Expect more from linear movement with I/O actuators


Manufacturers’ Monthly speaks with LINAK Australia TECHLINE business unit manager, Andrew Cooper, about a smart and customisable actuator that is setting new industry standards.

Traditionally, an electric linear actuator is perceived as a simple device with its direction and speed usually controlled by external power electronics. To develop a smarter actuator, the controller must be integrated to fulfil the actuator’s basic needs. LINAK has decades of experience in maturing this solution – and their new I/O interface brings all this together to form a smart and universal actuator.

Launched at the beginning of May, the LINAK I/O interface was born from customers looking for a customised solution.

”With this new interface, our ambition is to push the boundaries of what is possible when it comes to customising an actuator,” Product Manager, SBU TECHLINE, Markus Hofmann said.

“We want to give our customers more control over the actuator, so they can build even better products. This new interaction with an actuator will inspire our customers and help them to think outside the box when designing future applications.”

With the LINAK I/O actuator, customers get an actuator:

  • Packed with software functionality for full control of linear movement;
  • With Bluetooth Low Energy for easy connection; and
  • With LED status indicator for fast diagnostics, using a simple visual inspection.

A flexible interface for agile minds

The key in developing a smarter actuator was incorporating extra customisable functionality into the I/O interface. This gives customers more flexibility to configure the operation of the actuator through an expanded range of variable features. According to TECHLINE business unit manager, Andrew Cooper, it also means that LINAK’s customers can streamline their product development process.

“Very often in the development process, a customer might say, ‘Actually, now we’ve done some tests on our machine we need the actuator to run at 70 per cent speed until it reaches this position and then accelerate to 100 per cent speed,’ or, ‘We want a five seconds acceleration time and three seconds deceleration time.’ Traditionally those changes would require new software to be created and loaded into the samples being used for the customer’s prototype tests, or in some cases new samples to be supplied,” Cooper said.

“With this I/O interface, we’ve now given our customers the flexibility to do all that fine tuning themselves. Basically there’s a new software tool called Actuator ConnectTM, and during their own product development they can customise the operation of the actuator to improve the performance of their equipment.”

The LINAK I/O actuator is the definition of flexibility. With its range of movement and choice of input control and output data, the I/O actuator offers endless modifications to provide full control of the exact functionalities required.

Input options allow adjustment and control of the electric actuator, while output data gives invaluable insights into application performance.

Tailored movement solution

Find the exact features needed and take control of the linear movement. With I/O actuators, customers can make data-driven decisions and utilise data for monitoring, diagnostics or continuous improvements. The Actuator Connect software allows customisation, so that the actuators provide the exact functionalities required while providing full control of the linear movement.

“The game-changing flexibility of a universal LINAK I/O interface, bringing innovative actuator ideas to life is simpler and more agile,” Product Manager, SBU TECHLINE Melanie Grohnheit said. “The comprehensive features of I/O give you the flexibility to configure and test your software settings again and again – without having to request a new prototype each time.”

In creating a more agile actuator, LINAK integrated Bluetooth into the I/O interface. This removes the need to connect the actuator to a laptop via a USB cable: meaning more accessibility for actuators that are located within machinery, and more ease for fault finding.

Another feature of the I/O interface is a simple, integrated status indicator light.

“Usually the only time a customer knows the actuator is not working is because it stops moving,” Cooper said. “We’ve now integrated a light showing the status of the actuator. So, if the customer has five or six actuators on a machine, they would be able to see if any of them are not operational. Different colours of the light also means a service technician is able to see whether the problem is internal to the actuator or external, due to the application or their control system for example.

“It’s quite a simple thing, but also unique to almost all actuators. It’s something that can deliver so much value to our customers, and their customers as well.”

Same quality, different levels

LINAK is aware that not every project demands the full range of I/O options. Therefore, there is a choice between three levels of functionality: Basic, Full and Customised.

With I/O Basic, customers receive all the benefits from an integrated controller actuator with the integrated H-bridge. When choosing I/O Full, customers can test and learn while exploring all the features of I/O. With I/O Customised, the customer makes their decisions based on their individual data and learnings. Here, the functionality and design are preconfigured to meet individual needs.

To gain access to all the features, it is possible to upgrade to the full version directly from the LINAK Actuator Connect configurator.

“What we’ve done in developing this I/O interface is to give our customers the flexibility to fine tune the operation of the actuators on their equipment themselves,” Cooper explained. “Using the new Actuator Connect software tool simply connected wirelessly to an actuator using Bluetooth they can adjust the operation of the actuator during their own product development to get the optimum performance from their equipment.”

For more information about LINAK’s I/O actuator and its variables, visit www.linak.com.