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What Is Actuator Cable?

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  • Written By: Paul Scott
  • Edited By: E. E. Hubbard
  • Last Modified Date: 23 November 2016
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Actuator cable is a term that can be correctly applied to two very different actuator-related products. The first are specialized electric cables used to supply power and send or receive sensor signals to and from the actuator. The second is a range of braided cables, typically of a steel construction, used to mechanically transfer actuation inputs. Electric actuator cables may be three or four core power supply cables or multi-core control signal types used to connect actuators to programmable logic controllers (PLCs). The mechanical actuator cable usually features a multi-strand, braided steel cable enclosed in a sheath and fitted with lugs on either end, a good example being the brake cable on a bicycle.

The term actuator cable is a little ambiguous, as it can be quite accurately applied to two distinct categories of actuator-related products, namely electric and mechanical cables. Both cable types fulfill the same basic function, that being the control of actuator output, only in very different ways. Electric cables supply either power or control signals to an actuator, while a mechanical actuator cable physically transfers operator input to the actuated mechanisms.

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Electric actuator cable types can also be broken down into two categories, the first of which are power supply cables. These are typically three or four heavy core cables used to supply the actuator with its working power. The three core cable would generally be used for single-phase power supplies and the four core example for three-phase supplies, one core being used as a ground lead in each case. Electric signal cables are usually light-gauge, multi-core types terminated with DB- or DE-type plugs for connections to programmable logic control units. These cables are used to ferry input signals to the actuator or pass system sensor inputs back to the PLC unit.

The mechanical actuator cable is used as a physical motion transfer agent in a wide range of applications. Consisting of a flexible, braided steel cable enclosed in a protective sheath, this type of actuator cable is used to transfer the motion of a control lever or cam to another mechanism. The cable is usually fitted with a ball or lug on each end that slips into a corresponding slot on the input and actuated mechanism. When the lever is moved, the cable moves with it, transferring the motion to the actuated mechanism as it does so. These cables may be lightweight types used as brake actuators and gear selectors on bicycles, or heavy-duty types used in applications including industrial or aviation systems.

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