OEM and Custom Piezo Stage Development

The goal at nPoint is to meet the specifications set forth by each customer. In many cases, this can be done with nanopositioning systems that have previously been designed and manufactured. There are however, many applications where a custom stage is necessary, such as a component of an OEM product. nPoint works with a variety of different companies in a wide range of industries with deliveries ranging from a few systems per year to hundreds.

Read: Benefits of Piezo Flexure Stages

Stage Design

The first factor in determining the right system is to consider whether developing a new design or incorporating an existing design is the better route. If a current design is the best fit, a demo system can then be tested to verify if it meets customer requirements. If it does, other factors, including controller integration, will be considered in the next steps in the process. When a custom design is required, a set of specifications are necessary for the initial design phase.

Specifications for Initial Design Phase

  • Scan Speed – How fast a user would like to move the stage either by scan rate or by step and settle time.
  • Load Mass and Shape – Determines how fast the stage can scan by modeling the lowest system resonance of the loaded piezo stage. 3D models are helpful in accurately modeling this condition.
  • Travel Range – The necessary travel of the stage. Piezo flexure stages are typically limited to a travel range of 2mm.
  • Stage Weight – The maximum mass of the piezo stage.
  • Stage Material – Materials of which the stage can be machined. Examples include: Aluminum, Titanium, and Stainless Steel.
  • Environment Conditions in Where the Stage Will Operate –Environmental features such as UHV, varied temperature, or rugged external environments.
  • Resolution and Accuracy– What precision, accuracy, and step sizes are best for the application. Determine what sensors are necessary for closed-loop control or if open-loop control is adequate.

Read: Deciding Between Open-Loop and Closed-Loop Piezo Stages

nPoint will then design and model a piezo stage using FEA and will provide a design proposal that includes the expected specifications of the system under those design characteristics. Suggestions of how to improve some properties and trade-offs of making changes to the system can then be discussed.

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Example Custom Design Using FEA

Once the stage has been designed the next step is to build a prototype for testing. Single or multiple prototype systems can be built depending on the customer’s requirements. nPoint will characterize each stage and share the results with the customer when the first prototype ships. Testing can then be done by the user on site. Following onsite testing, nPoint will meet with the user to determine how the system performed in the specific application. Any changes, adjustments, or redesigns can then be performed for further development.

Electronics Design

nPoint offers a variety of controller designs. The most commonly used design is a closed-loop controller. Each axis of the piezo stage requires a channel for the controller. For example, a single channel controller would be mated with a single axis stage, while a three channel controller would be required to run a three axis stage.

Controllers can be fully enclosed or be sold as PCB boards with the same functionality. Custom enclosures featuring your company’s graphics are also an option. nPoint features digital controllers, which allows great flexibility for interface and software options. Custom firmware can be written for applications to further integrate other systems into the controller.

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Example OEM Controller Board

System Interface Options

  • Analog – Standard Analog interface via BNC connectors. -10V to 10V, 0 to 10V, or other settings can easily be programmed.
  • USB – LabView and DLL drivers facilitate the integration of nPoint systems. A variety of programming languages can be used.
  • Digital I/O – The user can assign different triggering functions to the 9-pin digital interface.
  • High Speed Parallel Interface – Offers communication with the controller at full loop speed, which allows the user to set and read position commands every 24 microseconds at 20-bit resolution
  • PFM Interface – Designed to receive position commands in real time while facilitating integration of industry standard motion controllers.
  • Ethernet Interface – Offers full functionality of the standard USB interface over a greater distance.
  • Digital Encoder Interface – Enables integration of a quadrature encoder, which allows the use of external sensors with nPoint controllers for full closed-loop piezo positioning.
  • AFM Interface – Designed to integrate into commercial AFMs to provided closed-loop scanning.
  • Custom – Ask our team of engineers about other interface options.

Software

PC based software nPControl is standard with all nPoint controllers. nPControl offers control-loop tuning, high resolution position recording, waveform generation, trajectory generation, and raster scanning. nPoint can provide custom software development to best fit your application. Current software compatibility includes:

  • EPICS
  • ScanImage
  • LabView
  • Nikon Elements
  • µManager

Applications

nPoint has built systems for a variety of markets including:

  • Metrology
  • Scanning Probe Microscopy
  • Data Storage
  • Nanofabrication
  • Semiconductor
  • Precision Machining
  • Materials Analysis
  • Interferometry
  • Microscopy
  • Beam Steering and Stabilization
  • Defense and Security
  • Life Sciences
  • Optics & Photonics

nPoint specializes in custom motion control solutions for OEM products in diverse markets. Digital controllers create the flexibility necessary for electronics integration. Piezo flexure stages designed with the highest stiffness in the industry provide solutions for high-speed positioning. When nanopositioning stages are a fit, work directly with our team of engineers to get the speed and precision necessary for today’s advanced applications.

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