- Products & Systems
Additive manufacturing is disrupting the manufacturing paradigm by fundamentally altering the traditional subtractive process of material removal. Instead of cutting, drilling, molding or machining raw materials, additive manufacturing builds objects layer by layer, directly from digital designs. This approach reduces waste, allows for complex geometries impossible with traditional methods, accelerates prototyping, and customizes production, revolutionizing industries by enabling rapid, efficient, and on-demand creation of intricate parts and products.
As additive manufacturing evolves into a production technology, precision and repeatability become increasingly crucial factors. In prototyping, minor deviations might be acceptable, but in production, consistency and accuracy are paramount. Precise layer-by-layer material deposition ensures that complex geometries are faithfully reproduced, meeting stringent design specifications. Moreover, as industries like aerospace, medical devices, and automotive rely on additive manufacturing for end-use parts, components must meet tight tolerances to ensure safety, performance, and compatibility within larger systems.
Repeatability guarantees that each part manufactured is virtually indistinguishable from the next, essential for assembly line integration and quality control. This consistency minimizes errors, reduces waste, and streamlines production processes. As additive manufacturing gains traction in fields with high-volume manufacturing demands, such as consumer goods and electronics, the ability to consistently replicate intricate and intricate structures amplifies the technology’s viability as a reliable alternative to traditional manufacturing methods.
THE ROLE OF MOTION CONTROL
Ultra-precise motion control systems are integral components within additive manufacturing machines, playing a critical role in achieving the high levels of precision required for producing complex and functional end-use parts. These systems govern the movement of print heads, build platforms, and other critical components with microscopic accuracy, ensuring that material deposition is exact and consistent across each layer of the printed object. By tightly controlling movements and positions, these systems minimize deviations and errors that could compromise the final product’s quality.
In additive manufacturing, precision is essential to create intricate structures, maintain fine tolerances, and achieve optimal surface finishes. Ultra-precise motion control systems contribute to precision by facilitating intricate adjustments, enabling rapid changes in direction and speed, and dynamically responding to real-time feedback from sensors. These systems eliminate the potential for vibrations, oscillations, or jitters that might degrade print quality. Furthermore, they enable additive manufacturing machines to compensate for variations in material properties, environmental conditions, and other factors that could impact the outcome of the printing process.
The seamless coordination of ultra-precise motion control systems with other critical components, such as advanced sensors and real-time monitoring, ensures that each layer of material is deposited with exceptional precision, resulting in complex geometries, functional prototypes, and end-use parts that meet the stringent requirements of industries embracing additive manufacturing for production purposes.
THE MOTION CONTROL RELATIONSHIP
An additive manufacturing machine manufacturer relies heavily on their motion control technology supplier to deliver a range of critical components and capabilities. First and foremost, precision is paramount. The supplier must offer motion control systems capable of nanometer-level precision to ensure that intricate layers of material are deposited with impeccable precision, allowing the creation of complex geometries and intricate details that meet exacting design specifications. This precision guarantees the production of high-quality end-use parts.
Additionally, repeatability is essential for consistent results in additive manufacturing. The motion control technology should provide exceptional repeatability, enabling the production of identical parts across different manufacturing runs. This consistency is crucial for industries like aerospace and medical devices, where quality assurance and regulatory compliance are of highest importance. The supplier must also offer advanced closed-loop feedback systems, integrating sensors and real-time monitoring to ensure that any deviations or errors are promptly detected and corrected during the printing process.
Furthermore, adaptability and scalability are key considerations. The additive manufacturing industry is rapidly evolving, with machines becoming larger, faster, and more sophisticated. The motion control technology supplier must offer solutions that can accommodate various machine sizes and types, seamlessly integrating with evolving printer architectures. This adaptability is essential as manufacturers seek to optimize productivity, reduce downtime, and accommodate new materials and processes. Lastly, collaboration and support are critical aspects. A reliable supplier should offer comprehensive technical support, training, and a partnership mindset, enabling manufacturers to optimize the integration of motion control systems into their additive manufacturing machines, ultimately contributing to the success of their products in the market.
MOTION CONTROL – THE SPECIFICS
Additive manufacturing machines typically employ a combination of linear stages, gantries, rotary stages, and multi-axis systems to control the positioning of print heads, build platforms, and other critical elements.
Linear Stages. High-precision linear stages are a critical component in additive manufacturing machines, facilitating controlled and precise movement along straight paths. These stages employ advanced technologies such as precision linear bearings, ball screws, and linear direct drives to ensure smooth and accurate translation of print heads or build platforms. By maintaining tight tolerances, these stages guide the deposition process with exceptional precision, allowing for consistent layer-by-layer material placement.
In additive manufacturing, accurate layer deposition is vital to achieving the desired object’s geometry and structural integrity. High-precision linear stages play a pivotal role in ensuring that each layer of material is positioned accurately based on the digital design. This level of control minimizes deviations and errors, resulting in printed parts that match the intended specifications. Whether it’s the intricate details of a complex model or the precise alignment of critical features, the capability of high-precision linear stages to enable controlled movement along straight paths significantly contributes to the reliability and quality of additive manufacturing processes.
Gantries. Gantries achieve highly accurate and controlled movements in industrial applications such as additive manufacturing. They serve the critical role of precisely positioning various components, such as print heads, build platforms, or other tools, in a coordinated manner during manufacturing processes. By executing intricate motion paths with minimal deviations, gantries ensures that the deposition of materials or the manipulation of objects follows predetermined trajectories with micron- or sub-micron level precision. This level of control contributes to producing complex and accurate 3D-printed objects, enhancing product quality, dimensional accuracy, and overall manufacturing efficiency.
Rotary Stages. A rotational correction is a common feature within additive manufacturing machines. These stages are designed to rotate objects or components with exceptional accuracy, making them well-suited for applications like continuous 360-degree printing, where cylindrical objects or structures require uniform coverage. Rotary stages allow the print head or material deposition mechanism to apply material around the entire circumference of the object, ensuring even distribution of material and consistent layer deposition.
Furthermore, rotary stages enable precise angular adjustments in additive manufacturing processes. Objects with intricate geometries, overhangs, or complex contours often necessitate controlled rotation to enable the deposition of material at specific angles. Rotary stages provide the necessary flexibility to position the object accurately, allowing the material to be deposited in alignment with the intended design, resulting in high-quality prints with intricate features and precise details. The versatility of rotary stages in enabling both continuous rotation and precise angular adjustments significantly enhances the capabilities of additive manufacturing machines, enabling the production of a wide range of complex parts and components.
Multi-Axis Systems. Multi-axis systems play a pivotal role in enabling complex and intricate movements. These systems involve multiple coordinated axes of motion, allowing for simultaneous control of translation, rotation, and even tilting of components. Multi-axis configurations are particularly important for producing objects with overhangs, undercuts, and complex geometries, as they provide the necessary flexibility to deposit material at various angles and orientations. These systems are crucial in ensuring that the printed structures maintain their integrity and quality throughout the printing process.
