As industrial automation technology has advanced, application demands have increased for flexibility, precision, efficiency and reliability in linear motion. This has resulted in considerable debate about the best overall solution – pneumatic or electric linear motion – for automation applications.
Pneumatic cylinders have been a long-standing, popular solution for providing economical linear motion across a broad spectrum of manufacturing processes. Pneumatic systems are fairly simple to install and durable, and they provide a low-cost method of meeting linear motion and force requirements. Developments in electric rod style actuator designs and options now make electric technology an economical, viable alternative for machine builders to consider for linear motion applications. Electric actuators provide control and reliability advantages while meeting motion and force requirements.
Factors that affect performance and feasibility of each technology include:
- Motion control capabilities
- Force capabilities
- Velocity/acceleration/deceleration capabilities
- System components and footprint
- Reliability, life and maintenance of devices
- Data collection
- Efficiency/leaks/utility costs
- Shock/side loads
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