HV and UHV Positioning Systems

  • Vacuum classes from 10-3 to 10-10 hPa
  • Careful selection of components and materials
  • In-house developed drives such as piezo actuators and piezomotors, or suitable electric motors
  • Painstaking design taking outgassing behavior into account
  • Careful handling, adequate premises: Equipped for the qualification of materials, components and final products – also in combination with other difficult environments: Nonmagnetic, cryo, extreme ultraviolet (EUV)
  • Longstanding experience

Classification of Vacuum Stages at PI

To determine the required vacuum class, it is necessary to know the application as well as possible. Crystallography or optical coating, for example, have different requirements not only with regard to the pressure range but also with regard to allowed residual materials in the vacuum chamber.

Frequently, the partial pressure of carbon hydrides is decisive. They are part of lubricants and plastics, are released when pumping out the vacuum chamber, and can contaminate surfaces. Laser applications in the UV range are particularly sensible because carbon hydrides are split up and precipitate on the optical system.

Further modifications of products suitable for UHV:

  • Extremely high vacuum up to 10-11 hPa
  • Lubricant-free design
  • Suitable for operation in a cryogenic environment at -269 to 40 °C
  • Suitable for operation in magnetic fields, radiation resistance (particle and X-ray radiation, EUV)

High vacuum (HV)

1 × 10-3 hPa to 1 × 10-6 hPa  


Ultrahigh vacuum (UHV)

1 × 10-7 hPa to 1 × 10-9 hPa  



1 hPa = 1 mbar

Drive Types for Vacuum Environments

Next to the drive, the selection of suitable materials and additional components is crucial for the vacuum compatibility of a positioning system. Piezo stages employ technologies which are exceptionally well suited for vacuum use as a matter of principle:

Piezo actuatorscapacitive positioning sensors, and flexure joint guides.

In addition, they do not require any lubricants and grease for operation.

The PICMA® piezo actuators in all PI nanopositioning systems are manufactured without polymers and have particularly low gas emissions as a consequence. They can be baked out at up to 150 °C. PICMA® piezo actuators are exceptionally well suited for use in very strong magnetic fields. Piezo positioning systems can be manufactured without ferromagnetic materials.

Piezo actuators show displacements well into the cryogenic range. Special models of PICMA® actuators can be used down to -271°C but with a considerably reduced travel range.

Regardless of the drive principle, all >> Piezomotors can be used in a vacuum environment. Piezomotors can also be used in magnetic fields, because they do not generate magnetic fields nor are they affected by them. Piezomotors are the drive of choice, especially when radiation resistance and travel ranges in the millimeter range are required.

Motorized stages employ special 2-phase stepper motors which operate reliably up to 10-9 hPa. Bakeable limit switches and suitable measuring systems round off the choice. In general, vacuum stages offer lower velocities and a shorter service life than variants for indoor air.

Materials and Design

The requirements for a vacuum-compatible material include:

  • no particle emission
  • no outgassing
  • bakeable and temperature resistant

Preferred Materials
Stainless steel, aluminum, titanium, 
bronze, FKM (e.g., Viton), 
ceramics, sapphire, 
PTFE (e.g., Teflon), PEEK, 
polyimide (e.g., Kapton), 
glass ceramics (e.g., Macor)

The materials used for vacuum positioning stages are aluminum alloys, stainless steels, or titanium. Surface treatment is adapted to the vacuum class, for example, the surfaces of the higher vacuum classes are not coated but electro polished.

For a use in HV and UHV, special vacuum lubricants are used. On request, the lubricant may be defined when placing the order. Vacuum cable insulation is made of PTFE or FEP (Teflon), on request also of polyimide (Kapton) or PEEK. The use of plastics and adhesives is reduced as far as possible.

Painstaking Design for Highly Sensitive Environments

Stages specifically developed for vacuum operation must meet a number of criteria. Vacuum chambers only offer limited space and therefore require a compact design.

Air pockets, i.e., under mountings, must be avoided as they considerably delay or even make generating a stable vacuum impossible.

The selection of suitable components, especially the drive systems, is very important. In particular, it is very important to take heat generation during operation into account, as heat can only be dissipated with great difficulty under vacuum. Knowledge of the planned working cycles is therefore useful for selection. This allows advance testing of the outgassing behavior of the selected individual parts.

Assembly and Test Equipment

Vacuum stages are mounted under cleanroom conditions. All components are cleaned in ultrasound. They are shipped in an antistatic packaging free from particles. Outgassing tests with a mass spectogram to evaluate residual gas composition are available upon request.


  • Clean room manufacturing
  • Ultrasonic cleaning
  • Vacuum chambers up to 10-10 hPa
  • Measurement with mass spectrometer and supplied with measuring protocol upon request




Vacuum environments can be found in many sensitive high-tehnology fields such as:


  • Semiconductor technology
  • Beamline Instrumentation
  • Aviation and aerospace
  • Materials Research
  • Research

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PI offers UHV versions as catalog products for a number of positioning stage series. Almost all stages can be modified for use in different classes of vacuum. Design and manufacture for ranges beyond these limits are offered on request. Complete solutions for several axes are also possible. The vacuum feedthroughs are not included in the scope of delivery and may be ordered separately, if required. Unless agreed otherwise or described for the individual product, the bakeout temperature is max. 80 °C.

