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What Is a Wireless Actuator?

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  • Written By: Paul Scott
  • Edited By: E. E. Hubbard
  • Last Modified Date: 04 September 2016
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A wireless actuator is an actuation device that receives either the signal to activate or its power supply or both via a wireless link. In the case of the activation signal, the transfer method is typically radio wave based. Wireless power transfer is encountered less frequently and generally makes use of magnetic resonance or induction to power the actuator. The wireless actuator is used in a variety of automated industrial, manufacturing, and domestic applications such as assembly plant actuation, warehouse palleting, and home automation and security. Some of its benefits include enhanced mobility of automated processes due to the absence of cable runs, enhanced security, and extended remote actuation ranges.

Actuators are generally put to work in one of two ways, namely power supply switching and contact switching. In the case of power supply switched actuators, the device is switched on and off by enabling or cutting its power supply. A light duty solenoid valve is a good example of this type of actuator. The contact switching actuator generally draws its power locally, such as from the power source of the machine on which it acts, and features a integral relay or contactor that is triggered from a remote location. The power supply is constantly present, but only fed to the actuator when the contacts are closed by a signal from a remote location.

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In both cases, the actuator is activated via a cable link, which often necessitates lengthy cable runs. This has a negative effect on the mobility of some automated machinery, limits the distance the trigger station or power supply which can be from the actuator, and, in the case of security devices, poses a breach risk when cables are cut. The wireless actuator can solve most of these problems by doing away with the need for cable runs. In many situations, these systems can also enhance remote actuated systems with functionality not possible with hard-wired devices.

There are three types of wireless actuator — those that receive their activation signal from a wireless radio link, those that are powered via magnetic induction or resonance, and combination devices that include both features. Automated machines such as warehouse palleting systems and assembly robots can benefit significantly from the inclusion of a wireless actuator system devoid of any mobility limiting control wiring. Home automation and security systems may also be enhanced both in terms of aesthetic appeal and functionality, as a wireless actuator system can do away with unsightly cables and allow for extended activation ranges. Security systems can also be enhanced by removing the risk of having cables cut by criminals.

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