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Why Use Nanopositioners, Piezo Positioners, Nanopositioning Systems

A nanopositoner is a highly precise motion device (linear or rotary) capable of positioning samples with nanometer accuracy. Piezo flexure-guided nanopositioners provide the highest precision, minimized dimensions and high speed. Linear Motor driven nanopositioners are also available, with air bearings leading in terms of precision and geometric performance. PI has 5 decades of experience in nanopositioner design & manufacture. With more than 1500 employees globally and R&D and manufacturing on 3 continents, PI is the global leader in nanopositioning systems and piezo stages.

There are several ways to design a nanopositioner. Piezo-driven nanopositioners typically provide higher dynamics and precision than traditional motorized stages. For more information on nanopositioning stages click on the examples below, or read the tech blog.

Nanopositioning Blog
Nanopositioners Product Catalog (PDF)

Examples of Piezo Positioners and Nanopositioners

Compact Single Axis PiezoStages for Cost Sensitive Applications
Compact Nanopositioner Stages, for Cost-Sensitive Applications

SScanning Microscopy Nanopositioner Piezo Stages with Clear Aperture
Nanopositioner for Microscopy Piezo Stage with Clear Aperture

Multi-Axis Nanopsitioner Piezo Stage
Multi-Axis Nanopositioner
    w/Parallel Kinematics/Metrology

PInano™ Z, Scanner.
Low-Profile, Low-Cost, Nanopositioning System for Super Resolution Microscopy
PInano™ -Z, Nanopositioner for Super Resolution Microscopy

Closed-Loop Linear Nanopositioner Closed-Loop Single-Axis Nano-positioner , PiezoStage with Direct Metrology

Objective Nanofocusing Stages
Objective NanoPositioner for Microscopy

6-Axis Nanopositioning Stages
6-Axis Nanopositioners
    Parallel Piezo-Stages

PI nano™ XY & XYZ 1x3 Piezo Stage Systems
PINano XY/Z Nanopositioner for Super Resolution Microscopy

Z & Low Cost Piezo Stage with Aperture
Low Cost Miniature Piezo Stages with Aperture

Z & Tip Tilt Stages
Z & Tip Tilt Stages

Custom Stages
Custom PiezoStage Systems

 Open-Frame Microscope Stage Long-Range Motion for Sample Positioning
Motorized Microscope Nanopoitioning Stage, Open-Frame, Long-Range Motion for Sample Positioning







Click here for Nanopositioners Selection Guide Ultra-Low-Inertia Nanopositioners Piezos Stage Systems,
Ultra-High Precision Position Sensors

An ultra-low-inertia solid-state PZT Nano-Positioner stage can repeatedly move bidirectional nanometer level steps, at up to hundreds of Hz if required.

PI offers the largest variety of custom and standard ultra-low inertia nanopositioner systems.

Examples of Parallel-Kinematics / Metrology NanoPositioner Systems

500 page PI Catalog

Get the
     530 page PI Catalog

Capacitance sensors are the nanometrology system of choice for the highest precision nanopositioner designs.

Single probe capacitive sensors are more versatile and dual probe capacitance sensors ensure higher linearity and longterm stability. These absolute-measuring, non-contact sensors detect motion at sub-nanometer levels directly (direct output metrology) and provide accuracy, linearity, resolution, stability and bandwidth superior to strain gauge type sensors (piezo resistive sensors), LVDT sensors and incremental encoders (glass scale type encoders). If used in parallel-kinematics multi-axis systems, they can also provide the information for automatic runout-compensation.

Minimized recoil forces are a by-product of the ultra-low-inertia approach. Classical Micropositioning stages, even when equipped with high-resolution encoders cannot achieve this precision. Their high inertia, friction, and servo dither prevent fast motion at the nanometer level.

Click here for more information on PI Capacitive Position Sensors
Jump to the Nanopositioning Selection Guide!

Flexure Design: Eleminates Friction and Provides Better Guiding Accuracy

Flexure motion is based on the elastic deformation (flexing) of a solid material. Friction and stiction are entirely eliminated, and flexures exhibit high stiffness, load capacity and resistance to shock and vibration. Flexures are maintenance free and not subject to wear. They are vacuum compatible, operate over a wide temperature range and require neither lubricants nor compressed air for operation.

Not all flexures are created equal! PI multi-axis nanopositioner systems are based on FEA calculated wire-EDM-cut parallel-kinematics flexure designs.

These multilink flexure guiding systems eliminate cosine errors and provide bidirectional flatness and straightness in the nanometer or microradian range. This high precision means that even the most demanding nano-positioning tasks can be run bidirectionally for higher throughput.

