What are actuators?
Actuators are a component of a control system that converts a control signal (usually electrical) into some kind of mechanic motion. In a control system they produce the controlling output of the system, whereas sensors provide in to the system.
- operate values
- drive motors / conveyor belts
- Switch switches
- Rotate objects.
Actuators are a required component of any control system
- Production lines, controlling the movement of goods and the machines that make them
- In fly-by-wire systems on airplanes.
- In air-conditioning systems to turn on the fan/cooler.
- In cars for example in electronic windows and doors
- In life support systems to administer drugs to patients automatically.
- In agriculture systems for automatic watering and temperature control.
Linear actuators produce a backwards and forwards motion. They are often used for turning devices on and off without user intervention and for positioning objects.
For example they are useful on assembly lines for moving objects in a fixed direction.
Rotary actuators output a turning force. In the example below this turning force is used to open/close a value on a water pipe automatically.
- Controlling values
- Distributing drinks in vending machines
- Opening/closing electric locks
- Controlling car windows
- Controlling window wipers
Servos are a type of actuator that is incredibly common in smaller systems.
When fed a digital electrical control signal these servos motors move to precise angles, making them incredibly useful for a wide variety of applications. They are particularly popular when prototyping automated systems.