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Linear actuators grow until 2010

Which development of direct electrical linear motors shows up during a period of 10 years from 2001 to 2010? Based on interviews with 270 and/or 130 machine-builders in the years 2001 and/or 2006 a continuous growth of this drive system shows up.

Linear drives rarely in use at first

March 1st, 2010 - In 2001 the use of linear actuators in the German machinery industry was still a fairly rare event. In sectors, in which translational drives are mainly used, there were only 3.5% of the companies with direct electrical linear motors in use.

„One used the linear motor to proceed around a hot glue nozzle crosswise over a paper web.“ (Packaging machines)

„In a vertically rotating car chain one used linear motors for the drive of the total system. It concerns a continuous system, which is to turn uniformly fast in divergent loading conditions. The linear motor was used in the horizontal range of the circulation. This car chain was used in a sorting device.“ (Conveyor)

„Use of the linear motors for the XY positioning in the area with production automats. The Z-axis is conventionally carried out.“ (Electronics manufacturing)

The market shares of linear actuators in the German machinery industry from 2001 to 2010.
Source: Market survey by Quest TechnoMarketing in the German mechanical engineering industry.

The machine-builders wanted to expand the relatively low use of direct electrical linear actuators. However, not rotary, but other translational drives should be substituted such as ball screw drives, pneumatic or hydraulic linear actuators.


  • „One would like to substitute toothed belt drives if necessary by linear motors. At present one examines therefore a possible use.“ (Packaging machines)
  • “1-2 times per year” one discusses an alternative to the pneumatic linear axes. That concerns all infeed axes which one needs.“ (Robotics + Automation)


5 years later, 2006, the portion of the machine-builders with electrical linear motors quadrupled from 3.5% to 13.6%.

Linear actuators are growing

Until 2010 the portion of the machine-builders with direct electrical linear motors are to increase from 13.6% to 19%.

At the same time the number of such linear actuators per machine increases on the average to 1.1 to 2010.

Linear actuators substitute rotary servo drives

While in the period from 2001 to 2006 linear actuators substituted other translational solutions, the machinebuilders stress obviously relatively more strongly the substitution of rotary servo drives by linear actuators for the period until 2010.

  • „One is following a trend to substitute scarcely 50% of the numerical control servo drives by translational linear actuators. At the fair one presented a cutting machine with linear actuators for glass plates of 6 m x 3 m achieving a technological edge in the sector for a period of 2 years. While the rotary servo drives could achieve a line speed of 160m/min with an acceleration of 5m/sec2, the linear actuators have increased the performance by 20%. One proceeds now 250m/min with 15m/sec2 and this “more quietly-running” and “more accurately during a longer period.” (Building/ glass/ceramic machines)
  • „The linear technology with feed axes offers higher performances, higher rigidity. But their problems are contamination, mounting, double number of converters, thus higher costs and above all higher energy costs. The linear drive wins 1sec per minute compared with rotary drives, however needing 30% more power. To these higher energy costs the end users react increasingly sensitively. Then no critical point exists with power failure because of the vertical movement. So this must be designed time consumingly. One estimates that because of these problems the use of the linear actuators per year does increase by 2-3% however probably not more.“ (Machine tools)
  • „Four years ago one began to insert linear actuators with an application. Now there are already 3 applications with altogether 150 linear actuators per year. The application of these drives must be “worth-while” since with larger stroke length the costs increase as well. But with applications in the laser cutting technology, when welding and HSC milling, one could obtain “large progress” with a high accuracy. One proves its worth with the fact that the linear actuators will duplicate from 150 to 300 drives while the rotary servo drives will accordingly decrease.“ (Robotics + Automation)
  • „In the past one substituted already rotary servo drives by linear drives and torque motors. The potential of the torque motors is now exhausted. But linear drives can further substitute the servo drives in such a manner that one has 75% linear and 25% rotary servo drives at the end in use. This is the main development.“ (Machine tools)
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