Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Industrial Valve Actuator Types

Lever actuator
Lever actuator
(with failsafe  spring return)
Valve actuators are selected based upon a number of factors including torque necessary to operate the valve and the need for automatic actuation. Types of actuators include manual handwheel, manual lever, electrical motor, pneumatic, and solenoid. All actuators except manual handwheel and lever are adaptable to automatic actuation.


Manual actuators are capable of placing the valve in any position but do not permit automatic operation. The most common type mechanical actuator is the handwheel. This type includes handwheels fixed to the stem and handwheels connected to the stem through gears.

Electric Motor Actuators
handwheel gear operator
Gear operator
(attached to pneumatic actuator)

Electric motors permit manual, semi-automatic, and automatic operation of the valve. Motors are used mostly for open-close functions, although they are adaptable to positioning the valve to any point opening. The motor is usually a, reversible, high speed type connected through a gear train to reduce the motor speed and thereby increase the torque at the stem. Direction of motor rotation determines direction of disk motion. The electrical actuation can be semi-automatic, as when the motor is started by a control system. A handwheel, which can be engaged to the gear train, provides for manual operating of the valve. Limit switches are normally provided to stop the motor automatically at full open and full closed valve positions. Limit switches are operated either physically by position of the valve or torsionally by torque of the motor.

Pneumatic Actuators

Pneumatic actuator
Pneumatic actuator
Pneumatic actuators provide for automatic or semi-automatic valve operation. These actuators translate an air signal into valve stem motion by air pressure acting on a vane, diaphragm, or piston connected to the stem. Pneumatic actuators are used in throttle valves for open-close positioning where fast action is required. When air pressure closes the valve and spring action opens the valve, the actuator is termed direct-acting. When air pressure opens the valve and spring action closes the valve, the actuator is termed reverse-acting. Double acting actuators have air supplied to both sides of the vane, diaphragm, or piston. The differential pressure across the diaphragm positions the valve stem. Automatic operation is provided when the air signals are automatically  controlled by circuitry. Semi-automatic operation is provided by manual switches in the circuitry to the air control valves.

Hydraulic Actuators

Hydraulic actuators provide for semi-automatic or automatic positioning of the valve, similar to the pneumatic actuators. These actuators use a piston to convert a signal pressure into valve stem motion. Hydraulic fluid is fed to either side of the piston while the other side is drained or bled. Water or oil is used as the hydraulic fluid. Solenoid valves are typically used for automatic control of the hydraulic fluid to direct either opening or closing of the valve. Manual valves can also be used for controlling the hydraulic fluid; thus providing semi-automatic operation.

Solenoid Actuated Valves

Solenoid valve
Solenoid valve
(attached to pneumatic actuator)
Solenoid actuated valves provide for automatic open-close valve positioning. Most solenoid actuated valves also have a manual override that permits manual positioning of the valve for as long as the override is manually positioned. Solenoids position the valve by attracting a magnetic slug attached to the valve stem. In single solenoid valves, spring pressure acts against the motion of the slug when power is applied to the solenoid. These valves can be arranged such that power to the solenoid either opens or closes the valve. When power to the solenoid is removed, the spring returns the valve to the opposite position. Two solenoids can be used to provide for both opening and closing by applying power to the appropriate solenoid.

Single solenoid valves are termed fail open or fail closed depending on the position of the valve with the solenoid de-energized. Fail open solenoid valves are opened by spring pressure and closed by energizing the solenoid. Fail closed solenoid valves are closed by spring pressure and opened by energizing the solenoid. Double solenoid valves typically fail "as is." That is, the valve position does not change when both solenoids are de-energized.

One application of solenoid valves is in air systems such as those used to supply air to pneumatic valve actuators. The solenoid valves are used to control the air supply to the pneumatic actuator and thus the position of the pneumatic actuated valve.

Contact Kinetrol USA for any valve actuation challenge. They can be reached at or by calling 972-447-9443.