Case Study: Motion Applications and Linear Actuators

| Chris Williams

Linear Actuators

A Technical Review and ROI Analysis

A local food and beverage company was working with Horizon Solutions on automation upgrade projects for one of their key manufacturing facilities. One of the machines we looked at upgrading was connected to a conveyor on the packing line. This machine merged three conveyor lines and the manufacturer had been using pneumatic air cylinders to ‘nudge’ packs of product in and across their conveyor systems.

Replacing Pneumatic Cylinders with Electric Actuators

The team analyzed the existing system and determined that the pneumatic cylinders were costly and required a lot of maintenance.  The cylinders needed to be replaced annually and required much downtime for maintenance. Electric actuators were a known possible solution but had not been explored due to perceived costs. Here are some of the details of this case study.

Motion Applications and Linear Actuators Hydraulic

Old and outdated pneumatic and hydraulic systems can be inefficient and messy.

Existing Motion System

  • The cost to replace the air cylinder was $600. It was replaced, on average, 1/year
  • The electric energy cost associated with the pneumatic system was roughly $3600/year
  • The vast majority of this cost was going into a compressor system to supply air to the pneumatic components

Proposed Motion System

  • The cost of the new electric actuator system was $3,800. This system is expected to have an effective life of 10 years of normal usage
  • The energy cost of the electric actuator system represents a cost of $3500/year less than the pneumatic system
  • The new electric actuator system is more reliable, cleaner, quieter, and requires less maintenance

Motion Applications Linear Actuators

As you can see, this system paid for itself in less than a year.

Electric Actuators ROI

The ROI was 107.9%. This system paid for itself in just over 11 months. That means that every year after year one is positive cash flow. Simply put, money in the bank. For this particular electric actuator, we used the # of cycles that each component is expected to last and conservatively calculated a ten-year life. In this case, the electric actuator being used is a LinMot standard industrial linear motor. It is rated for 2,000,000,000 cycles. No really, the specified operating life is up to 2 billion cycles when properly applied. We expect that with normal use, this system can run effectively for more than the 10 years estimated in the calculations above.

These calculations use a flat energy savings year to year, simply taking the previous energy use of the pneumatic system and subtracting the new lower usage of the electric actuator. When energy costs go up, then the savings will increase as well. This looks like a good investment.


In addition to the dollars and cents shown above in our ROI analysis, the end-users at the manufacturing facility are pleased with the new electric actuator technology:

"My team is very happy with the new electric actuators. We spend less time replacing parts, which makes our job easier. Since we need to do less maintenance, we don’t need to shut down the machines as frequently. The planning and production folks are happy with us and the lines are more productive day to day." - Maintenance Supervisor

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