How Are Actuators Used on Aircraft?

Posted on December 8, 2022 Anthony Cordle How Are Actuators Used on Aircraft?

Even the largest aircraft depend on millions of small parts, many of which are a form of actuator. Actuators are devices that convert electricity into pressure, temperature, or mechanical movements. As such, nearly every process on an airplane depends on some type of actuator. Though it would take many more articles to discuss each and every actuator device aboard an aircraft, many of them can be separated into major categories. Generally, there are hydraulic and pneumatic systems, as well as new actuator technologies like hydraulically amplified self-heating electrostatic (HASEL) actuators.

Whereas hydraulic and pneumatic actuators have been the traditional choice for many aircraft operations, HASEL actuators are becoming increasingly used in plane construction. Their main advantages are that they are extremely lightweight and have excellent fuel efficiency, reduced emissions, lower operating and maintenance costs, optimized performance, reduced noise, and finally, provide a higher level of safety.

         

For example, the flap adjustments on the wings and tail are all driven by hydraulic motors. Where hydraulic systems previously required a centralized fluid feed and cooling systems, electrohydrostatic actuators are self-contained units that have no need for hydraulic pumping that uses extra power, nor the cooling systems that further sap energy and create extra weight. They also offer fewer areas of potential leakage or failure.

Within this same system, the flap is moved by another type of actuator called a linear actuator which converts an electric motor’s rotary movement into linear movement. This device works via a stainless steel piston that can telescope outward or collapse inward to either push or pill the item to which it is attached. Aside from linear actuators, there are rotary actuators which may be used to help the nose wheel steering system, and other rotating parts.

As lightweight and compact components, actuators are often used as important components of the safety redundancies of aircraft. This means that for many of the most essential systems on aircraft, there are components in place that can replace a malfunctioning part instantly. Duplicate actuators take up much less space and load than other similar components.

Along with many other usages, actuators are used for controlling plane velocity and engine speed, for increasing the angle of descent, and for opening landing gear bays. Moreover, they are foundational items that break down major actions into smaller steps that can be mirrored for an added layer of safety. To guarantee the safety and efficiency of all actuators in an aircraft, it can be very helpful to find a reliable sourcing partner. ASAP Aviation Procurement is a leading distributor of aerospace parts that sources all our high-grade items from accredited members on our Approved vendor List (AVL). More than that, we are backed by speedy turnaround times and a widespread network of supply locations, allowing us to guarantee expedited shipping for all orders and AOG situations. Start procuring the parts you require with ease today when you choose to partner with ASAP Aviation Procurement!

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