11 ways piezoelectric motors improve equipment performance

Piezoelectric Motors Help Equipment Performance: Ten reasons to consider piezoelectric motors for motion control application follow, along with one more point that many motion system or product designers might not have considered. This is an August 2010 Control Engineering Inside Machines feature article.


Miniature piezo linear motor slide with on-board driver can reach velocities of 200 mm/sec. Source: Zebra Communications for Physik Instrumente L.P.High-precision and other rugged devices, such as those for medical-related applications, can be made smaller, more precise, lighter, and easier to control by employing piezoelectric motors instead of many electromagnetic motors. Ten reasons to consider piezoelectric motors in an application follow, along with one more point that many motion system or product designers might not have considered.

1. Higher force generation supports miniaturization: Piezoelectric motors are better suited for miniaturization. They can easily be made smaller and more compact than electromagnetic motors, yet for their size they provide greater force.

PZT disk is used in the Pari Pharma GmbH eFlow Rapid Electronic  Nebulizer. The atomizer head of the nebulizer uses an annular ultrasonic  piezo transducer. Source: Pari Pharma GmbHEfficiency of electromagnetic motors falls as their dimensions are reduced with more of the electrical power converted to heat. With piezoelectric motors, efficiency stays virtually constant. Being the same volume and weight, the stored energy density of a piezo motor is ten times greater than that of an electromagnetic motor. The most advanced versions of piezo motors are configured into extremely compact, high-speed micro-positioning stages that are smaller than a matchbox – the smallest piezo motor-driven stages are currently being used in autofocus devices for cell phone cameras. Because piezo motors provide a higher force per motor size, this has allowed equipment and instrumentation (including medical devices) to be reduced in size, while maintaining or increasing performance.

2. Improved positioning accuracy: The direct-drive principle of the piezo motor eliminates the need for a supplementary transmission or gear train often found in conventional electromagnetic motors. This avoids the usual backlash effects that limit accurate tracing, which creates a critical reduction in positioning accuracy in electromagnetic servo-motors. The mechanical coupling elements otherwise required to convert the rotary motion of classical motors to linear motion are not necessary. The intrinsic steady-state auto-locking capability of piezoelectric motors does away with servo dither inherent in electromagnetic motors. Piezo motors can be designed to hold their positions to nanometer accuracy, even when powered down.

3. Faster acceleration: Piezo devices can react within microseconds. Acceleration rates of more than 10,000 g (response times of 0.01 milliseconds) can be obtained.

4. No magnetic fields: Piezoelectric motors do not create electromagnetic interference, nor are they influenced by it, eliminating the need for magnetic shielding, beneficial for medical and biotechnology applications. This feature is particularly important for motors used within strong magnetic fields, such as with MRI equipment, where small piezo motors are used for MRI-monitored microsurgery and large piezo motors for rotating patients and equipment. Magnetic fields and metal components in conventional electronic motors make it impossible for motorized medical devices to function within MRI equipment.

5. No maintenance or lubrication, aseptic enabled: Piezo motion depends on crystalline effects and involves no rotating parts like gears or bearings, so piezo motors are maintenance free, without need for lubrication. They can be sterilized at high temperatures, a significant advantage in medical applications.

6. Reduced power consumption: Static operation, even holding heavy loads for long periods, consumes virtually no power. Also, since the efficiency of piezoelectric motors is not reduced by miniaturization, they are effective in the power range lower than 30 W. This makes piezo motors attractive for use in battery-operated, portable, and wearable medical devices because they can extend the life of a battery as much as 10 times longer.

7. No heat generation: When at rest, piezo motors generate no heat. Piezoelectric motors also eliminate servo dither and related heat generation, an undesirable feature of some electromagnetic motors.

8. Vacuum-compatible: Piezo motors are in principle vacuum-compatible, a requirement for many medical industry applications.

9. Operable at cryogenic temperatures: Piezoelectric motors continue to operate even at temperatures close to zero kelvin, making them suitable for operation in extremely cold environments, such as in medical laboratory storage facilities and in cryogenic research.

10. Nonflammable: Piezo motors are nonflammable and safer in the event of an overload or short circuit at the output terminal, a considerable advantage for portable and wearable medical devices.

