MinebeaMitsumi MEMS Room


An actuator generally refers to “something that makes something move,” and it converts energy such as electricity, pneumatic pressure, or hydraulic pressure into mechanical movement. Familiar examples of actuators include air cylinders, motors, and pumps, and the development and manufacture of compact actuators using MEMS technology is advancing.

This section presents the features of MEMS actuators and examples of their applications.

What Is an Actuator?

Actuators refer to driving devices such as motors, engines, and air cylinders, as well as devices that control motion. There are multiple types of actuators that control motion, and the following four types of actuators are used in typical systems.

Electric actuators

Electric actuators are incorporated into a wide variety of products, including automobiles and home appliances. They can easily be made small and lightweight, and provide highly efficient and accurate control.

Hydraulic actuators

Hydraulic actuators use the reciprocating motion of a pump (piston motion) to circulate oil and convert it into fluid energy. Even small amounts of energy are converted into large amounts of power through hydraulic pressure for enabling powerful driving of equipment.

Pneumatic actuators

Pneumatic actuators, like hydraulic actuators, use piston motion to drive equipment. They can be easily made small and lightweight, and are highly safe, but they are less energy efficient than hydraulic actuators.

Piezoelectric actuators

In piezoelectric actuators, applying voltage to a piezoelectric element generates strain, and the displacement caused by this action is used to control mechanical drives. Because of their extremely small size, they are used in wearable devices and medical equipment.

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Actuators Using MEMS

Some MEMS-based actuator mechanisms move like conventional motors and pumps. Because MEMS technology allows for ultra-compact and superior power-saving designs, it is increasingly being used in wearable devices and devices that use batteries that must operate for a certain amount of time.

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Application Examples of Actuators

Applications for MEMS actuators include the print heads for inkjet printers and mirror parts for projectors that scan images. Other applications and products that are expected to grow in the future include speakers, optical image stabilization (OIS) for smartphones, and ultrasonic-based diagnostic equipment.

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