Why Are Linear Actuators So Expensive?

We hear this question from time to time. When researching actuators for a project or OEM product, clients will reach out and ask why linear actuators are so expensive?

Frankly, it’s a fair question. There are dozens of factors that affect the price of a linear actuator and generally (though not always), as with most items, you’re going to get what you pay for. Actuators are a complex piece of machinery and all of the parts need to be individually selected and tested to ensure compatibility and longevity.

Micro actuators are a relatively new product

Actuonix invented the first low-cost micro actuator in 2005.  At that time, rotary servos had been in existence for 40+ years. Rotary servos are manufactured in the millions by hundreds of companies worldwide. Micro actuators are manufactured in much smaller quantities. At Actuonix, we choose to offer our clients a wide range of control, speed and force options which further reduces the manufacturing quantity for each model and increases cost.

Why do actuators range so much in price?

Even the smallest linear actuator has dozens of parts inside of it. For actuator companies who actually design and manufacture their own products like we do, there are many decisions to be made regarding quality, longevity and strength when choosing internal parts.

Motors for example, are available from dozens of manufacturers. We need to choose a motor that provides good performance and longevity within our devices, and is also affordable enough that we can maintain competitive pricing. Two actuators that look the same can be very different internally. If one manufacturer chooses to use a cheap motor, cheap circuit boards, cheap wire etc., and another chooses to use only high-quality materials, you end up with two devices that look similar but one will have a much shorter life span.

Components that impact actuator cost

I mentioned above that actuators have many parts inside of them. Below are some of the parts that you will find within an actuator, all of which range in price and quality.

  • Motor
  • Motor housing
  • Aluminum or steel shaft
  • End tip
  • End limit switches
  • Circuit board
  • O rings
  • Screws
  • Gearbox
  • Bearings

Other cost factors to consider

There are a variety of other factors that can drive actuator cost. Testing for example, is huge. Some manufacturers just receive their stock from the factory and ship it straight out. At Actuonix, we choose to test every single unit before it leaves our facility in Canada. This increases our cost and our quality.

Another thing to consider is additional components. Does the actuator ship with a hardware kit, or do you have to purchase that separately. Solid customer service and a great warranty also have a cost to the manufacturer.

You can also expect to pay more for an actuator that has special ratings and certifications. Products with an IP rating or a RoHS certified for example will generally be more expensive than products that are not.

Of course, profit is also a consideration. Businesses based in the US and Canada generally need to make a higher profit to support their operations than companies that sell directly from China.

Is the actuator an original product?

At Actuonix, every single model we sell is designed by our engineering team in Canada. Each component is individually selected for compatibility and quality. All of our designs are unique from the motor housing to the shaft and internal workings.

Many “manufacturers” have copied our products. You can find products that look nearly identical to Actuonix actuators all over the internet. They bear a variety of names but all look largely the same. 

There is a reason these products all look so similar. Most of these products were copied from our original design. Resellers who are purchasing and selling these actuators don’t bear the additional costs of designing and testing these actuators, and so they can offer copies of our products at a typically lower price point.

How to reduce your linear actuator cost

There are a few ways that you can reduce your costs. Many businesses, ours included, offer educational and development discounts. We also offer a discount to FIRST Robotics teams and sponsor a lot of unique builds from RC to robotics.

There are also generous quantity discounts available for clients purchasing more than ten actuators.

Are high quality actuators worth the price?

Generally, yes. If you need a specialized actuator or linear servo, you’re likely going to pay more. That said, not all inexpensive actuators are low quality. We have found a balance of pricing and quality that has served our clients well for more than 15 years. For us, the key is in selecting the right internals, rigorously testing new models to ensure that they meet performance and longevity requirements, and testing stock before it ships.

While it’s prudent to be wary of actuators that are considerably cheaper than the competition, a cheap actuator is not necessarily a bad actuator, and on the flip side, an expensive actuator is not necessarily a good actuator.

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