Microblog: Motions in high-end precision technology

Medical technology, industrial precision automation, microscopy life-science, silicon photonics: just a few examples of the many industries that demand multi-axis motion control systems. PI has more than 40 years of experience in developing and manufacturing high-precision motion and positioning products and systems. With linear and rotational movements, our multi-axis systems can achieve any desired position on a nanometer scale. Better yet, we can interpolate both movements and create a continuous motion. We can even achieve six degrees of freedom. The combination of all these motions provides us with endless possibilities.

What is your end goal?

When do you want to opt for a high-end motion system with either linear or rotational movement, or a combination of both? And what kind of actuator fits your needs best? End goals can vary greatly: to find the best solution for your challenge, we always consider the stroke, accuracy, and resolution that is needed for the motion, as well as the dynamic constraints on the linear or rotational actuator such as moving mass, needed force, stiffness, and mounting orientation.

Multiple axis and degrees of freedom

A linear motion system can move vertically or horizontally – and it is possible to combine multiple different linear motions to move in multi-axis (X-, Y-, Z-axis), even in opposing directions. The travel range can vary from nanometers, millimeters to a meter+. Fused with rotational motion and tip and tilt, a system can reach up to six degrees of freedom. A rotational motion range can travel between µrad, rad and up to 360+ degrees.

In almost all circumstances, a motion control system is actuated by a piezoelectric or electromagnetic type of actuator. Which specific actuator you’ll need depends on the environment it will operate in and on what you want to achieve. I will explore this further in my next blog.

A practical example

The vast array of possibilities in precision motion is best illustrated with one of our products. For a life-science application with non-magnetic and vacuum constraints we developed a 4DOF multi-axis motion system, which allows extreme smooth motion in XY-direction over a stroke of 25mm X 25mm. Because of the use of our PI-line ultrasonic drive principle for the X and Y axis we can achieve extreme small steps and smooth motion in combination with the ‘long’ stroke. Thanks to a raster scan we can correct for angular errors with the RotZ axis, which is piezo-motor based as well. The objective lens can be focused with the piezo flexure stage over a stroke of 200 micron (more than sufficient). The overall design result is extremely compact, having a small volume-claim. This 4DOF stage is a perfect example of our infinite possibilities in precision motion.

Discover the infinite possibilities of PI

Do you need a solution in precision motion and positioning, and are you not sure which elements you need to reach your goal? The possibilities with PI are infinite and I am happy to advise. Send me a message by mail or via Linkedin.


Sander Slagter
Senior Technical Sales, Engineered Systems at PI Benelux B.V.