Closed Loop Feedback. Closed-loop feedback mechanisms are integral to motion control systems in additive manufacturing machines. These systems incorporate sensors, encoders, and real-time monitoring to continuously measure and correct deviations from the desired positions. By providing immediate feedback to the control system, closed-loop systems minimize errors and inaccuracies, ensuring that the printed objects adhere to precise design specifications. As the additive manufacturing industry advances, motion control systems continue to evolve, integrating advanced technologies such as predictive algorithms, machine learning, and adaptive control strategies to further enhance precision, speed, and overall performance during the printing process.
Additive manufacturing applications demand ultra-precise motion control solutions like those offered by ALIO Industries due to the intricate layer-by-layer deposition process, necessitating nanometer-level accuracy to ensure high-quality and repeatable results. Moreover, partnership and customization of motion systems are essential for innovating next-generation additive manufacturing machines that push the boundaries of speed, accuracy, and versatility. Collaborative efforts between manufacturers and motion control suppliers enable the integration of tailored solutions, addressing unique challenges and unlocking novel capabilities in 3D printing, ultimately driving the future of the industry and enabling breakthroughs in various sectors.
(29th August 2023, Arvada, CO, USA) ALIO Industries — leading nanometer-level motion control system innovator — is well known for having developed mechanical bearing linear motion systems that can perform at levels that alternative “air” bearing stages struggle to attain. This is down to the company’s focus on 6-D Nano Precision®.
The newly published standard developed by the AMSE (B5.64 standard “Methods for the Performance Evaluation of Single Axis Linear Positioning Systems) seems to finally accept that to accurately characterize the repeatability of such high-end motion systems, a systematic process must be used to characterize the point repeatability of a stage along the entire axis, something ALIO has been advocating for over a decade.
Precision linear motion systems provide highly accurate linear motion along x, y or z axes. They typically consist of a linear guide rail, a carriage or slider, and a drive system. The guide rail provides support and guidance for the carriage, while the drive system creates the force necessary to move the carriage along the rail.
By adding precision ingredients like high resolution encoders, state-of-the-art machining, nano-precise metrology and tuning procedures, these systems can be used in a variety of applications where high accuracy and smooth operation are required, such as in semiconductor manufacturing, precision machining, and optical inspection.
Bill Hennessey, President of ALIO Industries says, “Because of the exacting nature of the applications where linear motion systems are used, it is vital that they can achieve ultra-high levels of repeatable accuracy. This is why ALIO’s linear motion products have been designed and manufactured to have no equal in terms of performance and reliability. The ‘6-D’ in 6-D Nano Precision® refers to the 6 dimensions of motion; linear, straightness, flatness, pitch, yaw and roll. Nano Precision refers to documented proof of performance at or below the +/- 450 nm level. 6-D Nano Precision® means the documented proof of performance over all 6 degrees of freedom of a body in motion at the nanometer level of precision. We are delighted that the new ASME standard recognises the importance of this approach, and it helps differentiate our linear motion systems from those designed and built to the 2-D world of planar repeatability and accuracy.”
All motion systems operate in 3-dimensional space and have errors in 6 degrees of freedom (6-DOF). However, motion systems are often only characterized by performance data of a single or subset of these 6-DOF. This practice leaves several error sources unaccounted for in performance data and specifications. ALIO contends that repeatability performance for metrology inspection and manufacturing systems must be analyzed and specified using a “point repeatability” method that accounts for 6D spatial errors in order to provide true representation of nanometer-precision performance. The ASME B5.64 standard for motion metrology shows that today standards organisations also see its importance.
Hennessey concludes, “The increasing precision of linear motion systems in particular and all motion systems in general requires a new language which transcends the use of terms like ‘precision’ and ‘resolution’ without any degree of qualification. ALIO’s use of Point Precision® and 6-D Nano Precision, and now the newly published ASME standard, redefine the way precision motion systems are measured. All such initiatives or activities in this area are ultimately of enormous benefit for end-users who should be able to specify solutions that can truly achieve what they need in respect of precision and repeatability. ALIO does not build legacy products and is acutely aware of the 6-dimensional errors associated with simple linear motion. As such, we design and manufacture our linear motion stages with these issues in sharp focus with unique manufacturing techniques and leading-edge components tested to NIST traceable nano results.”
All of ALIO’s linear stage product families exhibit world class performance, component choice being dictated by the demands of exacting applications and cost sensitivity.
(25th July 2023, Arvada, CO, USA) Precision motion control systems play a vital role in ensuring high quality and consistency in micro-electronic assembly and testing, particularly when it comes to accurate and repeatable positioning of test probes. ALIO Industries (an Allient Company) is at the forefront of innovation in this area, and is able to provide motion systems that meet the incredibly exacting requirements that are common-place in such applications.
In micro-electronic assembly, the components are incredibly small and delicate, requiring precise placement and alignment. Precision motion control systems, equipped with advanced servo motors and encoders, enable micro-electronic manufacturers to position test probes with micron-level accuracy, reducing the risk of misalignment and potential damage to the sensitive components. This accuracy is critical for verifying the functionality of each individual component and ensuring that they work flawlessly within the intricate circuitry of electronic devices.
In addition, micro-electronic testing demands a high degree of consistency to detect even the slightest defects or variations in performance. Precision motion control systems allow for repeatable positioning of test probes during testing processes, ensuring that each component is examined under identical conditions.
By minimizing positional errors, these systems enable reliable and consistent data collection, reducing the likelihood of false positives or negatives in the testing results. This level of consistency is essential in producing reliable electronic devices, as any deviation or inconsistency in testing could lead to faulty products and costly recalls.
Bill Hennessey, President of ALIO Industries says, “The scale of the components being manipulated when testing and assembling micro electronic devices is regularly on the order of micrometers requiring reliable positioning in the low two-digit nanometers. At such small scales, even the slightest inaccuracies in positioning can lead to faulty connections, misaligned components, or inaccurate test results. At ALIO, we innovate high precision nanometer-level motion solutions that can overcome the challenges of testing and assembling micro-electronic devices by employing advanced technologies and design principles. Our solutions incorporate the most accurate linear motors on the market and high-resolution encoders to achieve nanometer-level positioning accuracy. Ironless linear motors offer precise and fast motion with outstanding responsive control at high bandwidths, ensuring that even the tiniest adjustments are made accurately. High-resolution encoders provide real-time feedback, allowing for closed-loop control and immediate correction of any positioning deviations.”
ALIO’s solutions also integrate sophisticated control algorithms and error compensation techniques to enhance accuracy further. Advanced control algorithms optimize motion trajectories, ensuring smooth and accurate movements. Error compensation techniques identify and correct systematic errors, such as thermal effects or nonlinearities, which can adversely affect positioning accuracy. By combining these technologies, ALIO’s high precision nanometer-level motion solutions can reliably and consistently address the challenges posed by microelectronic assembly and testing at such minuscule scales.
