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Parcel Sorting Kendrion Mishawaka

No more gasping for air

Electromagnetic Actuator - Sorting

Replacing Pneumatics – Electromagnetic Actuators for Sliding Shoe Sorters

A large multinational corporation received a request from one of their customers to remove the noisy and service intensive pneumatics from their package handling equipment. Between the air leaks, valves venting, and compressors turning on and off, the shop floor was an unpleasant working environment. The desire was to go with electric actuators, which would be more controllable and provide much quieter operation for the sliding shoe sorter.

Pneumatics have an advantage in some applications. Large strokes are possible, along with fast reaction times and low upfront investment. They also tend to be lighter weight. But, with a little forethought and clever design, electromagnetic actuators can be a viable substitute in most applications while providing reduced system complexity and reliable performance.


Package sorting equipment with large numbers of pneumatic actuators can be quite noisy and difficult to maintain at top performance. Replacing the air actuators with electromagnetic solenoids depends on the stroke required and speeds needed. In this particular application, the stroke and speed were at the limits of what traditional actuators can do. A back-up option was to incorporate a mechanical advantage device, such as a lever, to increase the stroke and improve speed. This would have lead to increased complexity, part count and cost.

All of our readily available standard solenoid actuators did not meet the requirements of the application, so a redesign was needed to meet the customer’s specification.

Time was of the essence and we managed to put the Initial concept of in front of our customer within two weeks after the receipt of the full specification. The approach was a bi-directional latching solenoid.

By designing to fit the exact specifications and utilizing a smart electronic controller, we were able to deliver a solenoid actuator design to the customer that met and in some regards exceeded the spec. It utilized the existing space and mounting holes from the pneumatic design, requiring only a single power cable. The latching solenoid also met reliability goals including several million actuation cycles.

Extensive simulation with our dynamic, time-based magnetic simulator, Maxwell, made the difference. We were able to refine the actuator design to get optimal performance before any prototypes were made, saving what would have been many physical design iterations. The prediction of force characteristics, current draw, and timing of the electromagnetic actuator enabled us to share valuable information with our customer throughout the whole development phase.


The result was our Linear Sorting Solenoid with switching times under 17ms over a travel of 16mm. In the center 4 permanent magnets to hold the shaft in either position even after the power is turned off. Two high power coils and special shaped pole pieces make this linear solenoid actuator faster than any other large stroke solenoid in our product portfolio.

After finishing and validating the design, the customer stated that they were impressed. They had consulted with numerous solenoid suppliers who had rejected the project out of hand due to the demanding stroke/speed requirements. Personal engineering attention to the whole problem and extensive simulation made all the difference.

Kendrion Mishawaka works on solenoid development project like these every day. A customer tries to find a solution for a problem in the particular application. Our solenoid design experts will find the most fitting solution to meet you specification. Please have a look at our complete portfolio of electromagnetic devices for different industries. If you have an idea for a project involving electromagnetic actuators or need help with a more cost-friendly solution, reach out to us directly and we’ll get to work on your question or issue.