If you're new to linear actuators, you might not realize that there are many different options for linear actuator control. Long gone are the days where all you could get was a simple 2-wire device that operates via reversing polarity. Those are still available of course but manufacturers are offering a variety of different input modes to cater to hobbyists, arduino enthusiasts as well as the technical needs of equipment manufacturers.
Below you will find ten different options for controlling linear actuators. This list is intended to give you an overview of what's possible for linear actuator control. It's not exhaustive, there are other options out there but these are the ones that will work for most people.
The rocker switch is a great option for basic control of 2-wire linear actuators. You can use either a latching or momentary DPDT switch to move your actuator in and out. Rocker switches are ideal for automotive and heavy equipment applications where 12V power is readily available.
Similar to the rocker switch in functionality, the lighted DPDT push-button switch is a little more stylish and is great for applications where you want the control to really stand out.
If you want the ability to extend or retract your actuator from a distance, our Wireless Remote Control kit is for you. It features a range of up to 100 meters and is ideal for situations where you need to control your actuator at a distance. Opening locks, opening gates and compartments are some examples of where the wireless remote might com in handy.
If you're an arduino user, you can use it with a photo sensor to extend or retract your actuator based on the amount of light available. This is great for chicken coops. You can automatically close your chicken coop door at night and open it in the morning, saving yourself the hassle of leaving the house to do it manually.
P series actuators can be controlled with a sliding or rotary potentiometer via our LAC board. This is ideal for applications where you need to select a certain point along the actuator's travel and have lots of control over position.
R series linear servos can be controlled via a standard RC receiver. This means that adding functionality to your RC car boat or drone is as simple as plugging an R series linear servos into an unused channel on your receiver. This opens up a wide range of options for customization from retractable landing gear, grabber arms, sail adjustment and more.
PWMUsing P series linear actuators with an LAC board, you can control the actuator with a single digital output pin from an external microcontroller. The desired actuator position is encoded as the duty cycle of a 3.3 Volt, 1 kHz square wave on LAC connector X6 pin 5, where the percent duty cycle sets the actuator position to the same percent of full stroke extension. 100% duty cycle represents full extension, and 0% duty cycle represents full retraction.
USBIf you want to control your actuator from your computer, we've got you covered. Our USB configuration software allows you to send commands to your actuator right from your Windows computer. This can be useful for product development and testing where you have a computer nearby and want to be able to experiment with different settings on the fly.
4-20 mA Interface ModeThis is one of the five control modes supported by our LAC board. This mode is compatible with PLC devices typically used in industrial control applications. Most consumers won't use this option so I won't go into detail here. For more info on how to use this control mode, see our LAC board data sheet.
If you need your actuator to extend or retract for a specific period of time in seconds, minutes or hours, then you can use a timer relay to accomplish that. This is useful for applications where you need something accomplished on a regular cycle and want to keep your cost down and avoid arduino programming.
I hope that this list has given you a better idea of the options you have when it comes to linear actuator control.