Need to understand more about Actuators, their use, limits, etc.
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Thread: Need to understand more about Actuators, their use, limits, etc.

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    SulleyBear's Avatar
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    Need to understand more about Actuators, their use, limits, etc.

    Not sure where this thread is best placed, but I am confident Administrators or Moderators will determine that.............I didn't want to stick it where few visit (while some might suggest I do just that.....)

    I have a couple of projects where I need to use linear actuators, or at least that's what I think would work best. I don't know anything about these and I want to use them correctly. If based upon what I am describing, something other than a linear actuator should be used, please let me know.

    First, I need to install one to simply open and close the material flow gate valve on my Frontier 3 point PTO driven Poly spreader. Long story short, the handle which controls the material gate opens and closes on its own with bumps when used. Also, I can't reach it from the tractor and with the way the broadcast spreader throws material, I want to keep the rear cab window closed. Plus, I may end up using this same spreader in the winter to apply snow melt material, so the actuator needs to be weather resistant and designed to use in an environment which isn't ideal.

    But the process to even open and close the control is slow and cumbersome. First, I Climb out of the cab to open the valve, getting back in the cab turning off the brake, shifting into gear, turning on the PTO and the entire time, material is flowing out of the spreader which is NOT good. I need to be able to open and close the material flow from the operators seat on demand. So here are my questions to try and understand the proper use of actuators. I numbered the questions to make answering easier.....

    1. Are linear actuators like a switch and either fully opened or fully closed if just hooked directly to a switch? On the fertilizer spreader, I would like it Push once to fully open gate, push once to fully close gate. The movement is horizontal to control the material flow gate.

    2. For the new implement I am designing, the need is just the opposite. I need to be able to use the actuator to control the liquid material gate valve so I can increase the flow by opening the valve and reduce the flow to restrict material flow and then stop it all together. From what I can tell, it looks like i am going to need "position controllers", is that correct?. But will the actuator solidly hold the position and not bounce open or close when its stopped part of the way?

    The style of the valve I think I am going to use is like this one.............I would like the actual sliding part of the valve which opens and closes to be stainless, but the concept is the same........the force required to open and close should be minimal, much like the opening and closing of the spreader material gate.

    3. Some of the directions talk about waiting before reversing the actuator direction so as to not overheat it. How do you select an actuator which you can keep adjusting, open and closed as needed without having to wait? It's not like there are going to be constant adjustments, but occasional adjustments between fully open and fully closed. Also, since this isn't lifting a heavy load, I would think the heat build up would be minimal in the actuator when used, is that a safe assumption?

    4. How do you size the actuators for the project? For example the fertilizer spreader, do I just determine the mounting position and then the maximum distance to open the valve and close it and then provide some margin for position adjustment? What about shaft size when not lifting something, but rather opening and closing valves where there is not a direct lifting of a weight load? Probably the smallest suitable shaft diameter to keep it simple?

    4(a). Is the position of the actuator controlled by the stops in the way its mounted (fully open / fully closed) when not using a "position controller"? I want to be perfectly clear so I understand this. In other words, if its wired to a open / closed switch, does one push of the button open it and one push close it, or does the actuator require you hold the switch to make it move?

    Keep in mind that on a snow blower chute use, you can sit there and watch it so its easy to know when its reached its fully open or closed positions, but for the uses I have in mind, the actuator will be behind and underneath the implement so the operator won't be able to see it. So it needs to be consistent in function or the implement won't work right, which is why I am so focused on this issue......Plus I don't want to push the switch when the actuator has reached it's maximum open or closed position as I would think that's harmful to the electric motor....

    5. Is there a specific brand to buy or to avoid? There are 53 pages of linear actuators with 6 to 8 per page for sale, just on Amazon......

    6. I see a variety of controllers, some which open and close and even some wireless controllers. I will want wireless for both uses. Any suggestions on the controllers and wireless devices?


    7. I see some mention ratings (IP62, etc.) which I think are the "water resistance" of the unit. It appears some actuators are strictly for interior use while others are "weather rated". Are they categorized by application such as "interior use only", etc. to avoid getting the wrong unit?

    8. Any recommended places where to buy them such as Northern Tool, Grainger, etc.? I am not a big "Ebay buyer" for a variety of reasons but will buy there is that's the best choice for quality product which will work and be reliable.


