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It is essential to first identify the basic way in which each type of actuator completes its job. 

Pneumatic linear actuators are composed of a simple piston inside of a hollow cylinder. A manual pump or external compressor will move the piston within the cylinder housing, and as this pressure increases, the cylinder will move along the axis of the piston, which then creates the linear force needed. It returns to its original retracted length by either a spring-back force or fluid being provided to the opposite side of the piston.

Hydraulic linear actuators are quite similar to pneumatic actuators, except for the use of an incompressible liquid is being supplied from a pump as opposed to pressurized air moving the cylinder in a linear motion. This hydraulic actuator is made up of two basic parts: a control device, such as variable throttles (nozzles with slide gates or paired slide valves with an initial axial gap) and an actuation component, such as a piston or controlling valve slide. 

Electric linear actuators take the rotational force of a motor (electrical energy) and convert it into linear movement (torque). By rotating the actuator’s screw via the motor, the nut will move in a line up and down, creating the push/pull effect for the load. 

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