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PI is a leading manufacturer of precision motion control and automation systems, hexapod 6-axis parallel robotic stages, air bearing motion systems, Gantry Systems, 3D printing, laser machining, and piezoelectric nano-positioning solutions. Applications include photonics, semiconductor technology, medical engineering, assembly, inspection,

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The Critical Role of Vibration Control in Nanopositioning: Precision in the Infinitesimal

POSTED 07/28/2023

The revolution in nanotechnology has brought forth an era where precision at the molecular scale is vital. For applications involving next generation semiconductor production, test and measurement, silicon photonics, precision optics assembly, nanoscale manipulation, and manufacturing, precise motion control and positioning systems are of utmost importance. The nanopositioning systems, integral to this process, need to deliver exact positioning within nanometric scales. One major challenge affecting the performance of these systems is mechanical vibrations, making vibration control a paramount consideration in nanopositioning applications.


Video: Combining Motion with Active Vibration Control.  More information on the future of precision motion control


Nanopositioning and Its Importance

Before delving into the role of vibration control, it's crucial to understand nanopositioning. Nanopositioning involves moving objects or adjusting the position of objects at a nanometer (one-billionth of a meter) scale. It is vital in fields such as nanomanufacturing, microscopy, semiconductor technology, biotechnology, and photonics, where minuscule changes can dramatically affect outcomes.

The key element in a nanopositioning system is the stage, a platform that holds the object to be positioned. These stages need to provide high-speed, precise, and repeatable movements, often over a range of several micrometers to millimeters or more.

Vibration: The Arch-Nemesis of Nanopositioning

Due to the infinitesimal scale, nanopositioning is incredibly sensitive to disturbances, particularly mechanical vibrations. These can stem from various sources, such as surrounding machinery, air currents, acoustic waves, or even thermal fluctuations within the positioning system itself.

Vibrations can disrupt positioning accuracy and resolution, creating significant challenges in nanotechnology applications. For instance, a vibration of just a few nanometers can dramatically affect a scanning probe microscope's resolution, preventing it from accurately characterizing a sample's surface at the atomic level. Similarly, in nanomanufacturing processes like lithography, even minuscule vibrations can lead to product defects.

The Critical Role of Vibration Control

Effective vibration control is necessary to maintain the integrity and effectiveness of nanopositioning systems. Some reasons for its importance are:

  1. Increased Accuracy and Precision: Effective vibration control can drastically improve the accuracy and precision of nanopositioning systems. This enables better control over the positioning and movement of objects at the nanoscale, enhancing the quality of outcomes in various applications, from scientific research to industrial manufacturing.
  2. Improved Resolution: In applications such as microscopy, reducing vibrations can enhance the resolution of the images obtained, revealing more detailed and accurate information at the molecular or even atomic level.
  3. Better Reproducibility: In scientific research, the ability to reproduce results is key. By controlling vibrations, scientists can ensure that their experiments are not affected by external disturbances, improving the reliability and reproducibility of their results.

External and Internal Vibrations

There are two ways to control vibration – externally, which is a prerequisite to get good results. Here, pneumatic and also active, high-bandwidth piezoelectric vibration control systems are used. Then, vibrations can also be eliminated in a nanopositioning system, by integrating motion control with vibration control.  Self-generated vibrations can be reduced by better control algorithms, such as preshaping and especially with piezoelectric nanopositioning systems, piezoelectric properties allow both vibration sensing and active control at the same time.


The importance of vibration control in nanopositioning cannot be overstated. With the continued expansion of nanotechnology into various sectors, maintaining the utmost precision at the nanoscale is imperative. Consequently, effective vibration control strategies and technologies will continue to play a pivotal role in the successful implementation of nanopositioning systems, pushing the boundaries of what's possible in this realm of the infinitesimally small.