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PICA Piezoelectric Stack Actuators

Stack, Power and Thru

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PICMA® Piezo Linear Actuators

Multilayer Piezo Actuators with All-Ceramic Insulation

PI Product Q-522 linear stages with Piezomotor
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Compact Linear Stages with Piezomotor Drives

Nanopositioning Stages and Actuators with 5 to 32mm Travel Ranges

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Compact Linear Stages with PiezoWalk® Stepping Drives

Nanometer Precision with a High Feed Force

PI H-811
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H-811.D2 6-Axis Miniature Hexapod

Fast, Compact and Highly Precise

  • Travel ranges to 34 mm / 42°
  • Load capacity to 5 kg
  • Actuator resolution 40 nm
  • Min. incremental motion to 0.1 µm
  • Repeatability to ±0.06 µm
  • Velocity to 10 mm/s
  • Vacuum-compatible versions available
PI H-824
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H-824 6-Axis Hexapod

Low-Profile, Precision Parallel-Kinematic System

  • Load capacity to 10 kg, self-locking version
  • Travel ranges to 45 mm / 25°
  • Actuator resolution to 7 nm
  • Min. incremental motion to 0.3 µm
  • Repeatability to ±0.1 µm / ±2.5 µrad
  • Velocity to 25 mm/s
  • Vacuum-compatible versions available
  • Sophisticated controller using vector algorithms, virtual pivot point
  • Comprehensive software package
PI M-062.PD
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M-060 • M-061 • M-062 Precision Rotation Stage

Unlimited Travel Range

  • Continuous Rotation Range
  • Ultra-high resolution
  • Max. velocity 90°/s
  • Preloaded Worm Drive for Zero Backlash
  • DC-Servo, Stepper-Motor and ActiveDrive Manual Drives
  • Direction-sensing reference point switch
PI M-230
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M-230 High-Resolution Linear Actuator with DC and Stepper Motor

Nonrotating End Piece, Limit Switches

  • Min. incremental motion 0.05 µm
  • Travel ranges 10 and 25 mm
  • Nonrotating end piece
  • Velocity to 1.2 mm/s
  • MTBF >20,000 h
PI M-235.5DG
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M-235 High-Resolution Linear Actuator with DC Motor

Highly Dynamic, High Forces up to 120 N

  • Travel ranges 20 and 50 mm
  • Min. incremental motion to 0.1 µm
  • Direct drive provides high velocities
  • Push / pull force capacity to 120 N
  • MTBF >10,000 h
PI M-403.1PD
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M-403 Precision Translation Stage

Cost-Effective, Large Choice of Drives & Travel Ranges

  • Cost-effective design for precise positioning
  • Travel ranges from 25 mm to 200 mm
  • Resolution to 0.018 µm
  • Min. incremental motion to 0.2 µm
  • Preloaded Precision Leadscrew
  • Stress-relieved aluminum base for highest stability
  • Vacuum-compatible versions available
  • M-413 and M-414 versions for higher load requirements
PI M-404.42S
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M-404 Precision Translation Stage

Cost-Effective, Large Choice of Drives & Travel Ranges

  • Cost-effective design für präzise Positionierung
  • Travel ranges von 25 mm bis 200 mm
  • Resolution bis 0,012 µm
  • Min. incremental motion bis 0,1 µm
  • Recirculating ballscrew drives provide high speeds & long lifetimes
  • Stress-relieved aluminum base for highest stability
  • Vacuum-compatible versions available
  • Höhere Lasten mit M-413 und M-414
PI M-413.2DG
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M-413 High-Load Precision Stage

Cost-Effective, Large Choice of Drives & Travel Ranges for High Loads

  • Cost-efficient, high-stability models
  • Part of the M-403, M-404, M-413, M-414 Modular Family
  • Travel ranges from 100 to 300 mm
  • Resolution to 0.018µm
  • Preloaded Precision Leadscrew
  • Min. incremental motion 0.2 µm
  • Stress-relieved aluminum base for highest stability
PI M-413.2DG
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M-414 High-Load Precision Stage

Cost-Effective, Large Choice of Drives & Travel Ranges for High Loads

  • High Precision Components
  • Part of the M-403, M-404, M-413, M-414 Modular Family
  • Travel ranges from 100 mm to 300 mm
  • Resolution to 0.023 µm
  • Recirculating ballscrew drives provide high speeds & long lifetimes
  • Min. incremental motion 0.1 µm
  • Stress-relieved aluminum base for highest stability
PI N-480.210C0
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N-480 PiezoMike Linear Actuator

With Kinematic Mirror Mount

  • High stability
  • For optics with 0.5", 1" or 2" diameter
  • Compact design with integrated incremental encoder
  • Step size 1 µrad
  • Lifetime >1,000,000,000 steps
  • Vacuum-compatible versions to 10-6 hPa available
PI N-603
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N-603 Linear Positioning Stage for Closed-Loop Operation

Non-Magnetic and Vacuum-Compatible

  • Travel range 2 mm
  • Extremely low profile with only 7.4 mm for serial mounting
  • With position sensor for closed-loop operation
  • PiezoWalk® drive
  • For operation in strong magnetic fields
PI SF-450 PS
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SF-450 PS SpaceFAB

  • Six axes micro robot system
  • Compact, low profile system
  • Travel ranges linear 13 mm x 13 mm x 10 mm
  • Travel ranges rotation Rx, Ry, Rz 14° x 14° x 14°
  • Load capacity up to 1 kg center mounted
  • Pivot Point can be set by the user
  • User friendly software
  • Can be used by any modern programming language
  • Including software, controller and amplifiers

Controllers, Amplifiers, and Other Electronic Devices

In general, the control electronics is not suitable for being operated in the vacuum chamber. It has to be mounted outside of the chamber.



Catalog: PI Piezo Nano Positioning 2014/2015

pdf - 16 MB
pdf - 15 MB

Whitepaper: Motion Control and Precision Positioning in Vacuum Environments

pdf - 844 KB