What Is a Hydraulic Actuator?

An actuator is an electric component within a machine that moves and controls a system. Using an energy source and control signal such as current or voltage, human power, hydraulic liquid force, or pneumatics, hydraulic actuators can serve a diverse set of applications.

The main function of an actuator is to transform an energy source into mechanical motion once it receives a control signal. There are several types of electric actuators, some of which include soft, electric, pneumatic, thermal, mechanical, and hydraulic variations. In this blog, we will cover hydraulic actuators and their uses.

Hydraulic actuators are utilized to change a fluid’s pressure energy into mechanical energy. They consist of a cylinder or fluid motor that functions via hydraulic power for mechanical operation. The mechanical motion generates an output in the form of rotary, linear, or oscillatory motion. In the case that a liquid cannot be compressed, the hydraulic actuator utilizes a larger force.

The primary working principle of hydraulic actuators consists of liquid pressure to provide force on the diaphragm to move the valve actuator. In fact, all types of hydraulic actuators use a piston to change liquid pressure into mechanical power. It is important to note that hydraulic actuators are classified into three types based on their mode of actuation, those of which include linear, rotary, and semi-rotary variations.

To begin, linear actuators provide force or motion in a straight line while rotary actuators provide torque or rotational motion, generating constant angular movement. In contrast, semi-rotary actuators are utilized for the partial angle of actuation that can achieve numerous complete revolutions. Keep in mind that hydraulic actuators can also be defined by their specifications. Some of these specifications include input power maximums, ambient temperature ranges, controlled current output ranges, and more.

Hydraulic actuator systems follow Pascal’s Law, which states that when pressure is applied at a specific point to a limited fluid within a container, energy is transmitted evenly without any loss. This principle is adopted by several hydraulic systems and their major components include a spool valve and power cylinder. When a pressure differential is created within the two areas of the main cylinder, the translational movement of the piston occurs.

There are several advantages and disadvantages associated with hydraulic actuators, some of which we will outline in the following section.

Advantages & Disadvantages

Simple in design and inexpensive, hydraulic actuators are suitable options for countless applications. Additionally, they are equipped with high force capabilities, adjustable operational modes, and provide stable torque. In terms of disadvantages, hydraulic actuators are temperature sensitive components that necessitate frequent maintenance. More than that, they provide low operating efficiency, insufficient data collection capabilities, and have many parts. With this in mind, if the system requires a replacement part, you must ensure it is of the highest caliber. As superior quality parts guarantee the optimal functionality of your system, finding a reputable distributor is of the utmost importance.


If you find yourself in need of quality parts you can depend on, rely on NSN Target. NSN Target is a premier distributor of IT hardware, aircraft parts, and more, all of which are subjected to a series of quality assurance measures, tests, verifications, and assessments. Operating with AS9120B, ISO 9001:2015, and FAA AC 00-56B accreditation, you can trust in the authenticity of our products. With a supply chain network stretching across the United States, Canada, and the United Kingdom, we are equipped to offer expedited shipping services on countless items for your benefit. When you find an item that meets your part requirements, we invite you to submit an RFQ form. Within 15 minute sof submission, a dedicated account manager will reach out with a customized solution that keeps your needs in mind. Kickoff the purchasing process today and see why customers always choose NSN Target.


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