What Are Actuator Assemblies?

Posted on December 20, 2022 Josh Parker Aircraft Component

As the moving parts in an assembly, actuators are foundational to nearly all industrial operations. The term “actuator assembly” is generally used to describe mechanical systems which function as part of a larger network. This may include the actuator, along with all of its related output transfer linkages, wiring, or hoses. The description can also be used to describe the actuator controller, even though it is usually considered a separate device. However, in most cases, an actuator assembly consists of the physical actuator mechanism, an actuator arm, transfer link, and any connected power supply components.

What Is an Actuator?

An actuator is a device that translates a signal into a useful output motion. The most simple of these devices are often hydraulic and pneumatic types, whereas others such as high-precision servo actuators are a lot more sophisticated. Nevertheless, in both cases, the complete collection of parts that creates movement is usually referred to as an actuator assembly. As such, even though an actuator may be designed for movement, it often requires other parts to function. In these cases, the actuator and its accompanying parts are referred to as the actuator assembly.

Types of Actuators

One common way to differentiate actuators is by their course of motion. Linear actuators can move along a straight line, whereas rotary actuators move in a circular motion. For example, the sliding automatic doors of a grocery store are often driven by a linear actuator assembly. Otherwise, rotary actuators are commonly used in pick-and-place machinery which involves an arm that can rotate from one area to another. No matter their type, all actuators work by receiving a source of energy and using it to move something. As such, there can be different power sources, including pneumatic, electric, and hydraulic actuators. There are even actuators that are powered simply by manual force like in a basic pulley system.

How Are Actuator Assemblies Used on Aircraft?

Actuator assemblies are used on aircraft to facilitate movement of mechanical parts. One major example is the ailerons, among other control surfaces, which can be angled to change the flow of air across the plane’s wings and tail. In very small planes, the control flaps may be connected to a set of cables and moved directly by the manual force of the pilot turning a steering column in the cockpit. Conversely, in much larger aircraft, these movements will often be hydraulically assisted or completely controlled by electric signals. Regardless of whether the movement is caused by pulling a cable or pressing a button, all of these methods use an actuator assembly.


Though actuators can come in a multitude of different types, they are all defined by their ability to use a power source or signal to trigger a physical movement. When these actuators are used alongside fasteners, casings, or other related parts, the entire unit is called an actuator assembly. Consequently, if you are in need of a complete set of parts for your actuator, it can be helpful to buy the actuator assembly in its entirety, as opposed to procuring each individual part. Nevertheless, whether you are looking for whole actuator assemblies or individual components, Just NSN Parts is here to support you in all your fulfillment needs. As an organization made up of industry experts, you can always rely on us for knowledgeable fulfillment solutions that keep your operational requirements in mind.

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