One additional point that motion system designers may not have considered…

11. Power generation: Piezo devices can be used to harvest energy, such as using a person’s motion to power small medical or electrical devices, such as pacemakers or health monitors.

Physik Instrumente L.P. (PI) manufacturers nanopositioning, linear actuators, and precision motion-control equipment for photonics, nanotechnology, semiconductor, and life science applications; www.pi-usa.us. Jim McMahon writes about instrumentation technology for Zebra Communications; jim.mcmahon@zebracom.net. Edited by Mark T. Hoske, Control Engineering, www.controleng.com.

Also see:

A piezo stepping linear motion animation, a 17-second video, courtesy of Physik Instrumente;

Basic piezo technologies for motion control applications - includes 5 diagrams;

Piezo motors, actuators streamline medical device performance - includes 6 photos;

Machine Control Channel, Control Engineering; and

Machine Control Newsletter, Control Engineering.

The Top Plant program honors outstanding manufacturing facilities in North America. View the 2015 Top Plant.
The Product of the Year program recognizes products newly released in the manufacturing industries.
Each year, a panel of Control Engineering and Plant Engineering editors and industry expert judges select the System Integrator of the Year Award winners in three categories.
Doubling down on digital manufacturing; Data driving predictive maintenance; Electric motors and generators; Rewarding operational improvement
2017 Lubrication Guide; Software tools; Microgrids and energy strategies; Use robots effectively
Prescriptive maintenance; Hannover Messe 2017 recap; Reduce welding errors
The cloud, mobility, and remote operations; SCADA and contextual mobility; Custom UPS empowering a secure pipeline
Infrastructure for natural gas expansion; Artificial lift methods; Disruptive technology and fugitive gas emissions
Mobility as the means to offshore innovation; Preventing another Deepwater Horizon; ROVs as subsea robots; SCADA and the radio spectrum
Research team developing Tesla coil designs; Implementing wireless process sensing
Commissioning electrical systems; Designing emergency and standby generator systems; Paralleling switchgear generator systems
Natural gas engines; New applications for fuel cells; Large engines become more efficient; Extending boiler life

Annual Salary Survey

Before the calendar turned, 2016 already had the makings of a pivotal year for manufacturing, and for the world.

There were the big events for the year, including the United States as Partner Country at Hannover Messe in April and the 2016 International Manufacturing Technology Show in Chicago in September. There's also the matter of the U.S. presidential elections in November, which promise to shape policy in manufacturing for years to come.

But the year started with global economic turmoil, as a slowdown in Chinese manufacturing triggered a worldwide stock hiccup that sent values plummeting. The continued plunge in world oil prices has resulted in a slowdown in exploration and, by extension, the manufacture of exploration equipment.

Read more: 2015 Salary Survey

Maintenance and reliability tips and best practices from the maintenance and reliability coaches at Allied Reliability Group.
The One Voice for Manufacturing blog reports on federal public policy issues impacting the manufacturing sector. One Voice is a joint effort by the National Tooling and Machining...
The Society for Maintenance and Reliability Professionals an organization devoted...
Join this ongoing discussion of machine guarding topics, including solutions assessments, regulatory compliance, gap analysis...
IMS Research, recently acquired by IHS Inc., is a leading independent supplier of market research and consultancy to the global electronics industry.
Maintenance is not optional in manufacturing. It’s a profit center, driving productivity and uptime while reducing overall repair costs.
The Lachance on CMMS blog is about current maintenance topics. Blogger Paul Lachance is president and chief technology officer for Smartware Group.
The maintenance journey has been a long, slow trek for most manufacturers and has gone from preventive maintenance to predictive maintenance.
Featured articles highlight technologies that enable the Industrial Internet of Things, IIoT-related products and strategies to get data more easily to the user.
This digital report will explore several aspects of how IIoT will transform manufacturing in the coming years.
Maintenance Manager; California Oils Corp.
Associate, Electrical Engineering; Wood Harbinger
Control Systems Engineer; Robert Bosch Corp.
This course focuses on climate analysis, appropriateness of cooling system selection, and combining cooling systems.
This course will help identify and reveal electrical hazards and identify the solutions to implementing and maintaining a safe work environment.
This course explains how maintaining power and communication systems through emergency power-generation systems is critical.
click me