Hennessey continues, “ALIO’s rotary and linear motion systems provide high precision down to the nanometer level; excellent bi-directional repeatability, high levels of precision and accuracy, even after thousands or millions of cycles; fast response time, quickly responding to changes in position requirements, allowing for efficient and rapid testing and assembly processes; and minimal backlash ensuring that positioning remains accurate and consistent, even when changes in direction are required. As such, our precision motion control systems are indispensable tools in micro-electronic assembly and testing, guaranteeing the utmost accuracy and repeatability in positioning test probes and contributing to the overall quality and reliability of electronic products.
ALIO’s team of experts can be contacted today to discuss your specific testing and assembly requirements.
ALIO Industries, an Allient company, is a leader in producing high-precision motion control systems with ultra-precise point and path positioning performance that is NIST-traceable. The company’s off-the-shelf and customized motion control solutions are the most precise and repeatable in the world, all backed by the industry’s first 3-year warranty. In this article Bill Hennessey, Founder and President of ALIO Industries gives his views on the ever changing and evolving demand for more and more precise motion control solutions, and discusses his and ALIO’s approach to the creation of technology that stimulates innovation across industry.
Q. Can you provide an overview of ALIO and its core focus as an ultra-precise motion control specialist technology supplier?
BH. From day one ALIO’s focus was to push the nanometer envelop using novel ideas from machining to assembly. Personally, I thought nanometer-level motion control was needed as far back as the JDS Uniphase Corporation (JDSU) days in the 1990s when they were designing and manufacturing a variety of products for optical communications networks. The Dense wavelength-division multiplexing (DWDM) optical transmission technology that took over from the JDSU technologies in the 2000s definitely needed nanometer-level motion control. For industries such as this where precision was so vital, quality was also a must as were motion control solutions that were robust industrial products not just devices to be used in a lab. I used my machine tool and industrial robots background to build quality, precise motion control systems that were fit for high volume manufacturing scenarios. At the same time as we applied for the patent for our novel Piezo Hybrid Hexapod, along came Dense Wavelength-Division Multiplexing (DWDM) optical transmission technology, and this industry suddenly did not need as many devices since a fiber could now carry many different channels.
Q. What factors do you believe have contributed to ALIO’s success in the motion control industry?
BH. We stayed the course and never sacrificed our integrity, focus, or reputation for quality by compromising the exacting precision levels that we pioneered. We have lost many orders over the years by telling customers the truth about what they could expect in terms of precision. Customers ending up with inappropriate or sub-optimal motion control solutions does nothing for the reputation of the entire motion control sector, and with this in mind we continue to put honesty in customer dialogue beyond anything else. From this, creating and providing pragmatic solutions that meet customer expectations can follow.
Q. Could you share some examples of how ALIO’s motion control solutions have delivered significant benefits to customers compared to traditional alternatives?
BH. We provide game changing products that are disruptive due their precision and quality across an array of industries and applications. Unfortunately, due to the strategic nature of the motion control solutions that we provide, we are usually unable to give specific details. However, I can tell you that we have customers that not only restrict us from mentioning them, but who ask (or even offer to pay a premium) for us not to place our name on the motion control systems we have supplied them so they can protect their technological advantage.
Q. What are the key application areas that ALIO is currently focused on in terms of providing ultra-precise motion control solutions?
BH. Metrology has always been an ALIO specialty, with the world’s top metrology companies using out products as their internal reference systems, and some as their OEM system. Ultra-fast laser processing, digital pathology, genome sequencing and a lot of semiconductor processing applications represent our key markets today.
Q. Are there any particular industries or sectors where ALIO’s technology has found the most success and impact?
BH. There are many, but in the area of Digital Pathology we perhaps exhibit our prowess most obviously. To ensure accurate and complete tissue sample analysis, high bi-directional repeatability to target small tissue areas is needed in digital pathology applications. ALIO provides monolithic, low-profile, open-center X, Y, Z electromagnetic driven stages for such applications, promoting high speed, high throughput, and low friction in a small footprint, scan times being reduced allowing better pre-scan images. Digital pathology is all about parallel paths or a serpentine motion to capture all the data points. ALIO is novel in that our straightness is superior to all other motion control options for this application. This promotes the compiling of data in one pass impossible if stages cannot move parallel with less than 2-3 micron variation. This also make for more precise data since it does not need to be calculated by 6 sigma algorithms that are necessary to get a result from poor motion performance.
We also excel in areas like 4K and 8K lens assembly, measuring optics for satellites, laser cutting of gems or sapphire, and genome sequencing all of which require exacting precision and / or the requirement to capture data at record speeds.
Q. How does ALIO stay ahead of emerging trends and technology advancements in the field of ultra-precise motion control?
BH. ALIO began focusing on nanometer-level motion control some 21 years ago, so we never stop thinking of the next generation trends and technologies. At this time, I would say that we are a decade in front of the competition. Without giving away too much, we are always looking at ways to measure and assemble new kinematic motion control solutions with novel materials, and this is an area of particular focus at the moment.
Novel materials can exhibit unique properties such as high stiffness, low thermal expansion, and exceptional dimensional stability, allowing for enhanced precision and accuracy in motion control applications. By incorporating these materials into the design of such systems, it becomes possible to minimize unwanted vibrations, reduce friction, and mitigate the effects of thermal fluctuations, thereby improving overall system performance. Furthermore, the introduction of novel materials can enable the development of miniaturized, lightweight systems with improved reliability, responsiveness, and energy efficiency, opening up new possibilities for advanced motion control in fields such as robotics, microscopy, and precision manufacturing.
Q. What is the company’s strategy for staying innovative and continuously improving its motion control solutions?
BH. Continuous improvement for us at ALIO is like breathing. We are always seeking to improve, and we always ensure we have a team of engineers at the top of their game.
Specifically, we promote continuous improvement by fostering a culture of innovation, collaboration, and feedback. We invest in research and development to explore emerging technologies, novel materials, and advanced algorithms that can enhance the precision, accuracy, and performance of our motion control systems. We actively engage with customers and industry experts to gather feedback and insights, allowing us to identify areas for improvement and address specific customer needs. This feedback-driven approach enables us to iterate on our designs, incorporate user-centric features, and refine our manufacturing processes. Additionally, we prioritize ongoing training and development for members of our team, ensuring they stay updated with the latest advancements and can contribute to the continuous improvement efforts.
By embracing this holistic approach, as an ultra-precise motion control solution provider we can remain at the forefront of innovation, consistently delivering state-of-the-art solutions that exceed customer expectations.
Q. Can you provide insights into any ongoing research and development efforts at ALIO aimed at advancing ultra-precise motion control?
BH. The challenge for ALIO is trying as far as possible to mitigate the costs of materials and software etc… that allows our nanometer-level precision motion control systems to operate in scenarios where environmental conditions in industrial settings are not ideal.
