4 Different Types Of Linear Actuators

Linear actuators are much more common than many people realize, and drive motion elements within things that most of us use every day. Many motion-enabled products these days contain linear actuators, from consumer products to robotics, automotive and aviation, we’re surrounded by actuators all the time. Just a modern vehicle alone can have dozens of actuators. Many functions that are controlled by the simple push of a button, are actually being driven by an actuator behind the dashboard or under the hood.

There are a number of different types of linear actuators, and each style is ideal for different applications. In this article, we're going to dive into the main four types of actuators, and briefly touch on the benefits of each.

The Four Main Types of Linear Actuators

Electric Linear Actuators

Electric actuators are very common. They come in a variety of different styles and designs, shapes, sizes and price points. In fact, just navigating the many options when it comes to electric linear actuators can be a daunting task. The most common types of electric linear actuator are lead-screw, belt-drive and rack and pinion.

Benefits of electric linear actuators

Electric linear actuators (both large and micro) are well-suited to applications that require relatively slow, steady and precise movement. They tend to be more cost-effective than other types of actuators as well.

Another benefit to using electric actuators is you have a wide variety of control options, ranging from simple switches to remote control, Arduino-powered and even IOT wifi enabled. If you want the widest array of options regarding control, electric is probably the best way to go.

Additionally, installation of electric actuators is relatively simple when compared to other types of motion devices. Some actuator manufacturers even provide a mounting hardware kit with their devices to make installation a breeze.

Pneumatic Actuators

Pneumatic actuators use compressed air, rather than an electric motor, to enable motion. Pneumatic actuators are less precise than electric, and are best suited to applications that require only two positions, rather than a range of positioning options. Pneumatic actuators range in price but are generally inexpensive. Pneumatic actuators can be found mostly in industrial settings where access to compressed air is readily available.

Benefits of pneumatic linear actuators

Pneumatic actuators are great for applications where there is an existing supply of compressed air, such as factories. As mentioned above, they are relatively inexpensive. They also tend to be fairly durable and reliable.

Hydraulic Actuators

Hydraulic actuators use pressurized hydraulic oil to create movement. They can be counted on for precise, powerful movement but do not tend to be fast. Hydraulic actuators can be found in commercial environments that require a great deal of force such as heavy equipment, fabrication, and manufacturing.

Next time you pass an excavator or backhoe, have a look at the big cylinders that lift the boom. Those are just large hydraulic actuators!

Benefits of hydraulic linear actuators

Hydraulic actuators have the potential for very high forces, as well as very high precision, making them ideal for heavy-duty applications. The flip side of that is that they are fairly expensive, and also have the potential for contaminating areas due to hydraulic leaks.

Vacuum Actuators

Vacuum actuators are similar to pneumatic actuators, but rather than using compressed air to create the motion, they use vacuum created by a vacuum pump. Vacuum actuators are common in automobiles as engines create vacuum that can be easily utilized to create motion. They can also be found in HVAC, industrial and other applications. Vacuum actuators are generally not used at the hobbyist level.

Benefits of vacuum linear actuators

As mentioned above, vacuum actuators are ideal for automotive applications as gasoline engines naturally produce vacuum. Additionally, they are relatively inexpensive and can also be powered by a remote vacuum pump


IWhen it’s time to decide on a linear actuator for your application, it’s important to first have a look at what you need the actuator to do. For example:

  • How far do you need the actuator to travel?
  • What is the expected load on the actuator?
  • How long do you need the actuator to last?
  • What is your price range?

Also consider what type of movement you’re looking for. Do you need something that will quickly move from one point to the next, or are you looking for consistent, steady movement?

If you’ve answered these questions, and still aren’t sure what type of actuator you need, you can feel free to send an email to our sales team. They would be happy to help you find a motion device that’s right for your needs. If we don’t have the product, we can direct you to somebody who will. You can also check our product descriptions and datasheets on our product pages to help guide your decision.

At Actuonix, we carry the largest selection of micro linear actuators available anywhere. Every single one of our products was designed by our team of engineers just outside of Victoria, BC, in Western Canada. We don’t rebrand actuators that can be found on Chinese websites. Everything that we sell, we designed from the ground up. Head over to our website to check out our full product offerings.

Common Questions About Actuonix

How long has Actuonix been in business?

We have been in business since 2004. We were founded under the name 'Firgelli Technologies' and in 2016, changed our name to Actuonix Motion Devices. We are not affiliated with Firgelli Automations.

Can I use an Actuonix actuator to replace one that I already have?

Actuonix actuators can be used as replacements in many applications. If you need help determining which actuator will best suit as a replacement, please contact us. to discuss. There are many variables to consider including voltage, motor type, control system, stroke length, load and more.

Does Actuonix outsource manufacturing?

No, we do not. All of our actuators are built in our own factory. We source all of our own parts and manage our quality control processes from start to finish.

Do you offer development discounts?

We sometimes do, yes. This is at our discretion and on a case by case basis. That said, if you're looking for a motion control solution and want to discuss a discounted actuator to test in your design, we can often facilitate this type of request. Quantity limits will apply.

Browse Actuators From Actuonix Today

This article's overview of Actuonix and our advantages should help you see why we are your best choice for mini actuators. View our collection of actuators by model or industry today. As a leading manufacturer and innovator in the micro motion marketplace, Actuonix services companies big and small in a number of industries including aerospace, medical, robotics, and more. Get in touch with us today to submit an order or to submit an inquiry.