Blog Default Comparing Rigid Chain Technology vs. Alternative Actuators

Comparing Rigid Chain Technology vs. Alternative Actuators

Discover your ideal actuator. Explore common options & dive deep into Rigid Chain Technology's benefits & comparisons.

Are you on the hunt for the perfect actuator tailored to your specific application? The only way through the maze of options is to compare each one to a list of criteria that suits your needs.

In this post, we lay out a selection of the most commonly used actuators, listing each of their distinct attributes.

Before we get to that, we’d like to introduce you to a frequently misunderstood or lesser-known option: Rigid Chain Technology (RCT). By taking a closer look at Rigid Chain Technology, you’ll be able to see how it works, what advantages it offers, and how it stands up to other actuators.

Rigid Chain Technology: A different approach

At its core, Rigid Chain Technology is a compact, retractable chain that functions telescopically and is built for efficiently pushing, pulling, or lifting heavy loads over long distances.

Remarkably, when aligned and propelled in the appropriate direction, it’s akin to a steel push-bar or column, courtesy of its articulated links with shoulders that interlock during load manipulation.

“The design utilizes a two-ended chain, unlike traditional bicycle or industrial chains,” Tom Tinetti, Senior Sales Engineer at SERAPID, explains. “With the SERAPID rigid chain, extension and retraction occur from one end only, driven by a sprocket. The unique chain link configuration allows both pushing and pulling actions.”

Moreover, because of the engineering behind SERAPID’s Rigid Chain Technology, it can be customized to meet specific requirements, including space, load capacity, speed, and stroke length.

Common heavy load movement technologies

Among the diverse range of actuators available, hydraulic and pneumatic systems, along with rack and pinion and spiral conveyors, stand out for their distinct attributes.

RCT is electromechanically powered.

However, each of these actuators comes with its own set of advantages and disadvantages, shaping their suitability for different tasks and industries.

1. Hydraulic Systems:

  • Utilizes pressurized hydraulic fluid to create mechanical motion
  • High force output with precise control
  • Susceptible to leaks, which can lead to pressure loss and system inefficiency
  • Often used in heavy-duty applications where high force is required, such as construction equipment, automotive brakes, and hydraulic presses

2. Pneumatic Systems:

  • Relies on compressed air to generate mechanical motion
  • Generally lighter and less expensive than hydraulic systems
  • Lower power density compared to hydraulic systems, limiting their application in high-force scenarios
  • Suitable for applications where moderate force and speed are needed, such as in automation, air tools, and pneumatic cylinders in manufacturing

3. Rack and Pinions:

  • Consists of a linear rack (straight bar with teeth) and a rotating pinion gear
  • Converts rotational motion into linear motion (or vice versa)
  • Prone to backlash, which can reduce accuracy and precision in motion control applications
  • Commonly used in steering systems of vehicles, CNC machines, and in linear actuators

4. Spiral Conveyors:

  • Uses a continuous spiral or helical structure to transport goods vertically or horizontally
  • Ideal for moving materials in a confined space or in a continuous flow
  • Limited to specific applications and may not be suitable for handling certain types of materials or products, such as those with irregular shapes or delicate items
  • Frequently employed in logistics, manufacturing, and food processing industries for vertical transportation of items like bottles, cans, or boxes

5. Rigid Chain Technology:

  • Incorporates a series of rigid links, interlocking to create a completely rigid bar when extended, while retracting into a compact magazine for storage
  • Provides precise motion and repeatable stops to applications requiring high accuracy over long distances
  • Initial investment in rigid chain systems can be higher compared to other actuation technologies
  • Commonly used for tasks demanding precise motion control and positioning, such as material handling, automotive, aerospace, and stage production

How is Rigid Chain Technology different from all the rest?

SERAPID's Rigid Chain Technology is distinctive for its unique telescopic functionality, offering a level of versatility that sets it apart from traditional actuator systems.

Its ability to adjust the length as needed provides unmatched flexibility, achieved through careful design of the chain links and guide system. This feature makes it well-suited for a variety of applications.

Additionally, SERAPID's electromechanical power solution further enhances the chain's performance. By utilizing an electric motor and gearbox, it converts electrical energy into precise mechanical motion, resulting in reduced energy consumption and operational costs. 

What's more, it's cleaner and more environmentally friendly than other actuator systems, making it a standout choice for modern applications.

Advantages of Rigid Chain Technology

SERAPID's Rigid Chain Technology (RCT) offers precision in material movement control that ensures exact positioning. RCT is used in many industries because it is dependable and can be adjusted to fit different needs. Here are some of its main advantages:

Enhanced Strength: Special links are designed to withstand the additional stresses brought on by heavy loads, ensuring durability and safety when either pulling, pushing, or lifting heavy loads. 

Versatility in Usage: Can be employed with or without guides, offering flexibility in various applications. With guides, strokes can be unlimited, maximizing thrust capacity and stability. Without guides, it can be supported by a flat surface or used as a lifting column, adapting to different load requirements.

Low Maintenance Requirements: Being entirely mechanical, these systems are durable and require minimal maintenance, reducing downtime and maintenance costs in high-cycle applications like scissor lifts.

Maintenance, repairs, and modifications can be carried out without requiring specialized training.

Environmental Friendliness: It offers a clean and efficient alternative to fluid-based actuators because it operates without fluids, which not only reduces environmental impact but also promotes sustainability.

Compact Storage Solutions: Can be coiled for compact storage, eliminating the need for the horizontal or vertical space required by hydraulic systems or screw jacks, reducing storage requirements, and mitigating environmental risks.

Reliable and Precise Positioning: Provides reliable and precise positioning of loads, with resolutions as fine as 1 mm, maintaining this capability consistently, regardless of wear or age.

Moreover, the technology's energy efficiency, built-in diagnostics, and safety features contribute to its overall appeal, ensuring both performance and peace of mind for users.

Compare for yourself: Evaluating common actuators' options

We’ve created a Comparison Chart for you to use when you’re comparing actuators, like the one pictured here. Download your own PDF!

Comparison Chart
*Note that a Rigid Chain Technology actuator performance depends on a specific model and configuration.
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