    Prefer American Made with American written English instructions and technical support
    I noticed a few reviews where buyers mentioned they bought either the actuator or controllers for their snow blower chute controls but when it came to the wireless products, several commented how they were shipped from China, took 6 weeks to get and had horrible directions, which I want to avoid......I will pay double for an American made product with real American technical support and not Raji on the overseas phone saying "Hail low, my names is BOB, how cans I helps you?"

    This is why I am posing these questions to help me understand this to the GTT advisory board, as I don't have to muddle through the terrible instructions for many electronics which are written in English by those for whom English is not their primary language or it often appears a 2nd or 3rd language. Granted, my Chinese isn't worth a damn, but I don't write instructions for users in China either......

    Thanks for help and input on this issue. I want to get this right the first time and with the implement I am designing,the actuator is very critical in its success or failure.

    The GTT Advisory Board is the best......thanks to all who help and provide constructive input. I really appreciate it.............

    1025R with Mauser Cab
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    Quote Originally Posted by SulleyBear View Post

    1. Are linear actuators like a switch and either fully opened or fully closed if just hooked directly to a switch? On the fertilizer spreader, I would like it Push once to fully open gate, push once to fully close gate. The movement is horizontal to control the material flow gate.
    IMO, it is easier to think of a liner actuator as an electric version of a hydraulic cylinder. They are usually controlled with a momentary switch so they start moving when you depress the switch and stop moving when you release the switch. But it is possible to set them up to travel the full range of motion with a single push of the switch or to use a position controller to stop motion once it is started.

    2. For the new implement I am designing, the need is just the opposite. I need to be able to use the actuator to control the liquid material gate valve so I can increase the flow by opening the valve and reduce the flow to restrict material flow and then stop it all together. From what I can tell, it looks like i am going to need "position controllers", is that correct?. But will the actuator solidly hold the position and not bounce open or close when its stopped part of the way?

    The style of the valve I think I am going to use is like this one.............I would like the actual sliding part of the valve which opens and closes to be stainless, but the concept is the same........the force required to open and close should be minimal, much like the opening and closing of the spreader material gate.
    Typically that wouldn't be done with a liner actuator. You'd use an electric gate valve like this: Amazon.com: Valterra E1003VP EZ Valve 3 Electric Waste Valve System: Automotive

    That has an electric motor and relies on the turning motion of the motor as opposed to straight line motion of a liner actuator.

    4. How do you size the actuators for the project? For example the fertilizer spreader, do I just determine the mounting position and then the maximum distance to open the valve and close it and then provide some margin for position adjustment? What about shaft size when not lifting something, but rather opening and closing valves where there is not a direct lifting of a weight load? Probably the smallest suitable shaft diameter to keep it simple?
    IMO, the 2 big factors are the length of motion and the amount of force necessary to complete the task. An actuator's shaft size is determined from those factors.
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    good advice above.

    They are wired with relays very similar to a winch. The ones I have worked with have an overload for last of a better explanation. Sounds like a ratchet when it meets a limit or overload. If you bump the switch and let go they will coast a little, like a winch so you need to fab something that you could adjust for the stops at each end. Once they stop they will not move because of bumps, like winch now that I think about it. The small gators have them in the bed and our bunker rake has one for the rear drag. It stays where you stop it.


    Hope it helps.
    Last edited by Herminator; 07-07-2019 at 11:40 PM.
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    Quote Originally Posted by JimR View Post

    Typically that wouldn't be done with a liner actuator. You'd use an electric gate valve like this: Amazon.com: Valterra E1003VP EZ Valve 3 Electric Waste Valve System: Automotive

    That has an electric motor and relies on the turning motion of the motor as opposed to straight line motion of a liner actuator.

    IMO, the 2 big factors are the length of motion and the amount of force necessary to complete the task. An actuator's shaft size is determined from those factors.
    That gate valve looks like just the trick. Thanks for the information. Being that it's used in an environment where the material is mainly liquid with some partial solid debris, the valve should work. I will check into seeing if there are either replacement parts or a gear rebuild kit for the valve as in the use I have planned for it, it's going to be opened and closed and partially closed often.

