Practical Applications for Precision Electromechanics in Photonics


In a world of constant technological advances, the photonics industry is seeing rapid growth with no signs of a slow-down. Photonics is the branch of technology concerned with the properties and transmission of photons. Photons are applications involving a laser. Lasers often conjure up images of an evil scientist plotting to destroy an unsuspecting city with a “laser death ray.” To the contrary, laser applications are commonly used in many markets to improve the quality of life – think health care or autonomous cars.  


Laser-based applications in markets like:

  • Healthcare/life sciences

  • Consumer electronics

  • Semiconductor

  • Automotive

  • Machine building

  • Metal fabrication

  • 3D printing technology

  • Telecommunications (fiber optics)

Laser-based applications include:

  • Life science - DNA sequencing

  • Laser-based – cutting, ablation, scanning, 3D printing

  • Microscopy - electron scanning, focusing, etc.

  • High content throughput - cell imaging

  • Digital pathology

  • Metrology for electronics/semiconductor – laser line scanning and inspection

SPIE Photonics Trade Show

Precise motion requirements

Applications in the photonics industry usually require a precise motion control system to function properly. In addition to these sub-micron specifications, many applications require high speeds and long lengths of travel. To meet these requirements, a linear motor stage is usually the best option. Parker offers a range of linear motor stages to satisfy these application needs. From miniature linear stages such as the miniature square rail, mSR, to completely custom designs, we can provide the linear stage that provides speed and precision.

Parker’s products and expertise in this area are displayed annually at SPIE/Photonics West Exhibition, the world’s largest photonics technologies event in San Francisco. Among other exhibits, Parker demonstrates an XY custom system made of linear motor stages to simulate performance in laser-based applications including laser scribing/cutting and cellular scanning. Customer feedback continues to reiterate the need and desire for these products out in the field. Products need to be fast, accurate, and repeatable, with minimal abbe error, straightness error and flatness error. Parker has designed products specifically to provide precision specs above the industry standard, along with the drives and controllers to complete the motion system.


Precision Rotary ActuatorOther types of electromechanics also apply. Many applications still use a screw-driven stage on the Z-axis. Designers will choose this route since they usually do not require the precision or speed provided by a linear motor stage for this axis. The other advantage is that a magnetic counterbalance is not needed when the unit is not in use. Parker’s MX80S and MX45 series are ideal for these applications as they provide the needed precision at a reasonable price.




Rotation requirements

Customers may also require rotation in their applications, such as laser cutting or scanning. As with linear movement, speed and precision are key for rotation in laser-based applications. Making the rotary stage as small as possible is also a key factor. With that in mind, Parker’s miniature precision rotary, mPR, has been designed with small form factor (80 or 100mm diameter) while providing precise movements (resolution down to 0.01 microns) at high speeds (up to 600 RPM). Finally, many applications require simple manual slides that are adjusted via a micrometer. Parker’s manual slides have been around for 40 years and are a great fit for the photonics applications.
Photonics LabAs the photonics industry evolves and requires better motion control, Parker will adapt as well to continue learning and providing the best solutions possible to customers. We are excited about the future of photonics. For more information on products from Parker’s that support the photonics industry, visit our website
Patrick LehrArticle contributed by Patrick Lehr, product manager for precision mechanics, Electromechanical and Drives Division North America, Parker Hannifin Corporation. 


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