Industrial Linear Actuators in Automated Manufacturing



In today's world, motion technology is expected to precisely lift, move, and position heavy loads under extreme or adverse conditions. Industrial actuators are essential if processes call for rotating and pivoting, opening and closing, or keeping a production line moving. The industrial linear actuator is a component in any machine that enables movement by converting rotational motion into push or pull linear motion. These devices are used in automotive manufacturing, process industries, food and beverage processing, material handling, robotics, and other industrial settings where linear motion is required.

When purchasing a linear actuator, it’s essential to choose a product that will fit best with your application and specific demands. Whether you want a high load capacity, a longer duty cycle, or equipment requiring very little maintenance, you’ll need to thoroughly research each type of actuator.

Pneumatic, hydraulic, and electric actuators are the three most frequently used linear actuators. Pneumatic actuators are the most straightforward and affordable option, but they require compressed air, which may not always be available and is very expensive to generate. A hydraulic actuator is generally more reliable than a pneumatic actuator; however, it is significantly more complicated and expensive. Electric actuators are the most flexible option, offering smooth, precise, and maintenance-free motion.

In recent years, electric linear actuators have become increasingly common in various industries to automate their processes due to their precision, safety, small size, and speed. Not only are electric actuators the safer choice, but they also allow manufacturers to build automated process environments. Ultimately, this will help reduce failure rates and improve throughput.

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Why Electric Linear Actuators?

Precision and Speed

This actuator offers repeatable capabilities with easy, automatic operation controls. The speed and motion of the device are also easily controlled and smooth.

Less Maintenance

Since there is no risk of fluid leakage, there are minimal requirements for regular maintenance. This, of course, reduces costs and increases productivity for both the application and your team.

Quick Installation

Setting up electric actuators only requires simple wiring, so you can install your device quickly and inexpensively.

Improved Load Holding and Safety

Most electric actuators contain acme screw units (or fail-safe brakes) which can be self-locking in the event of a power failure.

Small Footprint

These actuators don’t require external pumps or motors, are much smaller, and take up less space.

Factors to Consider when Choosing the Proper Linear Actuator

There are many factors to consider when deciding which industrial actuator is suitable for your application. For the first-time buyer, it’s essential to recognize and evaluate these considerations before making a purchase. First and foremost, what type of motion do you require? For example, does your application:

  • Tilt and pivot: Actuators can be used in tilt applications that are fixed at one end, 180˚ from their starting positions.
  • Lift and lower: Actuators can lift and lower up to 2,000 lbs.
  • Position: Positioning an object with an electromechanical actuator can be performed with a simple button.
  • Roll and slide: Actuators can easily roll or slide an object into position.
  • Open and close: An actuator can open or close a door, gate, or valve on a timed or on-demand basis.
  • Tension: When tension needs to be maintained or adjusted, an actuator is the solution.

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Industrial Actuators In Material Handling and Packaging Automation

Duff-Norton’s MPD Series and SPB Series of electrical linear actuators are an excellent source of precise, reliable, and programmable motion that can be applied to material handling processes such as packaging products or stacking boxes without human supervision. Industrial packaging processes require close synchronization between actuators to sort and place products into cartons quickly and reliably. With the appropriate sensors and control systems, packaging systems utilizing linear actuators can maintain large libraries of unique packaging operations and perform rapid changeovers, improving cycle times and machine efficiency.

The HMPB Series features a range of capacities (up to 500 lbs.) and voltages for integration into a variety of industrial applications.

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The SPB Series features a heavy duty design for long life in tough environments with capacities ranging up to 2,000 lbs.

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Duff-Norton manufactures the broadest range of high-capacity electric cylinders ranging from 2 to 25 tons. Our heavy-duty electric actuators are used for opening and closing, tilting and pivoting, lifting and lowering, and positioning.

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Linear Motion Manufacturing Case Studies

Challenge: A railroad company used hydraulic-powered moveable bridges to lift rails and move locking pins. However, the hydraulic fluid would leak into the waterway below, and the company received a fine for the spillage every time this happened.


Solution: The company replaced its hydraulics with Duff-Norton’s electric cylinder actuators to solve this issue. Doing so eliminated the risk of spills, environmental contamination, and associated fines.

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Challenge: A customer’s plant was out of compressed air capacity but replacing their existing compressor or adding capacity was cost-prohibitive: an estimated $250,000 to $300,000. Furthermore, the pneumatics were inconsistent when they raised eleven fixtures at once, with some raising faster than others and sometimes with a jerky movement.


Solution: The customer replaced pneumatic cylinders in their welding fixtures with reliable and efficient Duff-Norton CMLA-Series actuators. These electric-powered actuators offer far superior performance, providing a movement that is ‘smooth as glass’ and raising/lowering all fixtures simultaneously.

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Challenge: A paper company used a hydraulic-powered upender to rotate large, heavy paper rolls. The hydraulics were prone to leakages, which would end up damaging entire rolls of the finished paper. Each leak would cost the company thousands of dollars in scrap material.


Solution: The paper company replaced their hydraulic upenders with Duff-Norton electric cylinder actuators, capable of moving 25-ton loads across a distance of 66 inches. In the four years since making this change, Duff-Norton’s SuperCylinders have delivered a reliable performance with zero scrap, saving the paper company money.

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