Belt driven linear actuator advice

new guy here…

looking to use a belt driven linear actuator about 12-16" in length to move approx 1lb of material from a consistent start position to 1 stop position.

i have been playing with the maestro 18 and have a idea how they work etc. (currently playing with 3 servos and a claw)

i “think” i would like to drive the actuator with a servo using 2 IR sensors on the track for positioning

from what i understand a stepper would be a better solution but its past my knowledge at this time

in theory if i can simply use the maestro with a servo i can create a program using the pololu software i have already downloaded.

most IR sensors have 4 wire and with the maestro having 3 pin connectors im at a “loss”.

if im totally wrong and stepper is the easy way to go with out having to code…im open to any and all ideas

thanks for any advice


Hello, Brian.

It sounds like you are talking about designing your own actuator. Stepper motors, brushed DC motors, and servos all have benefits and down-sides, but they can all be used as a basis for an actuator, so which one is best for you will ultimately depend on your application and what you are familiar with.

Helping with design is beyond the scope of our direct technical support, but it sounds like your main question comes down to how to use IR sensors with the Maestro. Could you post a link to the particular 4-wire IR sensors you are referring to? Are you planning on using them for limit switches (i.e. one at your start position and 1 at your stop position)?


thanks for the quick reply…again

im looking at 2 products like these (i would buy from pololu but i didnt see any on the site)

id like to use a
maestro 18
360 servo
linear actuator/belt
2 IR sensors for start…stop/return/extended positions

Thank you for the additional information. Those sensors should be fine to use with the Maestro as long as you use them at 5V. The 4 wires are explained on that Amazon page you linked to: brown is VCC, blue is ground, and black is the output. The 4th wire (pink) is to select the working mode (normally open or normally closed).

We do not carry any linear slide rails like that, but you can find our linear actuators here:

Most of the ones we carry use a built-in brushed DC motor and are available in versions that give access to the feedback potentiometer, which you could use with something like our Jrk G2 controllers to do closed-loop position control. We also carry stepper motors with a built-in lead screw.

By the way, if you do not have a particular reason for wanting to use those optical sensors as limit switches, you might consider just using some simple snap-action switches.