Smart linear actuator benefits for automation applications

06 December 2017

Thomson Industries has released an educational video that summarises the benefits of smart actuators, which feature integrated electronics.

The five-minute video explores how smart electromechanical actuators are meeting demands for greater connectivity, application flexibility and cost efficiency, and illustrates their use in factories, on- and off-highway vehicles, and structural automation. 

In discussing the benefits of smart actuators, Håkan Persson, Global Product Line Director – Thomson Actuators, states: “Smart actuators help OEM design engineers build smarter machines with smarter components. Their on board electronics perform traditionally external control functions such as switching, position feedback, system diagnostics and communications. Embedding these into the actuator housing reduces component cost, installation cost and design labour that might otherwise be needed. This, coupled with concurrent advances in power density and environmental protection, allows design engineers to electrify more axes of motion than previously thought possible, putting actuators on the frontlines of Industry 4.0.”

Smart actuation benefits

The video details the following benefits of the Electrak Modular Control System (EMCS), which is built into every Electrak HD actuator, and the features that make them possible: 

• Option to receive either absolute or incremental position feedback from embedded potentiometer or encoders 

• End-of-stroke indication, which signals when the actuator has reached either end of the stroke 

• Ability to control the actuator from the outside with lower level power switching through embedded H-bridge switching functionality 

• High position accuracy and coasting control through dynamic braking 

• Network communications for condition monitoring, diagnostics and other applications through J1939 CAN bus connectivity

• Sharing of the load among up to four actuators via advanced synchronisation functionality 

• Improved performance across actuator lifecycle through real-time monitoring of voltage and temperature and ability to shut down the actuator on overload.

Applications for smart actuators

In addition to describing the basics of smart actuation, the video demonstrates how such benefits are achieved within the following application areas:

• Factory automation, where lift trucks, conveyor systems and automated guided vehicles benefit from smart features such as controllability and connectivity

• On- and off-highway vehicles, where users in markets such as agriculture, construction, and marine and public transportation can benefit from improved efficiency and simplified wiring 

• Structural automation, such as louver control, stair lifts and medical mobility devices, where users enjoy features such as increased control and built-in safety functionality.

Technology options

Thomson delivers smart actuation through the Electrak HD, Electrak Throttle and WhisperTrak product families, which all have high ingress protection (IP) ratings, making them suitable for operation in demanding environments.

Thomson strives to continually innovate and lead the marketplace in linear motion solutions and share their application engineering and technical expertise. To that end, Thomson has authored a wide range of educational videos, webinars and technical white papers available now at to inform and guide design engineers, explain technology alternatives and simplify the linear motion component selection process. 

For more information about Thomson’s range of smart linear actuators, please visit: 

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