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You can buy linear actuators off the shelf, but NONE that allow for accurate displacement measurement AND high load rating for this price. The finished model shown can push or pull up to 300 lbs and it moves at about 0.5 in/min. I used it on a special project but you can use it for whatever you want!
This assembly is a component of the Testrbot open source universal test machine: http://www.instructables.com/i...
I've also provided 'Base Type 2' files if you want to make a higher speed configuration. (In this config you wouldn't need the gears, as seen in photo 3.)