Mechatronics, electric linear actuators and control system design

By Gary Rosengren on March 3, 2015

Mechatronics illustrationIf you’ve been around engineering, you’ve probably heard the term “mechatronics” used to refer to a design process that blends mechanical engineering, electrical engineering, telecommunications engineering, control engineering, and computer engineering. Mechatronics is a multidisciplinary approach that rejects splitting engineering into rigidly separate fields. Originally, mechatronics just included mechanics and electronics; however, as technical systems have become more complex the word has been broadened to include more technical areas.

We design our electric linear actuators to be part of "mechatronic systems" — computer-controlled mechanical systems, systems that include both an electronic computer and electromechanical components. Most modern industrial control systems that use our linear actuators fit this description.


A holistic approach to design

Today’s automation solutions need to be faster, smarter and communicate better, so machine design engineers must take a broad view. When specifying electric linear actuators for an integrated control system that takes mechatronics principles to heart, consider these factors:

1.  Application requirements for

  • Service life
  • Thrust
  • Velocity
  • Stroke length and overall length
  • Accuracy and repeatability
  • Life cycle cost

2.   Environmental factors

  • Temperature extremes
  • Moisture
  • Dust and abrasives
  • Caustic solutions

3.  Communication issues

  • System protocols
  • Sources of electrical noise
  • Data to be communicated
  • Timing (when; how often)

4.  Programmability

  • Actions to be programmed
  • Degree of control needed

Once the application’s parameters are thoroughly documented, we suggest you work closely with a motion control supplier.  After all, there are many variables to consider when specifying an electric linear actuator:  rod or rodless; belt or screw drive; acme, ball, or roller screw; stepper or servo motor; inline or reverse parallel motor configuration; type of controller/driver. An electric linear actuator supplier’s expertise will help you identify the best product configuration for your system.