AS9120B, ISO 9001:2015, and FAA AC 0056B ACCREDITED

Aircraft Mechanical Actuators and Their Common Types

Actuators are commonplace components on countless assemblies, responsible for moving and controlling mechanisms or systems as a mover. With a control signal and an energy source, actuators generate a mechanical motion for automation or automatic control. On aircraft, actuators may be present in countless areas, tasked with managing the operations of the cargo door, bay door, flap control systems, landing gear, and more. Furthermore, they may be powered through hydraulic motors, electric motors, or other means. In this blog, we will discuss mechanical actuators in particular and their common types, allowing you to understand how they benefit flight operations.

As compared to actuators that are powered through hydraulics, pneumatics, or electricity, mechanical actuators are capable of executing movement by converting another form of motion. Due to this method of operation, mechanical actuators rely on various structural components such as gears and rails, pulleys, and chains for their functionality. Mechanical actuators may also come in numerous types to benefit operations such as the maneuvering of trailing edge flap surfaces or other aircraft parts. These common variations include linear & rotary mechanical actuators, as well as other components such as power drive units, transmission components, brakes, and feedback devices.

Linear actuators are a type of actuation system that produces motion in a straight line. Typically, these components are used in a variety of areas where linear motion is required. While hydraulic and pneumatic cylinders are commonly used for the generation of linear motion, there are other mechanisms that may be used as well. When in the form of a mechanical actuator, such components utilize a mechanism such as a screw, wheel & axle, or a cam. Ball screw, leadscrew, and screw jack linear actuators are popular, operating off of the principle of a screw that allows for the rotating screw on a nut assembly to create linear movement.

Unlike linear actuators, rotary actuators are capable of producing rotary motion or torque. Rotary actuators are commonly electrically powered or driven by hydraulics, though mechanical actuators take advantage of the energy that is stored within springs or other sources. Mechanical rotary actuators often come in one of two forms, those of which are planetary geared and hinge-line geared types. The planetary geared variation is often found in commercial leading edge slat applications, while the hinge-line geared type benefits military leading edge applications for high-torque, low-speed power transmission.

Beyond such types, other mechanical actuators may be used to ensure the proper functionality and actuation of all aircraft systems. Due to the role that many actuators play, they should be regularly inspected and maintained to prevent malfunctions or failures that can be detrimental to flight operations and safety. If you find yourself in search of replacement actuator components or other various aircraft parts, Hardware Orbit is your sourcing solution.

Hardware Orbit is a leading distributor of aircraft actuators, supplying countless types of aircraft parts that can benefit your operations. Take the time to explore our ever-expanding part catalog at your leisure, and our team is always ready to walk you through the procurement process however necessary. If you find items on our website that you are interested in, fill out and submit an Instant RFQ form in order to request quotes for your comparisons. Get started today and see why customers choose to steadily rely on Hardware Orbit for all their operational needs.


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