The silent workhorse behind countless mechanical movements, linear actuators have become indispensable components in industries ranging from automotive to robotics. Their role in converting rotary motion into linear motion makes them indispensable. However, a question that often confuses consumers and professionals is: "Why are linear actuators so expensive?" complexity and value.
Understanding the Basics
The Core Function of Linear Actuators
Linear actuators serve the fundamental purpose of translating rotary motion into linear motion. This conversion is crucial in applications where precise movement and control are required, such as in robotics, aerospace, and medical equipment.
Types of Linear Actuators
Before we delve into the cost factors, let's explore the different types of linear actuators. These include hydraulic linear actuators, pneumatic linear actuators, electric linear actuators, and mechanical actuators, each with its unique features and applications.
Linear Actuators Are Relatively Expensive for Several Reasons:
High Precision and Accuracy: Linear actuators need to be precise and accurate to ensure they move exactly as intended. This requires high-quality materials and manufacturing processes, which can increase production costs.
Complex Design: Some linear actuators can have complex designs with many components such as precision motors, gears, and bearings. Each of these components requires precise fabrication and assembly to ensure the smooth operation of the actuator, which also adds to the cost.
Professional Applications: Linear actuators are often used in professional applications such as robotics, medical equipment, and aerospace equipment. These industries require high-quality sensors and the electronics inside them, which further drives up costs.
Limited Volumes for Custom Applications: Linear actuators are not produced in large quantities, as they are often used in special applications. This limits economies of scale and increases unit costs.
Overall, the cost of a linear actuator is determined by a combination of factors related to its precision, complexity, specialized applications, and limited production volumes.
How Can Manufacturers Cut Costs?
There are plenty of cheap linear actuators on the market, just look at Amazon or eBay. An online search will give you several options for buying actuators for under $100, but low-cost linear actuators really aren't that much of a bang for the buck. They probably don't have any bearings or O-rings, and they don't have many copper windings in the motor, meaning the motor will be less powerful and last longer.
Prices for linear actuators vary widely due to a number of factors. The following considerations will greatly affect the cost of an actuator:
Low Duty Cycle
The duty cycle is the working time minus the rest time. Linear actuators have opening and closing stages. When a linear actuator is working, it uses energy to move a load, and due to unavoidable overheating, it must stop for a period of time. But the process happens so quickly, you barely notice it. Therefore, the less rest time a linear actuator has, the more expensive it will be.
Stroke length is a characteristic that allows a linear actuator to retract and reach its maximum length in the shortest amount of time. The longer the stroke, the more material is required to complete that extra stroke, and the longer it takes the motor to move on time for the duration of that stroke.
Operating temperature is a unit that indicates the temperature to which a motion control application will be exposed. Linear actuators can easily overheat if overworked, so most cheap actuators won't work at high temperatures, nor are they suitable for hot climates, and their less expensive materials simply won't handle the heat. Again, some linear actuators don't work or work properly in cold climates, that's why the lubricants and grease in the linear actuator motor start to freeze at low temperatures, and for those cheap ones with low-quality grease and oil, Executors are used. That's why if you're considering building an automated system in a very hot or very cold climate, you should consider buying more expensive variants that are specifically made for the right temperature.
Why buy a more expensive linear actuator when you can buy a cheaper one? The thing is, motion control is pretty serious, if one component like a motor fails, the whole motion and linear motion is disrupted, which causes overall problems. It is better to buy a more expensive actuator once than to buy hundreds of cheaper actuators. A linear actuator should serve your application for a long time, which is why high-quality actuators are so expensive.
Actuator Cost Drivers
Several factors can increase the cost of mass-producing linear actuators. The most expensive part is the motor, which has copper windings around the armature, and the magnets. Both magnets and copper are expensive commodities. Not only that, but magnets come in many different forms, with rare earth neodymium magnets being very expensive, but also very strong, and the copper wire used in the motor can vary depending on what you want to pay for it. Obviously the lower cost magnets and copper will result in lower motor speed and force which is the backbone of any electric linear actuator and worst of all you can't see these items on the actuator as they are all completely hidden up from view. the
What Are the Different Ways to Reduce Costs?
There are various ways to reduce the cost of linear actuators:
Design Optimization: By optimizing the design of the actuator, manufacturers can reduce the number of components required, simplify the manufacturing process, and reduce overall production costs.
Material Selection: Selecting less expensive materials without sacrificing quality can help reduce production costs. For example, using plastic or composites instead of metal can be cost-effective without compromising performance.
Automation and Economies of Scale: Investing in automation and increasing production can leverage economies of scale to help reduce the unit cost of linear actuators.
Outsourcing and Partnerships: Outsourcing production to lower-cost regions or partnering with other companies to share production resources can help reduce costs.
Simplify the Supply Chain: Improving the supply chain and reducing the number of middlemen involved in the production process can help reduce costs.
Standardization: Standardizing the design and components of linear actuators can help manufacturers take advantage of economies of scale and reduce production complexity, thereby reducing production costs.
Overall, reducing the cost of linear actuators requires a combination of design optimization, material selection, process improvement, and supply chain management strategies.
UG has always strived to offer a range of actuators to suit all price ranges. To view our range of actuators, please contact us or browse our product list.
UG is a professional custom valve actuator manufacturer. We use our engineering expertise and industry experience to continuously improve our products, striving to provide efficient solutions and competitive prices. UG is also a global supplier of highly engineered actuators and accessories serving the oil and gas, mining, chemical, pharmaceutical, water and power, food and beverage, and general industrial markets.