valves, butterfly valves, and other types of valves. Depending on their application, both types of actuators have distinct advantages and disadvantages and come in various power configurations, sizes, and styles.

All of the top actuator manufacturers and distributors are based in the U.S. These companies include Erdmann Corp. (Louisville, KY), Hansen Motors (Princeton, IN), E-Motion Inc. (Eugene, Oregon), Harmonic Drive LLC (Peabody, MA), Bishop-Wise carver Corp., (Pittsburg, CA), Baelz North America (Marietta, GA), Microsmatic LLC (Berne, IN), OTP Industrial Solutions (Columbus, OH), and others. In addition to the many manufacturers of actuators.

Types of Actuator

There are many different types as well. These include: electric linear, electric rotary, fluid power linear, fluid power rotary, linear chain actuators, manual linear, and manual rotary.

Electric Linear Actuator - An electric linear actuator is electrically powered, mechanical linear actuator that consists of a motor, linear guide, and drive mechanism used to convert electrical energy into linear displacement via mechanical transmission, electro-magnetism, or thermal expansion to provide push/pull motion.

Electric Rotary Actuator - Electric rotary actuators are electrically powered mechanical devices that consist of a motor and output shaft mechanisms with limited rotary travel. These mechanisms are used to convert electrical energy into rotational motion.

Fluid Power Linear Actuator - A fluid power linear actuator is a mechanical device that produces linear displacement by means of hydraulic fluid, gas, or differential air pressure. Actuators of this type consist of a cylinder and piston mechanism.

Fluid Power Rotary Actuator - Fluid power rotary actuators are fluid powered mechanical devices that utilize cylinder and piston mechanisms, gearing, and output shafts to convert hydraulic fluid, gas, or differential air pressure in rotational motion.

Linear Chain Actuators Actuator - Linear chain actuators are mechanical devices consisting of sprockets and sections of chain used to provide linear motion via the free ends of the chains. This type of actuator is primarily used in motion control applications to provide a straight line push or pull motion.

Manual Linear Actuator - Manual linear actuators are mechanical devices that offer linear displacement through the use of manually rotated screws or gears. These actuators consist of hand-operated knobs or wheels, gearboxes, and guided linear motion mechanisms. Key specifications include the intended application, actuator type, drive mechanism, travel length, and other physical dimensions. They are used primarily in commercial applications for precise positioning such as manipulating tools or work pieces.

Manual Rotary Actuator - Manual rotary actuators are mechanical devices that provide rotary output through the translation of manually-rotating screws, levers, or gears, usually composed of hand-operated knobs, levers, hand wheels, gearboxes, threaded nut mechanisms, and output shafts. These are primarily used to operate valves

For all types of actuator parts and much more, look no further than NSN Axis, a trusted supplier of all kinds of aircraft parts. Owned and operated by ASAP Semiconductor, we are an online distributor of aircraft parts as well as parts pertaining to the aerospace, civil aviation, defense, industrial, and electronics markets. We’re always available and ready to help you find all the parts and equipment you need, 24/7-365. For a quick and competitive quote, call us at 1-269-264-4495 or email us at


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