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What You Don’t Know About Actuation

What You Don’t Know About Actuation

If you push a button and something happens, you probably have an electromechanical actuator to thank. EM actuators are devices that convert electricity to mechanical force and we use them hundreds of times in a typical day. Our cars, homes and workplaces are chock-full of actuators that start engines, open doors, turn on the air conditioning and operate machines.

In the world of aerospace and defense, you’ll find actuation systems just about everywhere you look, including on airplanes, spacecraft, land vehicles, missiles and ships. We should know, because Honeywell has been developing and producing electromechanical actuators for these kinds of applications for more than 60 years.

Integrating actuation technology and advanced actuation controls into a total customer solution is a core strength for Honeywell Aerospace. We’ve learned a lot about actuators over the last six decades and today our diverse portfolio of actuation systems is more capable than ever.

Honeywell actuators are smaller, lighter, more reliable, more cost-efficient and have 10 percent greater power density than most of the aerospace-grade actuators available today. They have to be. Customers around the world rely on our products to get the job done in the harshest of environments.

A typical commercial airplane has hundreds of electromechanical actuators onboard and that number continues to grow as airplanes and aircraft systems become more electric, computerized and autonomous.

Things like moving the flaps or controlling engine power used to be done mechanically. Today fly-by-wire systems engineered by Honeywell do all that and so much more. From the yoke to the wingtip, our EM actuation systems enable safe and efficient flight by taking commands from the pilot or onboard flight management system.

We pioneered the use of electromechanical actuation in jet engine controls and were the first to field an electromechanical thrust reverser actuation system with the ability to provide prognostic and diagnostic information to help operators identify problems and maintain the engine. Honeywell actuation systems incorporate various safety features and are more efficient, compact and cost-effective than other engine-control technologies.

Our actuators even play a critical role in enabling onboard connectivity for users of Honeywell’s most advanced JetWave satellite communications systems. They make sure JetWave’s fuselage-mounted antenna stays fixed to satellite signals so users can enjoy Wi-Fi as fast and reliable as they get at home or in the office.

Reliable controls are critical in space and Honeywell space actuation systems have been getting a thumbs up since the earliest days of space flight. They went to the moon with Neil Armstrong 50 years ago, were on every shuttle mission and can be found on the International Space Station, performing all kinds of functions.

For example, Honeywell berthing and docking system actuators designed for NASA were instrumental in the first successful docking of the new SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft with the ISS in March 2019 and will be used on future SpaceX and Boeing missions to shuttle crews to and from the station. When the first Orion spacecraft circles the moon on its inaugural manned mission in a few years, our actuators will be onboard, throttling the fuel on the main launch engines and safely steering the Orion vessel around the moon and back home.

Nothing much moves on the U.S. Navy’s newest aircraft carrier – the Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78) – without help from Honeywell. We developed and manufactured the permanent-magnetic, electromechanical actuators for the carrier. More than 1,000 Honeywell actuators enable the remote functioning of critical systems from bow to stern. This includes the propulsion plant system that generates electrical and mechanical power to run the entire carrier, including its aviation fuel distribution system, chill water control system, air conditioning and ventilation systems, and more.

Honeywell engineers are constantly searching for ways to meet end users’ needs and improve the performance and reliability of our products. Starting with our advanced technology missile actuation line in Arizona, we’re implementing the latest manufacturing processes and advanced robotics to improve quality, speed and cost.

We’re also looking forward to next-generation actuation systems that will meet the unique needs of the unmanned aerial vehicle and urban air mobility markets and we’re always exploring new and better ways to meet customers’ needs, today and in the years ahead.

Brian Berry
Director Sr Product Marketing
Brian Berry joined Honeywell Aerospace in 1986 and has worked in various Engineering and Supply Chain Management roles. Berry currently serves as the leader of Honeywells Aerospace actuation business, managing a business team that is responsible for motion control solutions for aircraft, aircraft engines, spacecraft, missiles and marine vessels.


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