Wire-EDM cutting process provides highest-accuracy flexure guiding systems in compact nanopositioning piezo stages.
Typical 0.5 µrad bidirectional trajectory repeatability (P-752.11C flexure nanopositioner Piezostage) means processes may be performed bidirectionally for twice the productivity (graph, right)

Lifetime / Award-Winning PICMA® Piezo Actuators

PI piezo nanopositioner stages employ the award-winning PICMA® piezo actuators, the only actuators with co-fired ceramic encapsulation. The PIMCA® piezo technology was specifically developed by PI’s piezoceramic division to provide higher performance and lifetime in nanopositioner applications. Multilayer piezo actuators are similar to ceramic capacitors and are not affected by wear and tear. PI nanopositioner systems are designed to be driven at lower voltages than most other piezo systems (100 V vs. 150 V). The research literature, PI’s own test data and 30+ years of experience, all confirm that lower average electric fields lead to longer lifetime.

Jump to the Nanopositioner Selection Guide!

Active Trajectory Control is avail-
able on single-module parallel-metrology nanopositioning systems. It can improve straight-
ness and flatness to sub-nano-
meter precision. Digital control-
lers with advanced coordinate transformation algorithms allow active trajectory control for up to 6 DoF.

Active Trajectory Control significantly improves guid-
ing precision. It requires a
Parallel Metrology
Sensor setup.

Active Trajectory Control

DDL Improves Scanning Linearity up to 1000-Fold

Elliptical scan in a laser micro-drilling application with XY scanning piezo stage, conventional controller. The outer curve describes the target position, the inner curve shows the actual motion of the piezo stage.

Same scan as before, with Dynamic Digital Linearization. The tracking error has been reduced to a few nanometers, real and target positions are indiscernable on the graph

Preshaping™ algorithms and dynamic digital linearization can increase the dynamic linearity and effective bandwidth of high-speed nanopositioner systems by up to 3 orders of magnitude. This translates into higher dynamic accuracy, and increased throughput.

Conventional PID (proportional-integral-derivative) piezo servo-controllers cannot completely eliminate phase lag and tracking errors (the difference between actual and target positions) in dynamic operation. This is due to the nonlinear nature of PZT material, the limited control bandwidth, and the fact that a PID controller needs to see an error before it attempts to correct it.

DDL (an option for PI digital controllers such as the E-710) solves this problem. This PI-exclusive technology reduces phase lag and tracking error (the difference between the commanded position and actual position) in dynamic applications to virtually indiscernible levels. The result is an improvement in dynamic linearity and usable bandwidth of up to three orders of magnitude. Dynamic Digital Linearization works both in single-axis and multi axis applications (see graphs).

Jump to the Nanopositioner Selection Guide!

Mach™ Throughput Processor Eliminates Self-Generated Vibration, Increases Throughput, Scanning Speed, Accuracy

Vibration Elimination

The example above shows ringing of a poorly damped component on a high-speed nanopositioner stage. While the closed-loop piezo nanopositioner stage settles perfectly, the component cannot keep up. Conventional solutions to this problem would involve slowing down the piezo nanopositioner stage. Mach™ eliminates ringing without sacrificing speed. It does not even require retuning of the servo system.

The exclusive Mach™ Throughput Processor™ eliminates resonant ringing, allowing rapid motion without a settling phase.This technique also eliminates resonances excited in neighboring components, outside the piezo nanopositioner system's servo loop. The result is significantly increased throughput.

Self-generated vibration affects:

  • The load and fixturing that the nanopositioner actuates 

  • The supporting structure on which the nanopositioner is mounted

  • All other components attached to the supporting structure

The example above shows vibrations induced at the beginning of a saw-tooth scan, typical in image acquisition applications. The vibration results in lower image quality. Mach™ improves the image quailtiy; there is no need to reduce the scanning frequency or chang the mechanical components in the system. Mach™ is available as a firmware option for several PI Digital Piezo Controllers and also as an upgrade option for analog controllers.

This technology is protected by one or more of the following US and foreign Patents licensed from Convolve, Inc.: US 4,916,635; US 5,638,267; 0433375 Europe; 067152 Korea, and other Patents pending. Mach™, Throughput Coprocessor™ and NanoAutomation® are trademarks of Polytec PI, Inc. Input Shaping™ is a trademark of Convolve, Inc.

Jump to the Piezo Nanopositioner Selection Guide!