Building ultra-precise motion control systems operating in environmental conditions that include thermal deviations and vibrations poses significant challenges. The presence of thermal fluctuations introduces unpredictable dimensional changes in the system, requiring careful thermal management strategies to minimize their impact on positioning accuracy. Vibrations, whether originating from internal or external sources, can disrupt the delicate motion control mechanisms and degrade overall performance.
Addressing these challenges requires a combination of meticulous mechanical design, sophisticated control algorithms, and the use of specialized materials with low thermal expansion and high stiffness to minimize the effects of thermal deviations and vibrations. Additionally, advanced sensing and feedback systems, such as precision accelerometers and encoders, are necessary to continuously monitor and compensate for any disturbances, enabling the system to maintain the desired nanometer-level precision even in challenging environmental conditions.
Q. What steps does ALIO take to ensure that its customers achieve optimal results and maximize the performance of the motion control systems they purchase?
BH. Every machined part and indeed every assembly gets tested and approved before it leaves our facility. Most suppliers test stages not motion systems. But how can a customer be confident in a motion system that hasn’t been tested as solution. It is effectively nothing other than several individually tested stages stacked together, hoping the performance of individual stages have not been compromised in the process. By testing every motion systems before delivery we ensure it works perfectly on day one at the customer’s facility.
We also have a metrology lab that has few equals, and we have developed over the years our Point Precision® approach to motion metrology that has recently been adopted into ASME B5.64 standard for motion metrology.
All motion systems operate in 3-dimensional space and have errors in 6 degrees of freedom (6-DOF). However, motion systems are often only characterized by performance data of a single or subset of these 6-DOF. This practice leaves several error sources unaccounted for in performance data and specifications. ALIO has contended for over 20 years that repeatability performance for metrology inspection and manufacturing systems must be analyzed and specified using a “point repeatability” method that accounts for 6D spatial errors in order to provide true representation of nanometer-precision performance. The ASME B5.64 standard for motion metrology shows that today standards organisations also see its importance.
Q. What do you believe sets ALIO apart from other motion control technology suppliers in terms of its approach, expertise, or customer-centricity?
BH. Well, quite simply we have been doing this for 21 years, and the mission has always been the same, nanometer-level precision and quality . We always think out of the box, which is reflected in the definition of ALIO…. a new and better way!
We have never built a product without a customer application in mind. Where most build standard products, we have developed our portfolio of motion control solutions based on real world applications.
Q. In your opinion, what are the key qualities or factors that customers should consider when selecting a motion control solutions provider, and how does ALIO excel in those areas?
BH. Never take spec sheets from our competition at face value. Many quote “best-case” precision data, not the precision that can be met day in and day out repeatably.
Also, ask about warranty. If it is one year, then run for the hills. Customer application development can take years, so they need support for a long time to get over the learning curve.
In addition, ask your shortlisted supplier if they can prove they have what it takes to meet or exceed your requirements. Point Precision® in the ASME B5.64 standard is one way to make sure the product meets your need for the application. A reliance on old school planar data can be misleading, and in worst case scenarios can kill off projects due to under-performance.
Finally, look for evidence of a state-of-the-art metrology lab, and also a cleanroom for next-level assembly required by and increasing number of applications across industry.
If all of the above can be answered and demonstrated positively then you can only be at our facilities in Arvada. We look forward to working with you!!
ALIO Industries is proud to announce that it has just introduced an ISO Class 8 cleanroom to its Arvada, CO facilities with ISO Class 5 (US FED STD 209E: Class 100) workstations.
The cleanroom has been commissioned due to a substantial increase in demand for cleanroom manufacturing and handling, and the facility is fully equipped to handle vacuum and cleanroom products and requirements.
Peter Lehner, Director of Sales and Marketing at ALIO says, “Most of the demand for cleanroom manufacturing is driven by customers in the semiconductor, micro-electronics, and medical industries. Our new cleanroom not only enables contamination control, ensuring the production environment has minimal airborne particles that could compromise product quality (critical for industries that demand high levels of cleanliness to prevent defects or failures in motion control devices), but it also maintains process consistency by offering controlled conditions. The cleanroom simplifies adherence to industry expectations, standards and regulations, and also instills customer confidence by showcasing our commitment to quality, precision, and customer satisfaction for which ALIO is renowned.”
The cleanroom is another in a series of significant investments undertaken by ALIO which also includes on-going investment in maintaining and optimizing its metrology lab and equipment, allowing the company to guarantee the unique one-of-a-kind nanometer-level precision attainment for which it is world famous.
Bryan McCloskey, Operations Manager at ALIO says, “The continuous investment into lean manufacturing principles, our new cleanroom, and our growing metrology lab demonstrates our commitment to quality, cleanliness, and precision. Customers can trust our consistent and reliable products, innovative approach, adherence to standards, and long-term partnership potential, making them confident in receiving the highest-quality motion control solutions.”
(June 5th 2023, Arvada, CO, USA) Additive manufacturing (AM) is crucial for manufacturers today because it enables the production of highly complex and customized parts that are difficult or impossible to achieve with traditional manufacturing methods. It offers increased design freedom, faster prototyping, reduced material waste, and the ability to create on-demand, decentralized production networks, all of which contribute to enhanced efficiency and competitiveness in the modern manufacturing landscape. AM has long disrupted the prototyping stage of product development, but recent advances in speed of operation, improved materials, and optimization software, now see AM becoming a disruptive force in production scenarios.
High-end, precise motion control systems are critical for the accuracy of additive manufacturing (AM) technologies due to their ability to deliver precise and coordinated movements of components. In AM, layer-by-layer deposition or selective laser sintering/melting requires precise control over the motion of the build platform, printhead, or laser. The accuracy of these movements directly affects the final dimensional accuracy and quality of the printed parts. With the right motion control systems, manufacturers can achieve tight tolerances, ensuring that each layer is accurately positioned and aligned, resulting in precise geometries and dimensional accuracy.
“Furthermore, precise motion control systems play a crucial role in minimizing errors, defects, and inconsistencies in the AM process”, says President of ALIO Industries Bill Hennessey. “Any deviations or inaccuracies in the motion can lead to misalignment, overextrusion, or insufficient material deposition, compromising the integrity and quality of the printed parts. High-end motion control systems offer advanced feedback mechanisms, such as encoders or sensors, that provide real-time position feedback to the control system. This feedback enables closed-loop control, allowing for immediate adjustments and corrections during the printing process, thereby ensuring accurate and consistent deposition of material layer by layer.”
As AM transitions from a prototype to a production technology, the importance of precise motion control solutions increases significantly. In prototyping, the focus is often on creating functional proofs-of-concept or small-scale models, where tolerances and accuracy requirements may be more relaxed. However, as AM evolves into a production technology, the need for precise motion control becomes paramount.
In production-scale AM, there is a higher demand for consistent and repeatable quality across large quantities of parts. Precise motion control ensures that each layer is accurately positioned, minimizing dimensional variations and maintaining the desired geometries throughout the production process. This level of control becomes crucial in achieving tight tolerances and dimensional accuracy, which is essential for meeting the specifications and requirements of end-use parts.
