PI is the world's leading provider of nanopositioning products and systems. All key technologies are developed, manufactured and qualified in-house by PI: Piezo components, actuators and motors, magnetic drives, guiding systems, nanometrology sensors, electronic amplifiers, digital controllers and software.
PI positioning systems are employed where technology is pushed forward in industry and research. This is done, for example, in semiconductor manufacturing, in medical engineering, in biotechnology, in plant engineering, in surface metrology, or in astronomy.
Because the need for multi-axis and also precision robots in production and quality processes is on the increase, industry is looking out for new types of robotics. PI offers parallel-kinematic hexapods for these tasks.
Lithographic processes are the reason why chips are getting smaller and smaller and why extremely fine structures can be realized on silicon wafers. Piezo drives have made these technical advances possible with their performance and reliability.
An automated assembly and alignment system can reduce the manufacturing process for silicon photonics to only a few minutes. However, handling the delicate waveguides is indeed a major challenge as the integration of the light sources at a wafer level and connection of the optical inputs and outputs are difficult to perform.
Progress in pharmaceutical research, diagnostics, and therapy requires high-performance and precise position systems. In addition to high positioning precision, requirements for the drives often include compact dimensions, low energy consumption, speed, and high reliability.
Efficiency has become an important buzzword these days. Materials research has paid a major contribution as the results have, for example, optimized processing methods. Methods such as X-rays and lasers or white light interferometry demand precise positioning of the specimens to be examined and of optics or beam control.
Mechanical engineering and manufacturing technology require fast, reliable and energy-saving drive components. The spectrum ranges from piezo actuators to six-axis parallel kinematics which can communicate directly with CNC controls.
Dynamic compensation of Lorentz forces at the XFEL accelerator structures: The particle accelerator XFEL at the DESY (German Electron Synchrotron) uses acceleration technology based on super-conducting acceleration structures, so-called resonators or cavities.
PI combines its long-term experience in micro and nanopositioning technology with in-depth knowledge in the fields of mechanics, electronics, sensor engineering, and software. Thus, PI is able to offer its customers the most advanced drive technologies and system solutions.
PI Ceramic offers a wealth of experience in the manufacturing of piezoceramic materials, components, and actuators. The piezoceramic materials can be adapted individually to perfectly fit the later use of the piezo components.
Depending on the configuration and control, piezoceramic actuators can be used to create translational motions or as motors with a virtually unlimited travel range. The choice of drive depends on the requirements of the application.
Rotating electric motors such as DC or stepper motors are used in connection with screw or worm drives. Stepper motor systems with high-resolution encoders can perform minimum incremental motions of 10 nm with high reliability and repeatability.
In a parallel-kinematic, multi-axis system, all actuators act directly on a single moving platform. This means that all axes can be designed with identical dynamic properties, thus reducing the moved mass considerably. Hexapods are used for moving and precision positioning, aligning and displacing loads in all six degrees of freedom, i.e., three linear and three rotational axes.
The linearity and repeatability achieved are not possible without highest-resolution measuring devices. Accuracies in the range of a few nanometers and below require a position measurement method that can also detect motion in this range.
Linear Scale Encoders for Nanometrology & Nanopositioning
PI uses incremental measurement systems for longer travel ranges, starting from approximately one millimeter. These sensors, which in most cases are optical sensors, achieve position resolution down to the picometer range.
Fast settling or extremely smooth low speed motion, high positional stability, high resolution and high dynamics – the requirements placed on piezo systems vary greatly and need drivers and controllers with a high degree of flexibility.
Fast USB or TCP/IP interfaces as well as RS-232 are the standard interfaces supported by modern digital controllers from PI. Furthermore, PI also provides digital or analog real-time capable interfaces.
Piezo Controllers & Drivers for Nanopositioning Systems
Characteristic properties of piezo actuators include high feed forces and fast response. Since piezoelectric actuators react to even the smallest change in voltage with a motion, noise or drift in the control must be avoided.
Flexure joints, mechanical guide components or magnetic bearings? Which kind of guiding system PI uses in its products depends on parameters such as travel range, required precision, load, lifetime, and ambient conditions.
Vacuum Compatible Linear & Rotary Stages, UHV Positioners
Careful handling, adequate premises: PI does not only have the necessary equipment for the qualification of materials, components and final products, but also has many years of experience with regard to HV und UHV positioning systems.
PI qualifies its products with external measuring equipment. These are calibrated in part and traceable to a national standard.
Using the PIOne incremental encoder and
capacitive sensors, PI manufactures own metrology for inclusion in PI products.
Heavy Duty Hall for Positioning Systems Weighing Several Tons
The product range from a two-ton hexapod to a ten-gram nanopositioner requires that PI can both manufacture and qualify these systems. For this reason, PI operates a heavy duty hall at its location in Karlsruhe for the assembly and measurement of masses up to five tons.
