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How Actuations Work


Buy a product and actuations aren’t something you often think about, but they are there. And not only that, but they have a lot to do with whatever it is you own of a mechanical variety. Further, in certain products, actuations are something that can mean a lot, but even then you probably have little more than a passing concern over them. The truth is that actuations are something that everyone should be concerned with, whether they own a product or are considering purchasing one.

What is an Actuation and How Does It Work?

Webster’s defines an actuation (actuations is the plural) as the act of putting something into motion. It could be something as simple as pressing a lever that lights a flame on a disposable lighter or as complicated as pressing a shutter release that causes a picture to be taken, or turning a key that turns your car on. Regardless of the context, an action is taken that causes motion to begin and continue until that motion is successfully completed. After all, without actuations, there is no reason to have most products.

The truth is, however, that actuations can have several concerns. For example, some people might be unaware of a concept known as planned obsolescence, which is a consideration built into nearly every product, which accounts for a period of time or activity that allows a product to wear out or break down. Otherwise, a product would never need to be replaced. Instead, manufacturers create their products with a theoretical time when that product will break down or become obsolete and need to be replaced.

Actuations can be thought of by a wide variety of terms. For example, nearly all cars are sold with a warranty period or a time limit during which a maker assures a new owner that the car will perform as expected. Unfortunately, after that period is completed, practically anything can happen, and often does. Even the conditions of actuations can differ. For example, most prospective car buyers wouldn’t buy a vehicle that had high mileage on its odometer, but how many people would think about, much less consider buying an old camera that might have exceeded its actuation period long before?

Of course, just because a product might have exceeded its expected actuation period long ago doesn’t mean that it is in danger of falling apart, but it should be a consideration when a purchase is planned or a job is considered. An example of this issue might be when a large printing job is considered for completion on a press, a folder, or any other type of equipment that because of its age or maintenance history, might not be in condition to complete the job. Wouldn’t any reasonable person wonder if their car, which has 100,000 plus miles could complete a coast to coast vacation drive?

It is important to remember that actuations are not the end-all when it comes to the lifespan of a product. Obviously, many products often meet and even exceed the number of actuations that are planned for it. History is rife with examples of products that have far exceeded their expected life. Who hasn’t heard, for example, of the light bulb in the Livermore firehouse that has burned continuously for 117 years? Called the “Centennial Lightbulb,” it even has its own “cam” at https://www.centennialbulb.org.

Again and Again

Actuations can be used to consider simple repetitions too. How many times have you seen, and even ignored, the print count on a printing press or copy machine? In this case, actuations serve as an excellent indicator of a product’s life or need for maintenance. Instead, unfortunately, most equipment owners or operators ignore the need for monitoring actuations or paying any attention to their meaning. Obviously, this is a serious mistake since understanding the meaning and importance of actuations can mean the difference between an early breakdown of equipment, or one that far exceeds its expected useful life.

Just as is the case with many products, actuations are something that you can ignore or pay close attention to, but if you choose the latter, you will probably have many years of good service in the future.

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