Laser Positioning with Nanometre Precision

“For us, LASER – World of PHOTONICS is the most important trade fair for laser and scanning technology”, says Aerotech’s Managing Director Norbert Ludwig. “In Munich, we use this excellent platform to present our latest developments for laser processing to a broader audience of experts from all over the world.”

Higher rigidity, more dynamics and higher scan clock rates

With the AGV-SPO galvo scanner, Aerotech sets standards in the area of high-precision laser technology. Combined with Aerotech’s Integrated Granite Motion (IGM) positioning system, the laser scanner fully demonstrates its strengths. “Our IGM positioning tables are much more rigid due to the combination of the granite and the directly attached axes. Owing to the more flexible design, we can respond in a far better way to specific customer requirements”, says Norbert Ludwig about the first applications in the field.

The higher rigidity also affects the laser positioning accuracy. Since the dynamics are removed from the laser and transferred to the axes of the IGM, the scan clock rates and throughput increase significantly. “Our OEMs, who can replace the galvo scanner with IGM wherever the processing area is larger than the actual scan field, will benefit from this”, explains Norbert Ludwig. In addition, IGM also makes better use of the laser specification. Since the guide rails are screwed directly onto the granite, IGM systems are smaller than conventional positioning solutions, which saves floor space in the laboratory or clean room environment.

If an AGV scanner is integrated into the linear axes of an IGM, this will be done in the A3200 automation platform used as a plug-and-play extension of the XR3 high-performance controller and GL4 galvo controller. The coordinates can then be easily programmed. The advantage of this combination is that it can be programmed in XY, and the controller then automatically synchronises with the laser scanner, i.e. the image which the scanner travels through is split into scanner and XY movement. This improves the performance in the structure, errors are avoided and there is no stitching. Here, the so-called IFOV (Infinite Field of View) function comes into play, so that linear or rotational servo axes are synchronised with the laser scanner.

“The advantages of the combined AGV galvo scanner and IGM positioning system are clear: the system is very easy to program and offers a significantly better performance on both the scanner and the IGM”, explains Norbert Ludwig. At the fair, the IGM laser unit will be shown as an encapsulated version, i.e. for applications such as laser cutting, when extremely fine dusts occur.

Control of positioning systems made easy

Anyone using an optimised control platform reduces the development effort that does not add value and can supply their customers faster. With the “Automation1 Precision Machine and Motion Control Platform”, Aerotech heralds the future of precision motion and process tool control. It combines the control of positioning systems and their components on a platform equipped with a new software-based motion controller. The platform controls drives for servo motors, galvo scan heads, piezoelectric actuators and various other devices. Drives are connected via the HyperWire motion bus, the most powerful communications bus in the motion control industry - the best solution available on the market today with the highest speed, lowest jitter and high bandwidth. The Automation1 hardware has built-in digital and analog I/Os, allowing easy integration of complex motion and the associated control of process tools. “Automation1 is the future of motion control from Aerotech. The servomotor and galvo scan head drives already exceed all previous driver hardware from Aerotech”, says Norbert Ludwig. “Automation1 is setting new standards because it is the first motion control development environment that puts both user experience and precise motion at the forefront of product design.” According to Aerotech, the new platform supports today's growth markets for precision machinery and motion control and is particularly suited for automation systems, precision laser, test and inspection processes, and other applications where process control is closely coupled to motion control. Therefore, the new control and drive developments enable even better motion control optimisation with faster motion and settling times, better position stability and improved contouring performance.

With the new hardware products available, the Automation1 platform is a development environment with a modern programming language for motion control. The intuitive and easy-to-learn user interface sets a new standard in development environments for precision motion control. Multiple users can log in at the same time, which supports the collaboration of engineering teams. They can configure their own workflows, program and optimise motion sequences easily, and collaborate much more effectively. And since development costs are also significantly reduced, capacities are freed up for new projects. "Automation1 is the first motion control platform to offer a unique way to collaborate: multiple users can log in at the same time”, explains Norbert Ludwig.

New partner Micronix on board

The LASER trade show is the first event in Europe where Aerotech and its new partner Micronix will be present together. While Aerotech manufactures high-precision motion control components and systems for laboratory and industrial applications ranging from components such as motors, steppers, controllers and drives to complete multi-axis systems, Micronix produces miniature spindle drives, linear motors, voice coils and piezo steppers for a variety of industrial and research applications. Micronix’s core competence is the production of micro- and nanopositioning components in the areas of biomedicine, research, optics and others. Specialties are small linear and rotary tables, which are considerably smaller than typical components. Within this partnership, Micronix and Aerotech will now sell and market each other’s products. “Micronix’s modular approach to miniature nanopositioning applications expands our nanopositioning product portfolio and enables us to address additional automation applications”, says Brian O'Connor, Director of Product and Market Development at Aerotech Inc.