    The material I plan to run through the valve is liquid but it does contain sand to help prevent it from being a slick surface when the material dries. The material is able to be sprayed with the correct equipment with the sand in it, so the density shouldn't be an issue. I am also planning on having the material recirculated within the tank so that it remains well mixed and the sand doesn't settle.

    While the material will all be in the one tank, the material will be sprayed in some applications and also gravity flowed through this valve to be manually applied when not being sprayed.

    Also, I plan on having the material strained through a strainer when going into the tank on the implement, to screen out any "chunks" which might be a problem for the re-circulation system or the spray pump. That should help to protect the gate valve as well so something doesn't get into the system which could plug the valve.

    When using the gate valve in an RV or other holding tank, the valve is usually opened to completely drain the tanks. This is going to be a little different where the valve is going to be controlling the partial release of material but I can't see why that would be any different other than the valve is going to be used much more often and perhaps the issue with the sand / grit in the material.

    Thanks for taking the time to respond and provide the information.
    Herminator likes this.

    1025R with Mauser Cab
    (10/2017)/ 120R FEL / RC2048 Mower / All of Ken's Bolt on Products / 60" HD Front Broom / 3 pt 45 Gallon Boom less Sprayer / CA2068 Core Aerator / I-Match / 54" Snow Plow w/ angling Quick Attach / Frontier 3 Pt Sprayer / Pallet Forks / 8 -42# Weights

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    Quote Originally Posted by Herminator View Post
    good advice above.

    They are wired with relays very similar to a winch. The ones I have worked with have an overload for lack of a better explanation. Sounds like a ratchet when it meets a limit or overload. If you bump the switch and let go they will coast a little, like a winch so you need to fab something that you could adjust for the stops at each end. Once they stop they will not move because of bumps, like winch now that I think about it. The small gators have them in the bed and our bunker rake has one for the rear drag. It stays where you stop it.


    Hope it helps.
    Thanks for the information. This is what I wanted to confirm as I didn't want the actuators direction to permit movement of the item once it stops. The winch is a good example for the description, so it holds it where stopped and doesn't permit movement which is just what I wanted and need.

    The actual vertical lifting of the 3 point implement I am working on is going to take place using the 3 point hitch on the tractor. That is what got me thinking about the issue of whether the linear actuator actually holds in both directions. Technically, the 3 ph lifts with force, but uses gravity and implement weight to drop and I needed to make sure the linear actuator doesn't behave the same way, other wise It wouldn't control the fertilizer spreader material flow correctly and that could result in some serious problems areas missed or over applied resulting in burn areas, etc.

    By the way, the deck stain project you posted in the GM thread sure looks nice. If you are in the neighborhood, I have a deck which could use the staining and I will even provide the stain......

    I noticed you mentioned Menard's in that post or perhaps it was another one about the deck stain. What particular brand of stain do you use or prefer? I have been using the Premium Behr products from HD and they sure seem better and last much longer than the products I was getting at the local True Value...............the closest Menards is about 30 miles from me verses 6 miles for the HD, Lowe's, etc.......

    Appreciate it, Herminator................
    Herminator likes this.

    1025R with Mauser Cab
    (10/2017)/ 120R FEL / RC2048 Mower / All of Ken's Bolt on Products / 60" HD Front Broom / 3 pt 45 Gallon Boom less Sprayer / CA2068 Core Aerator / I-Match / 54" Snow Plow w/ angling Quick Attach / Frontier 3 Pt Sprayer / Pallet Forks / 8 -42# Weights

    John Deere 455 (New in 9/1996) / MC519 Cart /60" MMM /47" Snow Thrower / 7'3" snow plow / Quick Hitch /
    4 -42# Weights / JD#10 Cart

    ExMark Lazer Z w/60" Deck , Billy Goat Blower , Full Stable of Echo Products





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    For this I went with Benjiman Moore stain. I have tried some others but their oil base stain seems to work well for me. I typically use their paints as well although I have tried some Sherwin Williams. I prefer the Benjiman Moore but the Sherwin Williams stores are closer. At the other house I used some BEHR because Lowe’s had a premixed can on sale. Honestly I was impressed with it and know others that swear by it.
    SulleyBear likes this.
    Welcome to Intermission.

    2017 2038R, 400, 3020 & HPX and thingies to hook to the them.
    112 - Sold in July 2017 but took me until November to admit I just cast it out into this cruel world.
    #compactfarmer

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