By: Cory Hunter
Linear actuators are widely used throughout a variety of industrial and commercial applications. They can be used to shift work tables on industrial machines, move printer and scanner heads, or drive robotics systems. Most automatic lifts, shovels, and other construction equipment are driven using linear actuator technology, as well as most audio loudspeakers which use the actuators to provide the oscillatory mechanism.
Linear actuators are typically powered by 12 or 24v power supplies, however embedded or secondary power adaptors can also be easily connected to an actuator. Regardless of the industry, linear actuators likely play an essential role in the manufacturing or utilization aspects of the field.
But just because they are used widely in an industrial or commercial setting doesn’t mean they aren’t accessible to the average consumer. There are a huge variety of linear actuators which provide different usage parameters depending on your use. Whether you need a small stroke length, or a fast operating speed, established linear actuator manufacturers, such as Morai Motion, will provide an extensive list of working models.
One interesting application of linear actuators is home automation.
If you ever dreamed of a Jetsons style home set-up, with covert electronics neatly fitting into every nook and cranny of your interior design, then the smart utilization of linear actuators may be your next project. Linear actuators can be used in a variety of ways, but basically are the most effective solution to automate the retraction and extension of different design elements.
In other words, if you want a feature in your home to open when needed, and close when not in use, then a linear actuator can provide this function. It all depends on your vision of how this ubiquitous and simple to use technology can be applied in your home.
Of course every room in your house is important, from the kitchen to the bedroom, but for most people the living room is the focal point of the home. This is typically where guests are entertained and family spends the bulk of their time together.
This article will focus on how to use linear actuators to make the best automated entertainment center available, complete with an automated recliner and TV stand.
Each of these three applications will utilize a linear actuator, coupled with a microcontroller to drive the actuating motion. In other words, the linear motion of the actuator will be engaged by the microcontroller, running a simple programming script. Depending on your preference, the microcontroller can be activated by a remote, hand gestures, or any other activation method you program into the system.
For this article, however, we will focus on remote activation since it is probably the easiest. Furthermore, don’t be scared away by the notion of programming, most of the programs already exist, and using them are as easy as copy and pasting.
Regardless of the nature of your living room, the patriarch is likely shacked up on the worn and weathered recliner. It may be a stereotype to assume all homes have this feature, but If have an old manual recliner that you wish to upgrade, adding a linear actuator is an easy solution. This basically entails adding the actuator module to the chair so that the reclining motion no longer requires the manual motion. Instead, a linear actuator, engaged by a remote or other mechanism, will automate this process.
First and foremost, not all reclining chairs are made the same. However, they do all feature similar elements: chair, footrest, reclining mechanism. In order to automate your recliner, you will want to attach a linear actuator from the chair to the footrest. Once attached, you will need to connect a control system such as an Arduino controller.
Other devices can be used as well which are already designed with controller implementation, but the Arduino is small and affordable. Finally, you will want to connect the actuator and the Arduino to a power supply.
Automated TV Stand
Like the recliner, each TV stand will be a little bit different. All of the details of how you have your TV mounted, the size of the TV and the type of external electronic devices you have connected to it will affect how you want your automated system to be designed. Likewise, there are a large number of pre-designed lifts and swivels which have built-in actuator implementation. That being said, customizing your system for your particular use is fun and easy and will likely result in the most ergonomic solution.
The two main components to consider in your automated TV stand are the TV itself, and the additional electronic devices you have connected. These would include the cable box, wireless router, DVD/Blueray Player, and the sound system.
Focusing on the TV first, linear actuators can be used to change the angle of the TV relative to the viewers or raise/lower it. In the first case, a swivel bracket should be purchased for your TV and then mounted to load-bearing wall. Next, linear actuators will be attached to this bracket to shift it from one degree extreme to the other. This actuator will then be controlled by a customized MCU (Microcontroller Unit), programmed depending on your needs.
Alternately, if you would prefer to have the TV move up and down relative to the viewer, then a stand will be needed. First a bracket must be attached to the TV which is designed to bear the weight of the television. Next, a linear actuator can be used to either move the whole lifting distance, or simply provide the extension for a telescoping mechanism attached to the bracket.
Remote-controlled implementation will then be added so that the TV will raise or lower depending on the user inputs. Finally, adding a custom cabinet for your electronic devices will be just as simple and will follow the same steps.
Regardless of your unique applications, linear actuators can be easily utilized to provide fun and novel home automation. These simple devices provide a wide range of applications that can be easily realized with a predesigned controller, or a custom programmed MCU. With a little creativity and the help of manufacturers such as Morai Motion, linear actuators can be used to fit any home automation needs.