The Role of Electric Actuators in Automation

Regardless of how you choose to look at it, industrial automation brings with it a wide range of different benefits – all at the exact same time.

For starters, automating a system almost immediately leads to much lower operating costs for organizations. Depending on the application, once it’s been automated, it can perform the work of multiple people – dramatically saving on labor costs and freeing up the valuable time of human employees to focus on tasks that truly need their attention.

Automation also brings with it improved worker safety. For example, employees are less likely to face tasks or environments that may be inherently dangerous. Furthermore, automating systems can also increase accuracy in a way that removes waste from a lot of important processes as well.

There are three major sources for actuation power: pneumatic, hydraulic and electric. This article highlights the role that electric actuators play in automation. They are an invaluable part of the process and are worth further examination.

The Power of Electric Actuators: Breaking Things Down

An electric actuator is a component of an automated system that allows it to mimic the physical movements necessary to complete a job or task in an industrial environment. An electric actuator is something that converts electrical energy into mechanical force – thus allowing something like a robotic arm to move in a way that imitates human actions.

One of the major benefits of an electric actuator in terms of industrial automation has to do with the huge volumes of data that it can help provide. Due to the way that motion control solutions operate by their very nature, you get real-time insight into how the actuator – and all related processes – are performing. This can include but is certainly not limited to information pertaining to the current, the speed, the position and even the velocity – all of which can help identify small problems immediately so that they can be corrected before they have a chance to become much bigger ones down the road. Potential problems include not only those related to part quality, but also equipment setup, actuator damage and more – all of which can be quickly mitigated to prevent issues from happening again.

Typically speaking, electric actuators are selected for an application based on a number of distinct factors. One of those involves how fast it needs to move given the industrial automation application that it is a part of. Voltage plays a crucial role in this calculation. Single phase and three phase AC electric actuators are among the most common. Single phase electric actuators have a voltage range of 120 up to 230 for minimal applications, while three phase electric actuators have a voltage range of between 230 and 480 for heavy loads.

The load itself is another important factor to consider when selecting an electric actuator, as demands are naturally going to be different depending on the application in question. Industrial automation is nothing if not flexible, so one will need to consider service needs within the context of axial load capacity, the positioning of the load, support carriage movement and more to make sure you’re ending up with a solution that meets the needs before you.

Overall, one of the most important components of an electric actuator is the power source. This is what generates the energy input that is necessary to drive the actuator itself. Especially in terms of industrial automation, this is electric in nature. The actuator itself is what converts that supplied energy into the mechanical force necessary to drive an industrial system.

Equally important is the mechanical load. This is a term that is used to describe the system that is driven by the actuator itself. This is all followed up by a controller, which is a device used to make sure the automated system functions given all of the inputs set forth by the operator.

When an electric actuator has been properly sized for a given application, it can help bring about a dramatic amount of operational savings – particularly in terms of total cost of ownership. Even when you consider the utility costs to your organization, an electric actuator can potentially save thousands of dollars or more over their hydraulic counterparts. Not only does this allow you to achieve a return on investment as quickly as possible, but it also offsets the initial purchase price in a way that makes this one investment that is well worth making.

The Industrial automation industry in particular is expected to generate an enormous $214 billion by as soon as the end of 2021. It’s growing at an incredible rate, thanks in large part to the prominence of technologies like artificial intelligence, machine learning, 3D printing and more. It has a role to play in every industry you can think of – from manufacturing to engineering to scientific research and beyond. Electric actuators play an important role in all of the above, and will continue to make incredible things possible for years to come. If you’d like to learn more information about the role of electric actuators in automation, or if you have any other questions that you’d like to discuss in some more detail, please don’t delay – contact the team at JHFOSTER today.