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If we have a tracking system placed in a tough desert environment with occasional sandstorms and temperatures that go as high as 50C, which actuator would be better: a hydraulic piston or an electric motor with a gearbox? My main concern is performance and resistance to conditions

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  • $\begingroup$ A 'fun' question. What is the power source for tyhe hydraulic piston system - this has a bearing on it's robustness. Others will have a much better feel for the hrdraulic system than I hae. | The electric motor system can be designed to work at any likely temperature by suitable derating to maintain operationg temperature within desired limits. Shaft sealing is about as hard (or easy) with either system. Gearbox operation at these temperatures is a matter of appropriate lubrication and materials. $\endgroup$ – Russell McMahon Sep 5 '15 at 17:05
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The main concern in the design is the exposure of a high tolerance surface to the elements. Both systems can be made very robust. The hydraulic system would need a shroud to protect the rod from damage. Additional rod wiper rings would be a good idea too.

The electrical motor with gearbox would be very easy to protect and would be the most reliable if it is only transmitting rotation motion. If it is transmitting linear motion like a hydraulic piston the lead screw or ball screw will need to be protected in the same way as a hydraulic cylinder. It will require more dust protection to have the same reliability as a hydraulic cylinder.

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