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Electric Cylinder Definitions and Terms


Backlash (lash) is the relative axial movement between a screw and nut without rotation of the screw or nut. Backlash in cylinders occurs wherever reversible load conditions exist. Backlash is less than .015" for all but the largest cylinder models. Ball Screw Cylinders can be factory adjusted to reduce backlash at the lift shaft by selecting bearing ball size in the ball nut. This selective fit technique can be used to achieve a minimal lash between the ball nut and ball screw of .003" to .005". Precision ball screws with preloaded nuts can be supplied when less than .003" backlash is required.


When an electric cylinder is used to move a load, the actuator tube must be secured to prevent rotation. The reaction torque required to prevent rotation is a function of the screw lead and the load applied on the cylinder. See product specification sheets for rod reaction torque. Prior to installation, the actuator tube can rotate freely in or out of the cylinder without movement of the input worm. This ability to rotate aids installation but prevents the optional rotary limit switch from being factory preset for end of travel positions.

Rod-Type Limit Switches prevent tube from freely rotating but are not intended to absorb the rod reaction torque.


Electric Cylinders are not pre-assembled or stocked with standard length screws. Each cylinder is made to order based on travel length.

Cylinders can be built with non-standard lead screws to change the cylinder operating speed or with ground or preloaded screws if required by the application. Contact Nook Industries for availability of special units.


Lead accuracy is the difference between the actual distance traveled versus the theoretical distance traveled based on lead. For example: Consider a lift shaft with a .5" lead and ± .004"/ foot lead accuracy. If the shaft is rotated 24 times, the distance the nut moves is 11.996 to 12.004 inches.

The rolled thread screws, as employed in products, are held within ± .004" per foot lead error.


The input torque is the rotary force required at the input of the cylinder to generate an output force at the actuator tube. The torque necessary to raise one pound is shown in charts on pages 20, 34-35, and 54-55 of our catalog. This number, multiplied by the load, is the required input torque.

Due to static friction, starting or "breakaway" torque can be as much as two to three times running torque. If the load is moved horizontally, the force required to move the load will be lessened in proportion to the coefficient of friction of the surface along which the load is moved. In addition, the force needed to start, stop, and hold the load (inertia loading) is provided by the cylinder. Cylinder sizing should consider all these forces.

If an application calls for several cylinders to be driven together in series, input torque values should be limited to three times the rated value of the first cylinder. For multiple high lead (HL, SL) ball screw cylinders contact Nook Industries for allowable input torque values. Multiple cylinders driven in a series may require operation at reduced load.


DD and RAD Electric Cylinder models are rated at 1,725 rpm input. If provided with a servo motor, cylinders may be operated up to 3,000 rpm provided horsepower and temperature ratings are not exceeded. Contact Nook Industries engineers if higher speeds are required.

When using variable speed motors, use the "Turns of Worm Per Inch Of Travel" information from the Electric Cylinder Design Data table to determine actual travel speed. Input speed (rpm) divided by input turns per inch of travel produces the travel speed in inches per minute.

NOTE: Maximum horsepower values should not be exceeded.


Duty cycle is the ratio of run time to total cycle time. Some of the electrical energy input to an electric cylinder is converted into heat. The duty cycle is limited by the ability of the electric cylinder to dissipate this heat. An increase in temperature can affect the properties of some components resulting in accelerated wear, damage, and possible unexpected failure.

Ratings for DD and RAD Electric Cylinders are based on intermittent operation. The approximate allowable duty cycles for DD and RAD worm gear cylinders are:

  • Ball Screw versions = 35%
  • Acme Screw versions = 25%

Housing temperature should be monitored and kept below 200°F maximum. Continuous or heavy duty operation is possible by de-rating the cylinder capacity, external cooling of the unit, or through the use of a recirculating lubrication system.

ILA and ILAK cylinders are direct drives with no internal gears. Duty cycle for these cylinders is a function of the motor or add-on gear box.


Self-locking occurs when system efficiencies are low enough that the force on the actuator lifting tube cannot cause the drive system to reverse direction. Electric Cylinders that utilize acme screws and have ratios of 20:1 or greater are self-locking and, in the absence of vibration, will hold loads without backdriving. All other models require a motor brake to prevent backdriving.

Holding torque is the amount of input torque required to restrain the load once stopped. The standard brake torque shown in the product specification sheets for DD and RAD Cylinders will stop low inertia loads within the stopping distances shown. Larger brakes may be required to stop high inertial loads, or to stop travel in shorter distances. Contact Nook Industries for recommendations.


All Electric Cylinders are suitable for operation within the specified limits, provided that the housing temperature is not lower than -20°F or higher than +200°F. Factory supplied grease in standard units will operate in this range. For higher or lower operating temperature ranges contact Nook Industries, for recommendations.


Travel stops are not standard. A limit switch and a brake should be used to stop the motor. Mechanical stops can cause damage to the cylinders because most electric motors will deliver stall torques much higher than their rated torques and motor inertia can cause severe shock loads. For hand operation, mechanical stops can be provided.


The maximum thrust load, including shock, that can be applied to the actuator without damaging the assembly.


The maximum allowable thrust load based on horsepower, thrust bearing, and screw limitation.


A load that tends to "stretch" the screw.


A load that tends to "squeeze" the screw.