Parallel Kinematics Piezo-Driven Nanopositioning Systems
Serial Kinematics vs. Parallel Kinematics in Piezo Nanopositioner Stages

Stacked Serial Kinematics Flexure Nanopositioning System
  • Simple Design, but: 
  • Slower response (lower stage carries inertial mass of upper stage);
  • Non-symmetric resonant frequencies (lower PZT stage is slower than upper PZT stage, requires different servo settings).
  • Orthogonality error is mounting-angle dependant.
  • Runout in Y cannot be monitored/compensated by the sensor in the X stage or vice versa. 
Nested Serial Kinematics Flexure Nanopositioner System
  • Thinner and better response than Stacked Serial Kinematics, but no other advantages
Parallel Kinematics / Parallel Metrology Flexure Nanopositioning Stage
  • Same ultra-low inertia for X and Y motion, providing higher responsiveness and axis-independent performance. 
  • Excellent, mounting independent orthogonality. 
  • Parallel Metrology for reduced runout: X sensor (PI uses non-contact two plate capacitance sensors) can monitor and correct for Y runout and vice versa (Active Trajectory Control)
  • Additional rotation axis (Theta Z) feasible with 3 actuators / sensors and digital controller.
More Parallel Kinematics: Hexapods

Nanopositioner Selection Guide
Jump to Introduction to Piezo Transducers and Nanopositioning-Actuators