Moreover, precise motion control solutions play a vital role in optimizing production efficiency. As AM is adopted for production applications, speed and productivity become key factors. Precise control over the motion of components allows for optimized path planning, reduced unnecessary movements, and faster deposition rates. This increased efficiency leads to higher throughput and cost-effectiveness in production scenarios. Hennessey concludes, “ALIO Industries serves as a crucial one-stop-shop for all positioning requirements in AM applications, offering a comprehensive range of motion solutions. Our diverse portfolio, including XY-stages, 6D Hybrid Hexapods, gantries, and fully assembled motion solutions, caters to the varied needs of AM practitioners, simplifying the selection and integration process. By providing a single source for positioning components, ALIO streamlines procurement, ensures compatibility, and facilitates technical support, ultimately enhancing operational efficiency and reliability for AM system developers and operators.”
(May 26th 2023, Arvada, CO, USA) The demand for nanometer-capable stages is increasing exponentially as the trend to achieve greater precision and control in metrology and Nano Metrology applications continues.
With the advent of cutting-edge sensor technologies, measurement capabilities have become increasingly sensitive, enabling the detection and characterization of minute features and deviations in samples. To leverage the full potential of these advanced sensors, it is essential to have motion control stages that can move the samples or sensors with extreme precision and stability.
The ability to traverse several hundred millimeters while maintaining nanometer-level accuracy opens up new possibilities for research, quality control, and manufacturing processes that require intricate measurements and fine adjustments. As a result, the development of nanometer-capable stages has become crucial to meet the demands of modern metrology and unlock further advancements in various industries.
Any inaccuracies or errors in the motion can significantly affect the measurement results. Even minor deviations or vibrations during the movement of the sensors can introduce unwanted noise and artifacts, compromising the overall accuracy of the measurements.
“To overcome this challenge, motion systems must be engineered with exceptional precision and stability. They need to be capable of achieving sub-nanometer resolution and maintaining tight tolerances throughout the entire range of motion. By surpassing the accuracy of the sensors, these high-precision motion systems ensure that the measurements obtained are not limited or compromised by the motion itself, enabling researchers and industries to achieve the highest level of measurement accuracy possible,” explains ALIO Industries President Bill Hennessey
For such applications, ALIO provides its vertical Z-stages and monolithic XY bases. ALIO’s Z-stages stands out with their innovative design, offering a vertical solution that is completely linear-based and delivers performance comparable to air-bearing systems.
Hennessey continues, “What sets ALIO’s Z-stage apart is its exceptional precision, surpassing traditional Z-wedge solutions by an order of magnitude. This means that our Z-stage can achieve unparalleled levels of accuracy and stability in vertical positioning applications.”
By eliminating the drawbacks associated with traditional Z-wedge mechanisms, such as non-linearity and mechanical hysteresis, ALIO’s unique design ensures consistent and reliable vertical movement with sub-nanometer resolution, opening up new possibilities for nano-metrology applications and nanotechnology, semiconductor manufacturing, and optics manufacturing, enabling OEMs to achieve levels of performance that were previously unattainable with conventional solutions.
Using a vertical Z-stage on a monolithic XY base allows the customer’s payload to be mounted directly on the top of the stage in-line with the motor, encoder, bearings, and counterbalance, thus minimizing overhanging brackets and greatly reducing potential Abbé errors (optical distortions that occur due to the variation in focal lengths for different wavelengths of light, resulting in color fringing and reduced image sharpness).
ALIO’s XY monolithic stages introduce previously unheard-of straightness and flatness of travel with nanometer precision to reduce measurement uncertainty for metrology OEMs, ensuring more precise and reliable measurement data, which is crucial for quality control, research, and next generation manufacturing processes.
(May 9th 2023, Arvada, CO, USA) ALIO Industries recognizes the challenges associated with testing micro-LED chips, and maintains that precision stages can be a crucial tool in the testing process as they provide the precise positioning and motion control necessary to achieve accuracy and repeatability.
A micro-LED chip is a type of light-emitting diode that is significantly smaller than traditional LEDs, and can be used in a variety of applications, including displays, lighting, and sensing.
One of the main advantages of micro-LEDs is their high brightness and efficiency. They can emit a lot of light using a relatively small amount of power, which makes them energy-efficient and long-lasting. Additionally, micro-LEDs can be used to create highly customizable displays with excellent color accuracy and contrast.
However, micro-LED technology is still relatively new and can be expensive to produce compared to traditional LED technology. Moreover, the testing and manufacturing of micro-LEDs require highly precise equipment and processes due to their small size, which can be a challenge for manufacturers.
Bill Hennessey, President of ALIO picks up the story. “As the micro-LED market gears up for mass production, the focus is shifting to the two major challenges that slow down commercialization — low yield and high cost. Since the chip size of micro LEDs can be as small as a single micron, existing inspection equipment is often inadequate in many respects. Many standard tools simply don’t provide high enough resolution. Moreover, with the smaller pixel sizes, there is also a dramatic rise in the number of pixels that need to be processed during inspection. Test technologies are therefore emerging such as electroluminescence (EL) which is able to identify a great number of defects.”
EL testing is a non-destructive method of testing micro-LEDs and other semiconductor devices, which involves passing a small electrical current through the device, which causes it to emit light. The emitted light can then be measured and analyzed to determine the quality and performance of the device.
EL testing is particularly useful for testing micro-LEDs because it allows for the detection of defects and performance issues that may not be visible using other testing methods. For example, EL testing can detect small defects in the micro-LED structure that may be invisible to the naked eye, such as dislocations or disclinations. Additionally, EL testing can provide information about the uniformity of the device’s emission and the distribution of current within the device.
The EL testing process requires physical probing of the electrical contacts on the micro-LED chips, which must be done with extremely high precision to avoid damage to the devices.
The smaller pixel sizes of micro-LEDs mean that there is a significant increase in the number of pixels that need to be processed during inspection, which makes high-throughput inspection a major challenge. Precision motion control solutions can help to optimize the speed and efficiency of the testing process, enabling rapid and accurate movement of the testing equipment and reducing the time and cost associated with testing large numbers of micro-LED chips.
“ALIO has decades of experience delivering highly repeatable stages with unrivalled point precision®, reaching the “point of interest” in testing within a few nanometers ensuring micro-LED chips don’t get damaged during the EL test,” Hennessey continues. “We offer several motion control technologies that are suitable for testing micro-LEDs. For example, there is the Hybrid Hexapod®, a parallel kinematic motion control system that provides six degrees of freedom with sub-micron precision and repeatability. This technology is ideal for micro-LED testing applications requiring high precision, accuracy, and speed. The Hybrid Hexapod® combines rotary and linear motion to provide a large range of motion and high load capacity, making it suitable for testing large numbers of micro-LEDs simultaneously.”
Also, there are ALIO’s Air Bearing Stages, linear motion control systems that provide frictionless motion with high precision and accuracy. This technology is suitable for micro-LED testing applications that require high-speed and accurate motion control. Air bearing stages are capable of achieving nanometer-level positioning accuracy and repeatability, making them ideal for testing micro-LEDs with high resolution and accuracy.
