Important Facts About Piezoelectric Linear Actuator Technology

An actuator is essentially a motor that uses an energy source to generate or control motion. This energy source could be in the form of an electric current or even pressurized air. A linear actuator creates motion in a straight line as opposed to the rotary motion created by a conventionally-used electric motor.

While there are many different types of linear actuators, piezoelectric actuators are the first choice when precise motion, high resolution, and responsiveness are vital parameters.

Such actuators are made from PZT materials. These materials generate a certain amount of motion when an electrical voltage is applied to them. The opposite is also true with piezoelectric materials that generate a charge with a pressurized. The word piezo in fact is derived from the Greek word for pressure.

Piezoelectric actuators in precision positioning systems

Nearly all nano precision positioning systems used in the demanding industrial, scientific, medical, instrumentation and other applications are enabled by the piezoelectric effect. The performance of the actuator ultimately depends on the quality of piezoelectric ceramics being used, the mechanical construction of the actuator, the position feedback and the supporting digital controls. Piezoelectric actuators offer a long service life, which is another reason for their popularity.

The demand for high-quality piezoelectric precision motion devices is fulfilled by certain specialized firms. There are only a few leading players in this sector that control every single aspect of the manufacture of precision motion devices from actuators to linear slide positioners and complete multi-axis motion systems. Few firms also control their own ceramic manufacturing unit for tighter quality control. A linear actuator manufactured with high quality ceramics according to the latest design technology could considerably outlast other regular actuators.

Advantages of piezoelectric actuators

A piezo actuator enables precisely controllable motion in the sub nanometer realm. Smooth and responsive movement can be achieved with a minute change in the operating voltage. Stiction or friction does not bear an influence over the motion in such a case. Thus, the user can expect sub-atomic resolution from a piezoelectric actuator or linear slide.

The endurance demonstrated by such actuators is exemplary. Certain manufacturers have put their actuators through billions of movement cycles and haven’t recorded signs of any change in performance. This can be explained by the fact that a piezoelectric actuator doesn’t comprise wearing mechanical components such as gears or rotating shafts.

Another important advantage is that such actuators are capable of generating force of 10,000N or more depending on the way they are designed. Large load bearing capacity and precision motion capabilities are a formidable combination for the most complex applications. Moreover, these actuators can operate efficiently even at cryogenic temperatures.

Furthermore, a piezoelectric linear actuator has an exceedingly fast response time down to the micro second range. Piezo actuators remain unaffected by magnetic fields or high vacuum environments, as the piezo effect is based on an electric field. These actuators are sterile, require no lubricants and are highly suited for use in clean rooms too, making them rather popular in medical, pharmaceutical, and the semi conductor industry.

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