Sometimes, when you want to buy pneumatic actuators, you may get confused since you don’t know which one is the best option for a particular application. We are here to walk you through the choosing guide so you know what factors you need to consider before buying a pneumatic actuator. 

What is a Pneumatic Actuator?

A pneumatic actuator is a device that converts compressed air into mechanical motion to actuate (move or control) valves or other mechanical components. Pneumatic actuators are commonly used in industrial processes due to their low cost and durability.

How Does an Actuator Look?

Actuators can have different designs depending on their type. Some common types of actuators include:

  • Pneumatic cylinders: Cylindrical devices that use pressurized air to produce force, often consisting of a cylinder, piston, and piston rod.
  • Electric actuators: Devices that convert electrical energy into mechanical motion, often consisting of a motor, a set of gears, and a lead screw.
  • Hydraulic actuators: Devices that use pressurized fluid to produce force, often consisting of a cylinder, piston, hydraulic supply, stem, return line, and spring.
  • Linear actuators: Devices that produce linear motion, often consisting of a motor, lead screw, and nut.

The look of an actuator can range from simple and compact, such as a small pneumatic cylinder, to large and complex, such as a hydraulic actuator used to operate a heavy-duty valve.

How Does an Actuator Work?

Pneumatic actuators work by using compressed air to generate force and torque, which drive the movement of the actuator. The actuator consists of a cylinder, a piston, and a piston rod, which work together to create motion. 

Air is allowed into one side of the cylinder, causing pressure to increase and the piston to move in a specific direction. The piston rod then applies force to the object being moved. 

In simple terms, compressed air is used to push or pull a piston inside a cylinder, creating linear motion that can be used to operate a valve or other components. They can convert energy into linear or rotary motion, depending on the type of actuator. 

What is a Pneumatic Actuator Used for?

Pneumatic actuators are used in a wide range of industrial applications, factories, and in the automation of machines. In factories, they are commonly employed for repetitive object pickup and placement into machinery.

Types of Pneumatic Actuators

Let’s see the two most common types of pneumatic actuators: 

Single-Acting Pneumatic Actuators

Single-acting pneumatic actuators are a type of pneumatic cylinder that generate motion in only one direction and require external pressure to return to their original position. They are powered by compressed air and typically have a spring mechanism that helps reset the cylinder to its original position after the air pressure is released.

Single-acting pneumatic actuators are commonly used in applications where a simple and low-cost solution is required, and the force generated by the actuator is not critical. They are widely used in various industries, such as automotive.

Single-acting pneumatic actuators can come in different shapes and sizes, ranging from compact and lightweight designs to heavy-duty models for demanding applications. 

One of the advantages of single-acting pneumatic actuators is their low cost compared to other types of pneumatic actuators. Additionally, they are relatively easy to install, maintain, and repair. 

Double-Acting Pneumatic Actuators

Unlike single-acting pneumatic actuators, double-acting pneumatic actuators do not require external pressure to return to their original position and are powered by compressed air in both directions.

They are particularly well-suited for applications that require controlled and precise movement.

One of the main advantages of double-acting pneumatic actuators is their ability to generate controlled and precise motion. Additionally, they are more durable and reliable compared to single-acting pneumatic actuators, and the absence of a spring mechanism makes them less prone to failure. However, double-acting pneumatic actuators are often more expensive compared to single-acting pneumatic actuators and can consume more energy.

How to Choose a Pneumatic Actuator?

Now, it’s time to dive into a guide on how to select a pneumatic actuator. Are you ready? Let’s dive in:

Type of Actuator

Single-acting actuators only work in one direction and require external air pressure to return to their original position. Double-acting actuators can work in both directions and do not require external air pressure to return to their original position. Choose the type of actuator that meets the requirements of your application.

Force and Torque

Force and torque are critical parameters to consider when selecting a pneumatic actuator. The required force and torque will depend on the weight and size of the load that needs to be moved, as well as the specific application requirements. Determine the necessary force and torque, and choose the right pneumatic actuator that can handle those requirements.

Stroke Length

The stroke length of a pneumatic actuator refers to the distance the piston can move. Choose an actuator with a stroke length that meets your specific application requirements.

Operating Pressure

The operating pressure of a pneumatic actuator refers to the amount of air pressure required to move the actuator. The operating pressure should be within the range of the available air pressure in your system.


The environment in which the pneumatic actuator will be used is also an important factor to consider. If the actuator will be used in a harsh environment, consider choosing a corrosion-resistant material or a protective coating to ensure longevity.

Size and Space Requirements

The size and space requirements of your application will also impact the selection of a pneumatic actuator. Consider the available space in your system and choose an actuator that can fit within the designated space.

Do you need a pneumatic actuator? With a wide range of pneumatic actuators available on the market, choosing the right one for your pneumatic systems is essential. Double-check the guide and browse our collection of high-quality and cost-effective pneumatic actuators to make a purchase.