US EuroTek, Inc.

Amplifiers, DIA Converters, Electronic HV-Switches for Piezoelectric actuators

1. Introduction

Piezoelectrical actuators are innovative driving systems, which show increasing application potential for highly sophisticated driving/positioning tasks in a great variety of technological fields. The main areas of interest include

  • the extreme positioning sensitivity, enabling such systems to handle dimensions in the atomic scale
  • extreme force generation resulting for example in high acceleration rates during dynamic operation.

For some applications no practicable alternative to Piezoelectric actuators exist

Piezoelectric actuators are used for the ultraprecise positioning of components and mechanical setups ranging from low weight optical elements, up to heavy loads such as tooling machines. The newest scanning microscope technologies such as STMs, AFMs etc. require precise handling of probe tips with sub-nanometer precision, which can only done in a reasonable way by using Piezoelectric elements.

  • The high acceleration rates/short reaction times predestinate Piezoelectric elements for the control of fast processes in valve technology, fuel injection application, mechanical shaking excitation for test purposes with time periods/rise- times in the microseconds range.
  • Piezoelectric actuators are very attractive candidates for active vibration control and cancellation even in heavy and extended mechanical structures such as vehicles, airplanes, helicopters, ships. A special feature is the dual effect of piezoelectricity, which can be used both for sensing and actuating. Single element can therefore be used as smart transducers acting simultaneously as sensor and actuator.

General considerations for electronic supplies for Piezoelectric actuators:
In the simplest case a Piezoelectric actuator should move according to an external signal i.e. from a sinewave generator, or other source. In most cases, this original signal cannot be applied directly to the Piezoelectric actuator because voltage and power usually do not match the actuator's requirements. An amplifier has to be used to convert the signal to result in sufficient travel and dynamics of the actuator. This is an important aspect of actuator's application:
The adaptation of a Piezoelectric element to a distinct task is determined only in part by its mechanical properties and geometrical size. Equally important for the system's performance are the properties of the driving electronics. The same actuator can be used for completely different operating profiles depending only on the choice of the supply electronics:
Slow cycling of an actuator requires only a small low power supply, whereas pulsed operation i.e. generating mechanical shocks, needs supplies with peakpowers in the kilowatt range.

Computer control of actuators comprises an additional step:
the computer data has to be converted by a DIA converter of sufficient speed and resolution, and the low voltage signal is than amplified to the actuator's requirements.

fig-1.GIF (25392 bytes)

When designing a Piezoelectric actuated system the designer has to deal simultaneously with actuator and supply to get the optimum matching. A step-by-step definition whereby the actuator is first-chosen and then a subsequent selection of the supply may lead to costly and ineffective approaches.

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