The function of an air actuator component is to convert the energy stored as compressed air into mechanical energy. There are different types of actuator each of which serves a different purpose. Actuators can be pneumatic, electric or hydraulic and move with a linear or rotary motion.

Pneumatic actuators cost less electric versions but are more powerful. For high cycle speed application, air actuators are preferable over electric because being driven by compressed air makes them run much faster. However, electric actuators enable more precision as they have tighter tolerances for positioning. Compressed air is not always an available resource so an electric actuator may be the only option.

Hydraulic actuators are the best option when a high volume of force is required. A much smaller hydraulic actuator is needed to generate more power than if using compressed air. Hydraulic actuators are more costly but much more efficient than pneumatic and electric actuators.

The different types of air actuators are air muscle, diaphragm or rolling lobe, double acting, grippers, linear slides, non-repairable, repairable, rodless, cable, band, magnetically coupled, rotary and single acting.