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Well, I just found out about these Zipper Chain Linear Actuators, but I couldn't find much information comparing these types to other types of actuators.

For example, what is the performance of Zip Chain Actuators compared to Linear Screw Actuators?

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Of course, these are industrial level types of linear actuators, but you could make then out of 3D printing parts and achieve "good enough" capabilities.

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@Tully's answer is great, but I just wanted to provide some examples.

Most linear actuators need a fair amount of collapsed height. The ratio of length when extended to collapsed is usually around 2:1. For example in the lead-screw based actuators in your question.

Of course, you can do better with a telescoping mechanism. For example this telescoping ladder. The ratio of extension to collapsed heights for this ladder is about 4.5:1.
Telescoping Ladder

However, a zipper mast is similar to a tape measure, where you can achieve a huge extension relative to a very small collapsed height. The extension ratio of this tape measure is about 64:1. Standard tape measure

For stability, the zipper mast is usually constructed from 2 or more "tape measure" like things, that zipper or interlock together. Because the trade-off for this huge extension ratio is stability. Also, I believe zipper masts are best at transmitting force in the extension direction. They are very weak in other directions. For example, you shouldn't use them horizontally.

One awesome application for a zipper mast is a retractable camera mast on a robot. For example this demonstration on a PackBot. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TFvwp5vReSw It would be difficult to achieve such an large height extension with any other type of mechanism because they would require a large stalk on the robot, even when retracted.

Only you can determine the right type of linear actuator and what is "good enough" for your application.

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The primary feature of a zip chain actuator is that it does not need extra depth to retract into. A standard linear actuator has a slider that will travel back behind the point of actuation. It will often need as much space behind the actuating surface as in front for its range of motion.

Whereas a zip chain actuator moves the volume to the side or other directions to allow you to have a lower profile actuator housing for a larger displacement distance.

There are other trade-offs, such as stiffness, precision, and other things that may vary between the different actuators that you might choose.

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  • $\begingroup$ @fulano I see that you added a bounty on this question. Is there more that you want than is covered in my answer? $\endgroup$
    – Tully
    Aug 26 at 7:49

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