Piezo actuators: 100 billion cycles without failures or loss in performance

Paul Boughton

The service life and reliability of piezo actuators strongly depends on the environmental conditions at the site of application.

Humidity, temperature and operating voltage are of considerable influence. The answer lies in optimised materials and manufacturing processes, appropriate design and the choice of suitable insulation.

For the PICMA actuators from PI Ceramic, the piezo ceramic is actually a monolithic block with active layers made up of thin ceramic films and surrounded by an all-ceramic insulating layer. This protects them from humidity and failure caused by an increase in leakage current.

In industry, life sciences, microscopy, medical technology and research, the multilayer actuators have proven their quality time and again: There are no failures observed in the field. “Quality awareness and careful process monitoring from powder to dispatch really do pay off”, says Dr Karl Spanner, CEO of PI (Physik Instrumente). “We ourselves have been using our subsidiary’s PICMA multilayer actuators for more than ten years in our piezo nanopositioning systems.”

Over the past two years, piezo actuators from Lederhose in Thuringia have even been proving their lifetime and performance on Mars. They are being used in the sample analysis system of the CheMin instrument in the Mars rover Curiosity.

The piezo actuators had to pass extensive qualification and testing prior to being allowed on board. The extensive NASA performance and service life tests showed that 96% of original displacement was still achieved after 100 billion (1011) cycles, thanks to the patented PICMA design.

Low operating voltage in the 100 V range, response times of a few µs and minimal power consumption while holding the position are further characteristics that make these reliable actuators suitable for many different applications.

Using modern production technologies, the multilayer actuators can be manufactured in virtually any shape. All-ceramic insulated, high-power piezo actuators: Durable even under challenging operating conditions. In industry, life sciences, microscopy, medical technology and research, the multilayer actuators prove their quality time and again.