Micro and Mini 12V Linear Actuators: Differences and Features

Posted on June 05, 2020 by Anna

Automated devices surround us in our daily lives, powered by a multitude of devices and technologies. The development of these devices remains an important element in any technical field, with significant differences tailoring their capabilities. The development of micro and mini linear actuators allows users to implement them into smaller environments without compromising on results. In this article we will address the differences between mini and micro linear actuators, highlighting their features, capabilities, and varieties.

Micro Actuators

Micro actuators have several advantages, with especially good quality of performance in a small size. The main feature of micro actuators is they provide great flexibility for implementation, which is especially valuable in areas such as robotics, electric vehicle manufacturing, and home automation. They are often used for micro actuation applications such as locking or unlocking.

Photo of a micro linear actuator in hand

Key features of a micro actuator:

  • Small dimensions (about 8” in length).
  • Lightweight (about 0.15 lb).
  • Automatic spring return or motorized return.
  • Water and dust resistance.
  • Full protection from an explosion.
  • Low noise level.
  • Slap-on mounting.

Micro Stroke

The stroke of the actuator is the distance that the actuator travels during its whole cycle of motion. Long-stroke is the difference between the open and closed actuator position, with the stroke indicator showing the lengthening possibilities of the actuator. This is where you should note whether the micro actuator can be combined with your application. In order to work safely and productively with an actuator device, it is necessary to know the stroke measurement.

Photo of a micro linear actuator by Progressive

In the case of micro actuators, therefore, the stroke measurement will be small. If a standard actuator has a stroke length of about 4-40 inches and a miniature actuator reaches 2-24 inches, the micro strokes will be between 0.5 and 12 inches. There are many important features that need to be matched in order to find the right actuator that will work for your machine. Read the complete mechanism description in detail, check with your consultant, and confidently purchase the selected unit.


Micro-robotics is a branch of robotics with features of miniature sizes. The parts for microrobots can be up to 1 mm in size. Talking generally, this field of robotics explores the use of different miniatures, such as miniature stepper motors with linear actuation. Technavio predicts that micro-robotics will grow by 36% in the IoT between the years 2018 and 2022.

Photo of a student's hands working on a robotic arm.

The main problem in the development of microrobots is to get it moving with a small limited power source. Scientists are developing more and more ways to get energy from natural materials. Biological motors have been developed as a power source, whereby the robot is powered by chemical energy which is produced from the surrounding fluid in the atmosphere.

Today, micro-robotics are actively implemented in fields such as engineering and medicine. For example, small robots can help with the diagnosis of complex diseases, as well as in surgery with heavy operations, where everything is performed at the cellular level.

Photo of a mini linear actuator by Progressive Automations

Miniature Linear Actuators

Mini linear actuators are a type of linear actuator that is manufactured in much smaller sizes than conventional actuators but are larger than micro actuators. The main purpose of miniature actuators is to perform the mechanical linear motion for more compact areas. They mainly have a force of 75-150 lbs (our PA-10 has up to 450 lbs), and internal limit switches.

Mini actuators are successfully used in such industries as automotive, agriculture, industrial production, construction, aviation, medicine, transport, and many others. Fox example, it can be installed on lifting kitchen tables or hobs, allowing a customer to regulate the height for comfortable usage. Try to upgrade your own device with the right miniature electric linear actuator with the help of our consultants and you will experience the difference in no time.

Key features of a mini actuator:

  • Small size (usually about 150-1500mm in length).
  • Speed between 15-45mm/s.
  • Lightweight (about 0.25 lb).
  • Automatic spring return or motorized return.
  • Full protection from an explosion.
  • Silent work.
Photo of the 12-volt mini motors by Progressive Automations

Miniature Motors

Most of the 12-volt mini motors are electrically powered. This is why there are a number of electric motors on the market today, including stepper motors, brushless servo motors, and DC brush motors.

Micro servos are often used when assembling various mechanisms. This small, but highly precise, unit has feedback which can accurately control the movement of different parts. If you have a control signal value at the input, the miniature servos will support this value at the output of the actuator. The built-in micro linear servo potentiometer is connected to the output shaft. When the shaft is rotated, the actuator changes the voltage at the potentiometer. The board then analyses the input signal, evaluates it, and compares it with the potentiometer feedback. Due to the difference in these indicators, the motor rotates smoothly and equals the voltage at both the output and the potentiometer.

12V Mini Linear Actuator

Most miniature linear actuators are 12v devices capable of handling low and high lift levels. Thanks to their small dimensions, mini actuators are perfect for projects with limited space. They are often found in marine, automotive, industrial, and home automation systems as well as micro actuators, but the application of the mini ones is more appropriate when longer stroke and more thrust is required. It is important to choose the option you need, otherwise, you might fail to install an actuator due to dimensions incompatibility. They can also be easily combined with any control system and special mounting brackets.

A mini linear actuator has the familiar design of a linear actuator with medium output power and a reliable casing. Despite its size, a weak medium-power drive can be used in many devices with different characteristics. A properly selected miniature electric actuator can greatly facilitate the work of a device, as well as save its owner some extra trouble with electrical wiring.

Photo of a mini and micro linear actuator by Progressive Automations

What Are the Main Differences?

After analysis of both actuators, we have created a table that clearly demonstrates the capabilities, and differences, of micro and mini actuators. This easy to follow breakdown should aid with your understanding and subsequent decision-making when choosing your actuator:


Micro Actuators

Mini Actuators

Stroke length

0.5" – 12"

1” – 40”

Speed (full load)

2.67"/sec - 0.25"/sec

1.38"/sec - 0.28"/sec

Maximum thrust force

up to 22.48 lbs

up to 450 lbs


The stroke length is mostly customizable. As a good rule of thumb remember; the longer the stroke, the slower the speed; the greater the thrust, the slower the speed; and the more weight you put on it, the more noise it will make. Keep these factors in mind when choosing an appropriate solution that will work for you.


12-volt mini linear actuators are just a smaller component of a bigger motion control system. They come in various designs and have capabilities suitable for smaller, more compact environments. Actuators with micro limit switches, magnetic brakes, and creep sensors have become very popular these days.

The main difference between a mini linear actuator and a micro actuator is the dimensions. This factor influences all other characteristics: application areas, stroke lengths, and installation specifics. It all depends on the application and the device to which the actuator will be connected. It can be easy to make a mistake when selecting a mini actuator; therefore, checking the specifications for your device carefully and consulting with professionals who will advise you is important.

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