A product line of improved electrohydraulic linear actuators has been developed. These actuators are designed especially for use in actuating valves in rocket-engine test facilities. They are also adaptable to many industrial uses, such as steam turbines, process control valves, dampers, motion control, etc.

The advantageous features of the improved electrohydraulic linear actuators are best described with respect to shortcomings of prior electrohydraulic linear actuators that the improved ones are intended to supplant. The shortcomings are the following:

  • They perform unreliably and inconsistently as positioning devices.
  • Their capabilities for end-of-stroke buffering (that is, deceleration to gentle stops at designated stopping positions) range from unsatisfactory to nonexistent, with consequent potential for inducing catastrophic failures.
  • It takes long times to manufacture special actuators to meet specifications, and the costs of such actuators are high.
This Electrohydraulic Linear Actuator incorporates several improvements over prior commercially available devices of a similar nature.

The figure depicts one of the improved actuators. The flow of hydraulic fluid to the two ports of the actuator cylinder is controlled by a servo valve that is controlled by a signal from a servo amplifier that, in turn, receives an analog position-command signal (a current having a value between 4 and 20 mA) from a supervisory control system of the facility. As the position command changes, the servo valve shifts, causing a greater flow of hydraulic fluid to one side of the cylinder and thereby causing the actuator piston to move to extend or retract a piston rod from the actuator body. A linear variable differential transformer (LVDT) directly linked to the piston provides a position-feedback signal, which is compared with the position-command signal in the servo amplifier. When the position-feedback and position-command signals match, the servo valve moves to its null position, in which it holds the actuator piston at a steady position.

The actuator includes a deceleration feature for both extremes of the piston stroke. When the actuator is used to open and close a valve, the deceleration feature prevents damage to valve seats and other components during cycles of rapid stroking. Because the resolution of the LVDT is, for practical purposes, unlimited, the position feedback from the LVDT acts, in conjunction with the deceleration feature, to afford maximum protection against damage in those ranges of position in which protection is most needed. Other advantageous features of the improved actuators are the following:

  • To eliminate leaks associated with common tubing connections, the components within the actuator that must be connected to high-pressure hydraulic fluid are connected via a manifold.
  • The time and cost of manufacturing are less than those of the prior actuators.
  • Optionally, fail-safe valves of a type used widely in the petrochemical industry can be incorporated into the actuators.

This work was done by James Hamtil of BAFCO, Inc., for Stennis Space Center.

In accordance with Public Law 96-517, the contractor has elected to retain title to this invention. Inquiries concerning rights for its commercial use should be addressed to

PO Box 2428
717 Mearns Road
Warminster, PA 18974
(215) 674-1700
E-mail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Refer to SSC-00165.