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I am looking for an actuator that will move through 5 positions and back, with about 5lbs of force. Each position to be about 1/4 in of movement.
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I'm not sure how fast the actuator needs to move, but many development kits could control a stepper motor with lots of inputs and outputs. Attach that to a lead screw or ball screw, and 5 LBS should be achievable.
To properly select an actuator for your application, the following info will be beneficial: Load (ie. payload of 5 lbs already listed, be sure to include any tooling mounted), Orientation (ie. vertical, horizontal, on side, etc.), Speed (ie. how fast for 1/4" moves or larger retract move), Travel (ie. 5 moves of 1/4" and any additional overtravel for safety), Positional Repeatability or Accuracy (ie. pending the need this can help with selection of different drivetrains such as ballscrew, belt, or linear motor), Environment (ie. cleanroom, dusty, food grade, machining, etc., which can determine if bellows or other sealing methods are needed for component protection), Duty Cycle (ie. 24/7, etc.). In addition, the power available (ie. 110 VAC, 24 VDC, etc.) should be taken into consideration during selection of a servo or stepper motor for the application.