- Register


Home>POWER TRANSMISSION>Linear >Linear motion solution selection

Linear motion solution selection

20 June 2022

When it comes to selecting linear actuators for motion applications, some confusion remains on whether an electric or pneumatic solution is most suitable. Simon Gass, Product Marketing Manager, Actuators, from Norgren looks at the key considerations

THE GLOBAL actuation market continues to remain healthy and is forecast to grow, with predictions estimating it will be worth around $74bn within the next five years, as a result of growing customer demand and innovation.  

This, coupled with the focus on increasing operational efficiencies, and the growth of connectivity, as data drives more informed decision-making, means manufacturers and OEMs are seeking high-performance solutions for their specific linear motion needs. With the need for increased precision, speed and reliability, fundamental for performance to remain competitive.

Yet, depending on specific operational needs there is now more choice than ever when it comes to linear actuation, and manufacturers now need to consider the benefits of both pneumatic and electric to select the most appropriate solution.


Put simply, for manufacturers needing to move a load quickly, reliably and, cost-effectively between two fixed points; or, for applications which are limited to a small installation space or are dealing with a hazardous operating environment (such as exposure to extreme temperatures or flammable areas), then specifying a pneumatic solution could be preferable.

Here, we’re seeing technology innovation, as seen in the Norgren ISOLine range, which brings with it an increase in performance. Providing an adaptive cushioning system (ACS), it automatically adjusts the cylinder cushioning for changing loads, so manual cushion screw setting is not required.

Suitable for a wide variety of applications, from heavy industrial, to clean food and beverage and even rail, pneumatic actuators, such as the Norgren ISOLine, offer manufacturers a fit-and-forget solution which can efficiently perform at low pressures, while also lowering the overall weight of the machine. 


Electric actuation, on the other hand, brings with it another level of precise control, flexibility, guaranteed repeatability, and easy connectivity. It is proving increasingly popular in sectors such as packaging, material handling and automotive.

Electric actuators can provide the highest degree of precision-control over the linear motion stroke, offering unmatched performance when it comes to controlling speed, position, accuracy and repeatability. For example, accuracies of +/- 0.02mm are possible with a repeatability of +/- 0.01mm.

In addition, multiple intermediate positions can be achieved, and in-built positioning flexibility allows several actuators to move in unison, changing speed without the need to stop or overrun a position.

Precise acceleration and deceleration control, as seen in the Norgren ELION Electric Actuator range, also allows the cylinders to glide into position without stopping abruptly, making electric actuation suitable for applications where vibration and disruptive movement is not acceptable. For harsh operating environments, such as the food and beverage sectors, and process applications including cement works, and powder transportation, OEMs need a solution which further enhances sealing protection. To this end, the Norgren ELION IP65 rod-style actuator conforms to the international standard for ingress protection from foreign objects and liquids, as defined by IEC/EN 60529.

Finally, electric actuation can make a significant contribution to lowering running costs and improving the operating environment. With electromechanical components efficiently converting electricity to mechanical power, energy savings and a reduction in energy consumption are possible as the motor is only energised when movement is required, or an external force is present.  As a result, electric actuation helps create a cleaner and quieter operating environment.

Of course, while the benefits of electric and pneumatic linear actuators are clear, manufacturers must also recognise there may be applications that require both. These include large, multiple axis machines, where a combination of electric and pneumatic actuation can be appropriate as there may be both simple and complex linear motion positioning requirements.

Key Points

  • When it comes to linear actuation, manufacturers now need to consider the benefits of both pneumatic and electric solutions
  • A pneumatic solution can move a load quickly, reliably and, cost-effectively between two fixed points
  • Electric actuation provides another level of precise control, flexibility, guaranteed repeatability, and easy connectivity