Force & Position Control in Precision Automation

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A host of applications can benefit from fast actuation systems equipped with precise metrology for controlling both force and position accurately. These include:

  • Fast production testing of touch- and force-sensitive and haptic components;
  • Delicate, high-speed automated assembly procedures where position vs. force is important;
  • Testing of physical characteristics such as compliance, damping or other material parameters;
  • Highly accurate pick-and-place applications of sensitive componentry at high speeds
V-273 PIMag® Voice Coil Linear Actuator: Cost-Effective With High Dynamics
V-273 PIMag® Voice Coil Linear Actuator: Cost-Effective With High Dynamics (Image: PI)

OEMs and system integrators have been looking for an integrated, easy to control and adapt solution. Critical issues here are the demand for high throughput and uptime, millisecond responsiveness along with sensitivities to the sub-micron and milli-Newton level along with a controller that is fast enough to detect minute position and force changes and respond in real time, before a component is destroyed. Switching between force and position mode should be transparent, and smooth, without loss of position information.

Voice Coil Linear Motor Operating Principle Explained
Voice Coil Linear Motor Operating Principle Explained

Besides offering ultraprecision position control with up to 250mm/sec speeds, PI’s innovative new V-273 PIMag™ Voice Coil Linear Actuator and compact C-413 PIMag™ Controller provide a revolutionary combination of capabilities for high-throughput generation of precision forces and positions.

High-speed interfaces including real-time DIO, and high-speed TCP/IP Ethernet and USB 2 interfaces are available. A 100nm position encoder is integrated into the mechanism; a force sensor with 5 mN (Milli-Newton, equivalent to 0.5 g force) resolution is optional. The C-413 controller allows swift position or force control and offers combined force-and-position control. An integrated data recorder provides sub-sub-millisecond acquisition for later retrieval, or the standard DIO interface is programmable and can provide triggering of motions or external equipment based on position or increment.

Automation Actuator, Force & Position Control, Voice Coil with Real Time DIO Interface
Watch “Automation Actuator, Force & Position Control, Voice Coil with Real Time DIO Interface” video

The C-413 motion controller is supported by PI’s extensive software offering, including PI MikroMove (a comprehensive Windows GUI) and comprehensive dynamic libraries for Windows, Linux and OS X. Alternatively, since this unit utilizes the same General Command Set that all PI controllers do, you can communicate with it via simple ASCII strings– ideal for legacy automation controllers often found on factory floors. Broad and deep support for LabVIEW is provided, and also offered is support for National Instruments’ CompactRIO Programmable Automation Controllers. The system is readily controlled via its standard TTL DIO interface or available 24V EMI-resistant DIO interface, suitable for the noisiest factory floors. If desired, an integrated ground path to the tip can be configured.

Fast Automation Actuators for Test & Assembly video>
Fast Automation Actuators for Test & Assembly video>

The new automation system was shown at the 2015 Photonics West / BIOS conference in San Francisco, where it ran all week generating nearly a quarter million milli-Newton-precision force/position transitions with speeds to 250mm/sec, with informative graphical application showing real time position/force data. A brief close-up video of the force-actuator tip is presented above; it includes a 120 fps segment that vividly shows the fast, smooth, force-controlled motions of this remarkable new actuator as it gently impacts a glass substrate, each step concluding with the precisely calibrated force set-point.

V-273 comes in several variations (stroke, force), and is a part of a rapidly-growing family of catalog and custom linear motor solutions offering different travels and force capabilities. Contact one of our global offices for expert consultation, responsive support, and cost-effective recommendations for your application.

Voice Coils and Air Bearings

Voice coil drives can be used with mechanical bearings, air bearings, and flexures guides. An article on the performance and tracking error of a voice coil-driven air bearing stage is available here.

Air bearing scanning stage performing an 8mm pp scan at 5 Hz while keeping the tracking error was under +/-1µm (Image: PI)
Air bearing scanning stage performing an 8mm pp scan at 5 Hz while keeping the tracking error was under +/-1µm (Image: PI)


Application example of V-273 automation actuators in a delta robot for fast pick and place processes. (Image: PI)


> WATCH voice coil technology videos

> LEARN more on PI-USA website

> READ more articles on linear motors


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About PI

PI (Physik Instrumente) is a leading manufacturer of precision motion control equipment, piezo motors, air bearing stages and hexapod parallel-kinematics for semiconductor applications, photonics, bio-nano-technology and medical engineering. PI has been developing and manufacturing standard & custom precision products with piezoceramic and electromagnetic drives for 4 decades. The company has been ISO 9001 certified since 1994 and provides innovative, high-quality solutions for OEM and research. PI is present worldwide with fifteen subsidiaries, R&D / engineering on 3 continents and total staff of more than 1,000.

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