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Adopting application-led approach to linear motion tasks resolves electric vs. pneumatic dilemma

24 June 2021

Festo claims that machine builders can resolve the age-old dilemma of whether to deploy electric or pneumatic technology for linear motion tasks by adopting a more application-led approach and deploying hybrid solutions.

Warren Harvard, Product Marketing Manager at Festo, explains: “Many machine builders think they need to make a decision between electric automation and pneumatic drives. Some claim that electric actuation is cheaper, more energy efficient and easier to work with. Others feel pneumatic technology is far more rugged, simpler and has a higher power density. But this ‘one or the other’ approach isn’t always helpful in meeting the needs of the application. It’s clearly better to have an efficient overall system rather than to focus on the efficiency of individual components.”

This principle is driving new advances in linear motion, with product manufacturers seeking to combine the advantages of both pneumatic and electric drives in a single solution. For example, the Simplified Motion Series (SMS) from Festo offers an affordable option that is easy to install and operate. There is no need for external servo drives installed in control cabinets because the whole device is mounted directly on the machine.

Their simplified set-up and operation make SMS electric drives perfect for simple motions between two mechanical end positions, without having to sacrifice electric drive motion characteristics such as pre-defined speed, gently cushioned movement into end positions and selectable force for pressing or clamping functions. They can be simply and securely combined mechanically with other SMS actuators using more advanced electric axes from Festo, or the vast range of pneumatically-driven guided actuators using standardised interfaces and centring rings for accurate positioning and load transfer. 

Festo’s free online sizing tool gives added assurance, not only enabling users to select and size their linear motion solutions quickly and accurately, but also to generate the required documentation and drawings for incorporation in their overall machine design. 

Furthermore, these drives are equipped with IO-Link as standard so they can be integrated seamlessly into fully digitalised environments: supporting predictive maintenance regimes and smart air consumption to make a full contribution to optimising production and energy efficiency

Concludes Harvard: “Each industrial application has its specific requirements with regards to technical criteria: such as speed, acceleration, load capacity and force required, cycle time, holding duration, power to weight ratio, accuracy, control behaviour, torsional rigidity, efficiency or robustness. Pneumatic and electric drive solutions have traditionally offered specific advantages and disadvantages, but the advent of improved solutions such as the SMS Series mean that machine builders can opt for an alternative, more application-led, approach to finding a solution.”

The free online sizing tool and further resources about the Simplified Motion Series, including video demonstrations, are available here:

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