What type of linear actuators to choose: pneumatic or electric?
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What type of linear actuators to choose: pneumatic or electric?

The eternal dilemma of engineers and designers on what to choose: pneumatic or electric drive for linear actuators? Many linear actuators, especially piston rod versions, are available with both drive versions. The decision on which one to choose depends on a number of factors, such as installation requirements or the now so important energy efficiency matters.

When is it worth to use pneumatic actuators?

Pneumatics is about fast, pinpoint movements and great force with small size devices. Most often, two-state “from-to” motion is implemented. Advantages include resistance to “hard stops,” ease of installation and the ability to drive multiple devices from a single compressor. They are ideal for applications requiring explosion-proof components or in safety-related situations, such as where we are dealing with heat buildup.

Upkeeping pneumatic installations

Running and maintaining costs can be higher than those of an electrical system. This is why sizing the compressor and auxiliary equipment is so important. An under-utilized compressor can be a source of significant cost increases, while pressure losses throughout the air supply system can reduce efficiency and increase operating costs. Therefore, regular maintenance is the key to low-cost and efficient use of pneumatic linear actuators.

Siłowniki z liniowym pomiarem ruchu(pozycjonerem liniowym

Selection criteria for linear actuators

A key factor to consider when deciding between pneumatic and electric actuators is whether the installation is already equipped with air preparation and supply equipment. In the case of pneumatics, connecting more devices usually allows better use of auxiliary equipment without significantly increasing the complexity of the system. For this reason, linear pneumatic actuators are preferred for large-scale deployments rather than single-use applications. In addition, pneumatic actuator components can be used in explosive atmospheres, very dusty environments or even in the food industry as actuators.

Parameter adjustment

Electric linear actuators feature accurate positioning due to the use of a stepper motor. Operating parameters and control in electric actuators are easier to adjust, as long as they are within the operating range of the actuator. Unfortunately, installation will not be handled by an inexperienced installer, and in most cases the help of a programmer is needed to connect, configure and tune the linear system.

Comparing initial installation costs

Equipping a line with electric actuators tends to be more expensive, but the total cost of ownership can be somewhat lower if you only consider predictable operating costs and simple maintenance activities. Most good electric actuators require only periodic lubrication of rotating components, while pneumatic actuators require inspection and adjustment of air lines, valves and fittings. Electric actuators are also relatively quiet, of course, as long as you operate them properly and tune them well.

Comparing ownership costs and usage of linear actuators

The difference in operating price between electric and pneumatic actuators depends on many factors:

  • operating time,
  • place of use,
  • replacement frequency,
  • electricity cost.

It is important to consider that compressing air with a compressor carries with it the cost of the electricity required to power it. However, it should be remembered that the larger the pneumatic system, the more the optimal use of the amount of compressed medium increases. Therefore, we can say that for systems containing a large number of actuators, it is economical to use compressed air. On the other hand, the advantage of electric actuators is the possibility of precise positioning in intermediate positions, which translates economically without the need for additional positioners as is the case with pneumatics.

CPP PREMA’s linear pneumatics are the best choice if you need to achieve fast movements or if your installation requires many such devices.

We offer devices that can operate in very harsh environments under continuous load. We invite you to take a look at our offer.