See the array of motion control options that are available for micro-LED inspection from ALIO HERE, or specific requirements can be plugged into the company’s PRODUCT CONFIGURATOR to see the most suitable motion control solutions.
ALIO Industries provides optimal motion control solutions for its customers by constantly focussing on nanometer-level precision and repeatability. There is much debate about the validity of claims made in the area of motion control when it comes to extreme accuracy, and the differences between claims of nanometer-level precision and repeatability and its actual attainment are a hot topic today.
Ultimately erroneous claims lead to customer dissatisfaction and failure of often critical industrial applications, and it is because of this that ALIO Industries is at pains to prove its nanometer-level motion control credentials, and also to move the conversation on to facilitate the better understanding of how the motion control world needs to accommodate and understand true nano-precision.
To help in this endeavour, ALIO Industries has been busy redefining the language that the most accurate of motion control systems should use, and has backed this up by registering brand names that it alone can use to demonstrate the company’s unique status in the sector.
Bill Hennessey, CEO at ALIO Industries explains, “First off, we have registered the phrases True Nano Positioning® and True Nano®. Nano has become the new buzz word in the motion and manufacturing sectors in recent years. Most stage companies have recently started to claim “nano” as a marketing hook for their products. ALIO has focused on building nano precision stages for nearly 20 years and we felt it necessary to protect our long-term IP and commitment with trademarks. Companies offer nanometer-resolution or large nano errors with uni-directional planar numbers which are actually micron errors on true stage performance. Resolution means absolutely nothing in the True Nano® world.”
ALIO Industries has also registered the phrase 6-D Nano Precision®. ALIO designs, builds and tests stages in all 6 degrees of freedom, believing a nano precision stage most importantly must have sub-micron straightness and flatness as well. Some motion companies claim nano repeatability and accuracy (which are a planar numbers) knowing the customer application needs ultra-precise straightness and flatness to succeed. Customers’ assumptions of nano precision are mostly based on 2 D planar precision without focus on 6-D. ALIO wanted to define a term that represented the higher levels that its products could attain, and therefore set itself apart from companies that make unproven data sheet claims of accuracy.
Walter Silvesky, VP Sales continues, “Another area that we consistently drive the message is in the area of how accuracy should be validated in the nanometer-level world. So saying, we registered the phrases 6-D Point Precision® and Point Precision®. These trademarks are an extension of the “True” and “6-D” references to performance specifications to a point in space, not the planar methodology current standards use. ALIO’s focus on nano precision position of stages at a point in space is the basis of the new ASME standard for measuring motion systems that NIST is collaborating with. This new standard and ALIO’s long-term focus on nano precision motion systems plus our trademarks strongly position us for all future ultra-precision or nano precision motion systems. Point Precision® and 6-D Point Precision® both define bi-directional repeatability of all 6 degrees of freedom (linear, straightness, flatness, pitch, yaw and roll) to a single point of precision in space for a single motion stage. In ALIO’s case we push this singular stage approach even further with our monolithic XY stages which have combined 6-D point precision at the nanometer precision level of the both axes combined.”
ALIO Industries also owns the trademarks Nano Metrology® and Nano Z®. Nano Metrology® was registered in deference to the evolution and novel designs of metrology sensors which created a need for better stages to move the sample or sensor. ALIO introduced the novel idea of nanometer precision of straightness of travel to reduce the uncertainty of measurement, and has the ability to measure at the nanometer level of uncertainty which include motion and sensor combined error quotients.
The Nano Z® trademark was born out of work that ALIO undertook in the semiconductor industry on a planar XY air bearing and an air bearing Z stage for wafer manufacturing and metrology. The Z lift stage design was so novel that ALIO trademarked its name, and it reinforces the company’s ability to move in Z, vertical, or lift a part with nanometer precision.
Hennessey concludes, “With the recent trademarking of the now well-known and ground-breaking Hybrid Hexapod® which is two orders of magnitude more precise than legacy hexapods, ALIO Industries exhibits an ability to think ahead in its developments in the nanometer-level motion control sector. The company is consistently redefining the language, understanding of, and standardization of nanometer-level motion control solutions to ensure that OEMs attain the levels of accuracy required for project success.”
Leading nanometer-level motion control technology innovator — ALIO Industries — is continuing to advocate the examination of the impact of 6D repeatability testing and performance on single and multi-axis motion control systems. Advancements in manufacturing processes and metrology sensors along with the continuing demand from industry to create innovative technologies and products is driving a greater need for motion systems that are both highly accurate and repeatable at the nanometer level.
All motion systems operate in 3-dimensional space and have errors in 6 degrees of freedom (6-DOF). However, motion systems are often only characterized by performance data of a single or subset of these 6-DOF. This practice leaves several error sources unaccounted for in performance data and specifications. ALIO suggests that repeatability performance for metrology inspection and manufacturing systems must now be analyzed and specified using a “point repeatability” method that accounts for 6D spatial errors in order to provide true representation of nanometer-precision performance.
Traditional systems and test methods — plane repeatability. Many traditional stage and motion systems specify repeatability as a single number representing the variation in linear displacement along an axis of travel, i.e. plane repeatability. Historically, this practice was valid as the repeatability specifications were large enough that other error factors were only a small percentage of the total error and could be ignored.
The repeatability of the plane position along the axis is effectively measured over many cycles at a target position. The intersections of this plane with the axis is a point on the axis line and the collection of these points results in 1D repeatability performance.
This test method makes a critical assumption, namely that the plane only moves in one dimension and the axis is perfectly straight. At the nanometer-level, this assumption is not realistic.
6D nano precision — point repeatability. In nanometer-level precision systems, “other” errors that were previously ignored in less accurate systems often become equal to or greater contributors to the 6D repeatability performance. At the nanometer-level, the axis of travel should actually be shown as bending and twisting through three-dimensional space and thus plane visualization becomes meaningless as it will tip, tilt, and twist as the stage moves along the axis. The stage moves in 6D space, therefore neglecting these additional error sources can result in a misrepresentation of actual stage repeatability performance.
Each linear (or angular) direction the stage moves (or rotates) in results in a positional error in that direction. That motion, which must not be neglected when nanometer-precision is desired, will have an associated repeatability of that error motion. Each point on a stage mounting surface will move in 3D space as of a result of this error motion in 6 degrees of freedom. It is the point repeatability of an infinite number of points attached to a stage, that must be characterized by testing and specification data. Thus, each point repeatability will result in a spherical repeatability range.
Measuring 6D point repeatability. To accurately characterize repeatability, X, Y, and Z components must be measured in a systematic process to characterize the point repeatabilities of a stage along the entire axis. Additionally, a process must be implemented to test the influence of pitch, yaw, and roll errors of the axis and their influence on repeatability. In order to have a high confidence in integrated system performance the motion subsystems must be correctly characterized for 6D performance accounting for all error components of stage motion. Without this, claims of accuracy and repeabality are at best pointless, and at worst knowingly misleading.