PI stands for technical excellence and continuous advance in precision positioning – driven by the passion for technology and its use in customer applications. The target of the PI Group is to develop this market and technological leadership even further and therefore secure a decisive competitive advantage for its customers.
PI offers sound training in technical and business careers with a future. Pupils, students, graduates and professionals can get involved at PI and will be supported by us in their professional and personal further development.
With PIs 15 subsidiaries in key markets and more than 850 employees worldwide it is our aim to further extend our pioneering role to the world market and we have exactly what it takes. Would you like to continue your career at PI? Have you just completed your studies or do you already have professional experience? Are you ready for the next step in your career?
PI is growing continuously. A range of drive and positioning technology that is unique all over the world gives us access to forward-moving global markets. It is therefore important for us to assist our employees in the best possible way: Either with individual training programs to develop specialist skills, family-friendly working hours or by providing financial support for childcare. Why not join our team!
We need you to achieve our company targets! You can expect an exciting task in a renowned, expanding company as well as an innovative work environment with interesting, diverse tasks, and good career opportunities.
We offer you a modern workplace, a comfortable work climate with short decision-making processes as well as cooperative and friendly colleagues. We would be happy to support you with your relocation expenses.
As a future-oriented and internationally active company, we can offer you a secure job with exciting tasks and interesting perspectives. A broad range of expertise in the complex development and manufacturing process of functional ceramic components combined with state-of-the-art components ensure the highest quality. We supply piezoceramic solutions to all important high-tech markets. To further develop our leading role in the world market, we expect excellence from our employees.
PI combines its long-term experience in micro and nanopositioning technology with in-depth knowledge in the fields of mechanics, electronics, sensor engineering and software. Thus, PI is able to offer its customers the most advanced drive technologies and system solutions.
Unlimited Resolution Piezo actuators convert electrical energy directly into mechanical energy and vice versa and allow for motions in the subnanometer range. There are no friction elements that limit resolution.
Stiffness, Load Capacity, Force Generation To a first approximation, a piezo actuator is a spring-and-mass system. The stiffness of the actuator depends on the elasticity module of the ceramic (approx. 25% of that of steel), the cross section and length of the active material, and other nonlinear parameters. Typical actuators have stiffnesses between 1 and 2,000 N/μm and compressive limits between 10 and 100,000 N. For tensile stresses, a casing with integrated preload or an external preload spring is required. Adequate measures must be taken to protect the piezo ceramic from shear and bending forces and from torque.
No Wear and Tear A piezo actuator has no moving parts, like gears or bearings. Its displacement is based on crystalline solid-state dynamics and shows no wear and tear. PI piezo actuators have gone through several billion cycles in endurance tests without measurable changes in their behavior.
Operation at Cryogenic Temperatures The piezo effect continues to operate even at very low temperatures close to 0 Kelvin.
Vacuum and Clean Room Compatible Piezo actuators neither cause abrasion nor do they require lubrications. The all-ceramic insulated PICMA® actuators have no polymer coating and are thus ideal for ultrahigh vacuum applications.
Operating Voltage Two types of piezo actuators have become established: Monolithic-sintered PICMA® multilayer actuators (low-voltage actuators) operate at voltages up to about 130 V and are made of ceramic layers from 20 to 100 μm in thickness. Classical high-voltage actuators (PICA high-power actuators) are made from ceramic layers of 0.5 to 1 mm thickness and operate at voltages of up to 1000 V. PICA actuators can be manufactured with larger cross sections, making them suitable for larger loads than the more compact monolithic multilayer piezo actuators.
Low Energy Consumption Static operation, even holding heavy loads for long periods, consumes virtually no power. A piezo actuator behaves very much like an electrical capacitor. When at rest, no heat is generated.
Rapid Response Piezo actuators allow response times of a few microseconds. Acceleration rates of more than 10,000 g can be obtained.
High Force Generation High-load piezo actuators capable of moving loads of several tons are available. They can cover travel ranges to 300 μm with resolutions in the subnanometer range.
Position Resolution The piezo ceramic itself works free of friction and theoretically has unlimited resolution. In practice, the resolution actually attainable is limited by electrical and mechanical factors: a) Sensor and servo-control electronics, amplifiers: Amplifier noise and sensitivity to electromagnetic interferences (EMI) affect positional stability. b) Mechanical parameters: Design and mounting precision issues concerning the actuator, preload and sensor can induce microscopic friction which limits resolution and accuracy. Piezo actuators reach subnanometer resolution and stability.
No Magnetic Fields The piezoelectric effect is related to electric fields, piezo actuators do not produce magnetic fields nor are they affected by them.
Travel Range The travel ranges of piezo actuators are typically in between a few 10 to a few 100 μm for linear actuators. Bending actuators can achieve a few millimeters.