Compact Piezo Stages Without Sensors
Models* Description Axes Travel [µm] Sensor
P-713 Compact Nanopositioner, XY-scanner stage, fast. XY 15 -
P-603 Piezo Flexure Nanopositioning Actuator . X 100, 300, 500 -
P-290 Piezo-Z nanopositiner stage. Long travel range Z 1000 SGS
P-601 Z-axis nanopositioner PZT stage,
long travel range.
Z, θx 480 SGS
Objective Nanofocusing Systems / Z-Stages
Models* Description Axes Travel [µm] Sensor
P-725 PIFOC®. objective nanofocusing system,
compact, light-weight, long travel ranges,
QuickLock mounting system, direct metrology.
Z 100, 250, 400 Capacitive
PIFOC®. objective nanofocusing system,
very fast and accurate,
with QuickLock mounting system, direct metrology.
Z 100 Capacitive / LVDT
P-720 PIFOC®. objective nanofocusing system,
very compact, without sensors.
Z 100 -
P-541.Z Low-profile Z-stage, 80 x 80 mm aperture. Z 100 Capacitive / SGS
Closed-Loop 1- and 2-Axis Stages with Strain Gauge Sensors
Models* Description Axes Travel [µm] Sensor
Compact, low-cost X and XY nanopositioner stages. X, XY 100 SGS
Compact, low-cost X and XY nanopositioner stages. Z, XZ 100 SGS
Closed-Loop Single-Axis Stages with Direct Metrology Sensors
       (Direct metrology provides increased accuracy)
Models* Description Axes Travel [µm] Sensor
P-622.Z -
PIHera® Z-axis nanopositioners, compact,
very accurate, long travel range.
Z 50, 100, 250 Capacitive
P-772 Nanopositioner stage, very compact, fast and accurate X 10 Capacitive
P-630 Piezo Nanopositioner Stage, compact, fast, direct drive, aperture X 80 Capacitive
P-750 High-load Piezo Nanopositioner Stage,
very good guidance, high stiffness.
X 75 Capacitive / LVDT
P-752 Piezo Nanopositioner Stage. Very fast and
accurate, outstanding guiding accuracy.
X 15, 30 Capacitive
P-753 Piezo Nanopositioner Stage and actuator in one,
very compact, fast and accurate.
Z & X 12, 25, 38 Capacitive
P-620.1 -
PIHera® piezo nanopositioners, compact,
very accurate, long travel ranges, excellent value
X (XY, Z) 50, 100, 250, 500 Capacitive
Multi-Axis Stages, Modular Stages (Serial Kinematics)
Models* Description Axes Travel [µm] Sensor
P-612 Compact, low-cost, XY stage. 100 x 100 µm travel,
clear aperture.
XY 100 x 100 SGS
P-611.3 NanoCube® XYZ piezo alignment system,
compact, very cost-effective.
P-620.2 -
PIHera® XY piezo nanopositioners,
Very compact & accurate (direct metrology),
long travel range.
XY (Z, XYZ) 50, 100, 250, 500 Capacitive
Multi-Axis Stages, Parallel Kinematics / Parallel Metrology
       (Parallel kinematics and parallel metrology allow active trajectory control, better dynamics and higher multi-axis precision)
Models* Description Axes Travel [µm] Sensor
P-615 NanoCube® 350C XYZ piezo alignment system,
clear aperture, ideal for fiber alignment.
XYZ to 350 / Axis Capacitive
P-363 PicoCube® high-precision system for AFM, SPM,
nanomanipulation; 50 picometer resolution.
XY, XYZ 5 / Axis Capacitive
Low profile XY scanning stage
80 x 80 mm aperture.
XY to 200 in XY Capacitive
P-733 XY piezo scanning stage 50 x 50 mm aperture,
vacuum versions available.
XY 100 x 100 Capacitive
P-733.2DD /
High-speed scanning stage, XY and
XYZ versions, ideal for tasks like scanning microscopy.
XY, XYZ 30 x 30 (x10) Capacitive
P-734 PInano™ Z Scanner, Low-Profile, Low-Cost, Nanopositioning System for Super Resolution Microscopy Z 100, 200 Piezo Resistive
P-517 -
Multi-axis stage 66 x 66 mm clear aperture,
custom model with 6 degrees of freedom available.
to 200 in XY,
10 in Z,
to 2 mrad
P-561.3DD PIMars™ XYZ scanning stages,
faster, direct drive, excellent guidance,
66 x 66 mm clear aperture.
XY, XYZ 45 XY, 11 Z Capacitive
P-561 -
PIMars™ multi-axis stages; travel range
to 300 x 300 x 300 µm , 66 x 66 mm clear aperture,
custom model with 6 degrees of freedom available.
XY, XYZ to
300 x 300 x 300
P-587 6-axis-Piezo Nanopositioner Stage. XYZ, θxθyθz up to 800 /
10 mrad
P-518 -
Z-axis and tip/tilt platforms clear aperture Z, θxθy to 200 in Z,
4 mrad
Z-Axis and Tip/Tilt Platforms
       mirrors see "Active Optics / Steering Mirrors" section
Models* Description Axes Travel [µm] Sensor
P-541.Z Low-profile Z-stage, 80 x 80 mm aperture. Z & Z,
100 Capacitive / SGS
P-518 -
Z-axis and tip/tilt platforms 66 x 66 mm
clear aperture
Z & Z,
to 200 in Z,
4 mrad
P-620.Z -
PIHera® Z-axis nanopositioners, compact,
very accurate, long travel range.
Z 50, 100, 250 Capacitive
Compact, low-cost Z and XY Piezo Nanopositioner Stages Z, XZ 100 SGS
P-601 Nanopositioning Piezo Z-stage / actuator, closed loop Z 500 SGS-
Scanning (Microscopy) Stages with Clear Aperture
Models* Description Axes Travel [µm] Sensor
P-725 PIFOC® objective nanofocusing system,
compact, light-weight, long travel ranges,
QuickLock mounting system, direct metrology
Z 100, 250, 400 Capacitive
P-736 Low-profile Z-stage, large aperture; Z-insert for slide scanner and K-frame Z 200 PR/Capacitive
P-612 Compact, low-cost, XY stage. 100 x 100 µm travel,
clear aperture.
XY 100 x 100 SGS
P-545 PI nano™ XY(Z) low profile piezo stage for superresolution microscopy, large aperture, includes advanced controller: 24-Bit, USB, TCP/IP, RS-232 and Analog Interface M-545 manual stage option XY(Z) to 200
x 200
x 200 µm
Piezo Resistive
Multi-axis stage 66 x 66 mm clear aperture,
custom model with 6 degrees of freedom available.
XY, XYZ, XYθz to 200 in XY,
20 in Z,
to 4 mrad
6-Axis Parallel Kinematics Stages
Models* Description Axes Travel [µm] Sensor
P-587 6-axis-Piezo Nanopositioner Stage XYZ, θxθyθz up tp 800 / 10 mrad Capacitive

* Ask about custom sizes, sensors or special designs.
Capacitive and LVDT sensors are direct metrology devices.
Capacitive sensors provide the highest accuracy, bandwidth and linearity.

Introduction to Piezoelectric Nanopositioning Actuators (Nano-Transducers)

Piezo Actuators (PZT) are ultra-high-resolution Nano-Transducers for a variety of applications from Nanotechnology to Aerospace, Biotechnology and Medical Design. PI offers the largest selection Piezo Actuators and Translators (linear actuators) worldwide, for scientific and and industrial applications. In addition to the hundreds of standard models, we manufacture custom designs tailored to customers’ requirements. PI is highly vertically integrated, controlling each manufacturing step from piezo raw materials to finished systems.

Piezo Transducers and Actuators Overview
PI's Piezoceramics Manufacturing Division (PI Ceramic )
Piezo Actuator Basics

Piezo-University: Designing with Piezoelectrics
Piezo Motors / Stages.

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