ALIO Industries has just announced the availability of its new AngularesTM Hybrid Hexapod®. The 60-degree tip/tilt travel of the AngularesTM Hybrid Hexapod® is by far the most angular travel range available from any 6-Degree-Of-Freedom (6-DOF) positioner on the market and offers the same unmatched positioning performance found in any of ALIO’s full-line of Hybrid Hexapod systems.
The AngularesTM features precision crossed roller bearing guides, optical incremental or absolute encoder feedback on all axes, linear motor and/or servo ball screw drives, unlimited programmable tool center point locations and coordinate offsets, and zero backlash on all axes. The design makes the AngularesTM capable of unlimited XY travel, Z travel for 62 mm which can be increased to 208 mm using other tripod models, tip/tilt travel of 60 degrees (+/- 30 degrees) with continuous 360 degree Theta-Z, XYZ bidirectional repeatability of less than +/- 0.6 arc-seconds, velocity up to 100 mm/second XY and Z, and less than 10 nanometers linear and 0.1 arc-seconds angular minimum incremental motion.
The Hybrid Hexapod® was developed by ALIO Industries to address the inherent performance limitations of conventional hexapods. ALIO’s Patented 6-DOF design seamlessly blends and takes advantage of the strengths of serial and parallel kinematic structures while avoiding their weaknesses. The Hybrid Hexapod offers far greater functional versatility, nanometer-level accuracy, repeatability, and superior 6-DOF trajectories than is possible with any traditional hexapod or stacked stage configuration.
Standard hexapods satisfactorily service applications where micron motion tolerances are required, but as the demand for nanometer requirements expands, standard hexapods struggle. This is because there are performance limitations inherent in all “conventional” hexapod designs. They operate within 3-dimensional space, and have errors in all 6 DOF. However, hexapod motion systems have typically only been characterized by performance data of a single degree of freedom. This practice leaves error sources unaccounted for in several degrees of freedom, especially in the areas of flatness and straightness, which are critical precision needs at the nanometer-level. The hexapod’s best flatness and straightness of travel is still no more precise than more than 2 orders of magnitude (2 decimal point less) for basic XY motion.
Because hexapods have six independently controlled links joined together moving a common platform, the motion error of the platform will be a function of the errors of ALL links and joints. Hexapods are known to have optimum precision when performing Z-axis moves, because all links perform the same motion at the same relative link angle. However, when any other X, Y, pitch, yaw or roll motion is commanded, precision and geometric path performance of the hexapod degrades substantially because all links are performing different motions. In the case of conventional hexapods built with non-precision joints, bearings, and motion controllers that are not capable of forward and inverse kinematics equations, the source of error is even more pronounced.
The unique design of the Hybrid Hexapod® is comprised of a parallel kinematic tripod to deliver Z plane and tip/tilt motion. This tripod is integrated with a monolithic serial kinematic stage for XY planar motion. A rotary stage integrated into the top of the tripod (or beneath depending on application needs) provides 360- degree continuous (Theta-Z) rotation.
In this hybrid design, individual axes can be customized to provide XY travel ranges from millimeters to virtually unlimited ranges while maintaining nanometer-levels of precision. Novel forward and inverse controller kinematics provide an unlimited number of programmable tool center point locations plus unmatched path precision and performance.
The 60 degree tip/tilt travel of the AngularesTM Hybrid Hexapod®, by far the most angular travel range available from any 6-DOF positioner on the market, is perfectly suited for applications including aspheric and freeform optical metrology, silicon photonics packaging and probing, laser micro processing (non-planar substrates and taper control), wafer metrology, camera module alignment and assembly, sensor/image stabilization testing, and optical element and fiber alignment.
To find out more about ALIO’s AngularesTM or its full range of Hybrid Hexapod systems, contact a member of the team today.
The World’s First and Only 6 Degree-of-Freedom Nano-Positioner with +/- 30 Degrees Tip and Tilt Travel
At the recent Photonics West show, San Francisco, CA, USA, ALIO Industries released the all new HH-30D Hybrid Hexapod® — the industry’s only 6-Degree-Of-Freedom (6-DOF) nano positioning device with +/-30 degrees tip and tilt travel.
The Hybrid Hexapod® was developed by ALIO Industries to address the inherent performance limitations of conventional hexapods. ALIO’s Patented 6-Degree-Of-Freedom (6-DOF) design seamlessly blends and takes advantage of the strengths of serial and parallel kinematic structures while avoiding their weaknesses.
The Hybrid Hexapod® offers far greater functional versatility, nanometer-level accuracy, repeatability, and superior 6-DOF trajectories than is possible with any traditional hexapod or stacked stage configuration. The unique design is comprised of a parallel kinematic tripod to deliver Z plane and tip/tilt motion. This tripod is integrated with a monolithic serial kinematic stage for XY planar motion. A rotary stage integrated into the top of the tripod (or beneath depending on application needs) provides 360-degree continuous yaw (Theta-Z) rotation. In this hybrid design, individual axes can be customized to provide XY travel ranges from millimeters to virtually unlimited ranges while maintaining nanometer-levels of precision. Novel forward and inverse controller kinematics provide an unlimited number of programmable tool center point (TCP) locations.
The HH-30D’s +/- 30 degree tip/tilt travel is by far the most angular travel range available from any 6-DOF positioner on the market, and offers the same unmatched positioning performance found in any of ALIO’s full-line of Hybrid Hexapod® systems. Such a large travel range is unprecedented, and it must also be appreciated that this angular range is the full conical motion of the device and NOT just the available angles from the primary pitch (Theta-Y) and roll (Theta-X) axes.
Furthermore — and as is the case on any Hybrid Hexapod® and completely the opposite of any legacy 6-legged Hexapod — this large angular range does not consume any notable XY travel when the TCP is set at the default 0,0,0 location (top center). Compare this with any alternative traditional hexapod design, and users of the ALIO solution have at least double the amount of tip and tilt range while still having the full XY and Theta-Z travel available.
The new HH-30D Tripod design leverages ALIO’s experience from the field proven Mini Hybrid Hexapod® by using precision ballscrews driven by frameless servo motors. What makes this travel possible is an all-new upper joint design that provides the exceptional travel range in an innovative self-nesting package which keeps the profile extremely low and stiffness very high. Future iterations with this innovative joint can easily incorporate ALIO’s linear motor driven / pneumatically counter balanced links.
The travel range of the tripod is 62mm, which for applications where only a few degrees of tip/tilt are needed would provide a significant amount of remaining pure vertical (Z) travel. Applications that would directly benefit from the large tip/tilt angle include freeform and aspheric optics metrology, taper angle control in laser micro processing, and additive manufacturing. ALIO has also recognized some precision assembly/packaging applications where large offset angles are needed to “reach” into or around complex spaces.
