Although the duty cycle is a parameter you would see listed for almost every actuator you can find, there can be confusion about what it really describes. It is not a characteristic of the work the device does, but rather of its internal structure and the durability of its components. However, it is still an important criterion to consider before buying a specific actuator. If you want to learn the meaning behind the numbers and to better understand the product you’re buying, then this article is for you.
What Is The Duty Cycle?
When an electric linear actuator is working, it heats up due to the rotation of the motor used for the propulsion. With time, the heat can cause serious damage to the entire device. In order to give the motor time to cool down, the periods when it is working have to be followed by a period of rest. The duty cycle is the function that describes the optimal periods of time for working and cooling down. If you want your actuator to perform best and you don’t want to wear it out, you should definitely follow the duty cycle.
How To Use The Duty Cycle For Your Actuator
The duty cycle is usually listed in the datasheet as a percentage. How do you understand this percentage and convert it into time units? It’s relatively simple. Duty cycle is determined by a function: DC = (time on)/(time on+time off).
This means that for an actuator with a 10% duty cycle, 1 minute of work should include 6 seconds of working and 54 seconds of cooldown.
What Things Influence The Duty Cycle?
There are a lot of factors that can influence the duty cycle of your actuator. The most impactful ones are usually mentioned in the datasheet, but you still should know which extreme cases to avoid.
It is obvious that, if the ambient temperature is high, it takes more time for a motor to cool down, which in turn lowers the duty cycle. On the other hand, colder temperatures or external methods of cooldown can increase the parameter.
Many conscientious actuator manufacturers and sellers, like Progressive Automations, insist on the importance of the load when determining the duty cycle. The bigger the load, the more power the motor has to give out and the more it will heat up.
No matter how faithfully you adhere to the duty cycle, the actuator will wear out with time. This is another factor that influences the duty cycle. With age, the possibility of some sort of damage becomes much higher, which means that the off-time should be extended.
All in all, if you want your project to keep properly working for a long time, you should definitely pay attention to the duty cycle of your drive.