Using Linear Actuators for Rapid Prototyping

In years past, prototyping motion-enabled products was a slow and labor-intensive process. Design engineers had limited off the shelf options, so they built custom motion systems from scratch using motors, lead screws, rods, gears and other components. This method of prototyping was slow, expensive and laborious. This is not ideal in an industry where product development is often a race against the clock to bring your product to market before a competitor. Things have changed a lot in recent years. 3D printing is broadly available making testing different designs simple and fast. These days, a decent 3D printer can be purchased for less than $500. With static components now so easy and inexpensive to produce, let’s talk about your options for adding motion to a product prototype.  

Motion-Enabled Product Prototypes

As mentioned above, 3D printing is great for static parts, but let’s talk about how designers can add motion to their designs. Smart product designers are utilizing high-quality, affordable actuators to drive the motion elements of their design. Sure, you could try and build a motion solution the old fashioned way with clumsy rotary servos or expensive and large linear actuators. There is a solution that's more likely to suit your needs though - Actuonix actuators for prototyping.

Introduction to Electric Linear Actuators

While there are many different types of actuators including electric, vacuum, pneumatic, and electromagnetic, we’re going to focus on the style that is the most accessible and easy to use for prototyping - electric. Linear actuators have been around for decades as large, heavy and expensive things that were great for some purposes, but lacked the nimble design and affordability necessary to be useful in prototyping.

Significance in Prototyping

Linear actuators play a crucial role in modern design prototyping. Integrating off the shelf linear actuators into a design is a quick and inexpensive process, allowing design engineers to focus their energy on other aspects of product design. Prototyping with Actuonix actuators affords designers a number of options to not only enhance the functionality of the product, but simplify things such as life cycle testing with simplified control systems and long-term durability.

Why Use Electric Linear Actuators For Product Prototyping

actuators for prototyping


Actuonix actuators are an affordable way to add a motion element to your design. Whether integrated into the final product or used for cycle testing, costs can be reduced allowing your team to focus resources on other aspects of the design process. All of our actuators cost less than $100USD. Development a volume discounts can help reduce this cost even further. 


No matter what type of control system you’re going to be using, there is an input option available that will integrate with your existing system. Available options include 6V or 12V control by switching polarity, PLC, USB, RC Servo, 1 kHz PWM, 0–3.3 V, 4–20 mA. This range of control options ensures that you can not only find an optimal solution for your design, but also have the flexibility to experiment with different inputs to better suit your design and ensure the best possible finished product.


Typically, designers want a prototyping actuator to consume as little space within their design as possible. This is where Actuonix actuators excel. Our actuators range in size, with our smallest models tiny enough to fit inside a tic tac box and still push more than 20lbs of force. From there our actuators go up in size and force, ensuring that there is an option to match the specifications of every design.

Force and Speed

All of our DC actuators come in a variety of gear ratios. This ensures that you will be able to achieve an optimal speed and force combination for your design, without compromising on quality. This also provides benefits for testing purposes. More powerful actuators can help you assess the strengths and weaknesses within your design, to aid you in making improvements. Our actuators come with maximum speeds of up to 46mm/s and maximum forces as high as 67lbs.

Future Trends for Prototype Actuators

As rapid prototyping becomes a more common process in product design, the need for small, adaptable actuators will continue to grow. Year over year, we work on expanding and refining our product line to offer prototype actuators that not only provide exceptional value to product designers, but stand the test of time. Advancements in materials, control systems, and miniaturization are on the horizon, opening up new possibilities for even more compact and efficient linear actuators. The integration of smart technologies, such as IoT connectivity and advanced sensors, is expected to enhance precision and responsiveness. As these innovations unfold, the landscape of prototyping will likely see a shift towards more sophisticated and seamlessly integrated linear actuator solutions.

Common Questions About Prototyping With Linear Actuators

Do you have 3D files available for your actuators?

Yes, we do. When you visit a product page, click on the 'Technical Specs' tab and you will find a link to the 3D files for that product.

How do I choose the best actuator for my application?

The best way to start is by entering the information that you have into our Actuator Selector Tool. This tool will narrow down your choices based on what you know about your needs, and allow you to browse only products that meet your criteria. If you need additional assistance, our sales team can help you decide on a product that will best suit your needs.

Do you offer development discounts?

Yes, in some cases we will offer development discounts to designers working to integrate our products into their design. This is at our discretion and limits will apply. Contact our sales department for more details.

Do you make custom actuators?

Yes, we do offer a custom actuator design service. If you can not work with an off the shelf product, we can modify one of our existing designs to suit your needs or work with you to develop a completely custom actuator solution.. Minimum order quantities will apply.

Browse Actuators From Actuonix Today

This article's overview of 'How Linear Actuators Have Changed Prototyping' should help you identify exactly what you need. 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.