The HH-30D Tripod can be supplied with virtually any ALIO XY stage to provide a wide range of XY travel options – again, something that is not possible with a standard hexapod. While any XY stage can be used, the company has currently released models for three configurations including the 60mm XY Ballscrew Driven XY from the Mini Hybrid Hexapod®, the LM100XY Monolithic Stage, and the CM200XY Low Profile Monolithic Stage. The two latter configurations come with an umbilical cable management system.
The HH-30D with 60mm XY, 62mm Z and unlimited Theta Z starts at $44,900 (€40,000) with controller, which means the unit is comparably priced with industry alternatives but with features and performance they cannot match. The larger (LM) Linear Motor Driven version that was exhibited at the Photonics West show starts at $50,950 (with controller). With 100mm XY travel range andthe throughput available from linear motor drives this unit essentially has no meaningful competition.
ALIO Industries is synonymous with best-in-class nanometer-level motion control solutions, and is well known as the only motion control technology supplier that offers true nanometer-level accuracy and repeatability.
Back in 2001, ALIO started by creating solutions to meet demand from U.S. based technology providers and manufacturers for nano-precision robotics. From that day to this the company has consistently pushed the boundaries in the achievement of ultimate precision in motion control.
It is within this context that ALIO Industries has just announced another innovative nanomater-level precision positioning solution, its new Asymmetric XY stages.
ALIO CEO Bill Hennesey picks up the story. “Over many years, ALIO has been developing precision positioning solutions for applications that do not require identical travel lengths on both the X and the Y axes. All the company’s XY solutions are standard monolithic ones, as regardless of the requirement for X and Y travel lengths to be different, the alternative — stacked stages — will always compromise performance.”
“Take a look at what some alternative suppliers do. Frequently they will offer an XY stack comprised of a single axis crossed roller stage which results in poor static and especially poor dynamic performance related to tuning challenges. In these stacked configurations, the lack of lower axis torsional stiffness and the bending moments of the upper axis greatly limit the dynamic responsiveness of the stage. It’s kind of like trying to find stable footing on a diving board that is sitting on a tightrope!”
Before the recent launch of its Asymmetric XY stages, when confronted with the need to work with applications that required the accommodation of X and Y axis travel that were not the same, ALIO would sometimes limit travel on the upper axis of its monolith XY stages. This would save on the overall moving footprint, but the square body of the stage would still be larger and heavier than it would need to be based on the required travel for the application.
Hennessey continues, “ALIO’s Asymmetric stages provide a solution with identical performance, lower moving mass, and a smaller static and dynamic footprint compared to their square-body designed, monolithic-series counterparts. They also offer a lower working height than traditional XY stacks and without the tuning limitations of stacked assemblies. They provide customers with the exact X and Y travel ranges needed for their applications without the cost of excess travel that is not required and will never be used.”
Three Standard versions with asymmetric body designs / travel lengths are now available with customized versions offered for OEM Programs.
The company offers an array of best-in-class precision motion control solutions which it sees as enabling technologies, used by its customers to make products previously deemed impossible. By working with ALIO, customers are able to manufacture innovative, bleeding-edge products that ensure leadership positions in their respective industries. The recently introduced Asymmetric stages fit well within the overall stable of ALIO’s nanometer-level motion control solutions, and removes some limitations that manufacturers have had to put up with when they require different X and Y axes travel.
ALIO Industries has spent 2019 working with numerous customers from across industry that are exploiting the ability to innovate through the use of true nanometer-level motion control solutions.
2019 has been a pivotal year for established nanometer-level motion control solution provider ALIO Industries. Throughout the year, news and coverage of ALIO’s Hybrid Hexapod® has reached every corner of industry globally, and the momentum that has been gained has been exciting as ALIO has helped existing and new customers reach new levels of precision in motion control.
Bill Hennessey says, “In many ways, the ultra-precise end of the motion control market is quite a confusing place to be, as the handful of extremely precise motion control suppliers tend to use non-consistent and often illusory ways of describing the levels of precision that they can attain. ALIO has always worked in the area of nanometer-level motion control, and as such has a unique perspective on what really works when looking for this level of precision. Because of this, during 2019, and with the Hybrid Hexapod® very much front and center, we have focussed on educating the customer base to navigate alternative solutions, and give them the tools to interrogate solutions providers in such a way that they can secure a motion control technology suited to their specific applications.”
In the area of hexapods, this has required ALIO Industries to identify where the usefulness of conventional hexapods expires, as it is here that the Hybrid Hexapod® finds its unique niche.
Hexapods are motion control technologies that operate with 6 degrees of freedom (DOF), and the standard hexapods that abound on the market today satisfactorily service applications where micron motion tolerances are required, but as the demand for nanometer requirements expands, standard hexapods struggle somewhat.
This is because there are performance limitations inherent in all “conventional” hexapod designs. They operate within 3-dimensional space, and have errors in all 6 DOF. However, hexapod motion systems have typically only been characterized by performance data of a single degree of freedom. This practice leaves error sources unaccounted for in several degrees of freedom, especially in the areas of flatness and straightness, which are critical precision needs at the nanometer-level. The hexapod’s best flatness and straightness of travel is still no more precise than in the order of magnitude of tens of microns per axis.
Because hexapods have six independently controlled links joined together moving a common platform, the motion error of the platform will be a function of the errors of ALL links and joints. Hexapods are known to have optimum accuracy and repeatability when performing Z-axis moves, because all links perform the same motion at the same relative link angle. However, when any other X, Y, pitch, yaw or roll motion is commanded, accuracy and geometric path performance of the hexapod degrades substantially because all links are performing different motions. In the case of legacy hexapods built with non-precision joints and motion controllers that are not capable of forward and inverse kinematics equations, the source of error is even more pronounced.
Furthermore, it is generally accepted that hexapods have relatively good stiffness compared to serial stacked multi-axis systems. However, it is often only the hexapod’s “Z” (vertical) stiffness that is considered. Geometric design stiffness has a critical impact on and hexapod’s platform repeatability and rigidity. A lack of design stiffness relates directly to a weak XY plane stiffness with the conventional hexapod working platform. Moreover, this inherent design flaw of the conventional hexapod negatively affects XY axis performance, especially with thermal bonding or machining applications that require more force to be performed accurately within the XY plane.
The Hybrid Hexapod® was developed by ALIO to address the critical weaknesses of conventional legacy hexapod designs, as well as the weaknesses of stacked serial stages, and to achieve nanometer -level accuracy, repeatability, and high-integrity flatness and straightness during motion. It utilizes a tripod parallel kinematics structure to deliver Z plane and tip/tilt motion, integrated with a monolithic serial kinematic structure for XY motion. A rotary stage integrated into the top of the tripod (or underneath it depending on application needs) provides 360-degree continuous yaw rotation. In this hybrid design, individual axes can be customized to provide travel ranges from millimeters to over one meter, while maintaining nanometer-levels of precision.
Hennessey continues, “Engineers working at the cutting edge of what is possible must be stimulated to ask more as they see that this technology reaches places others cannot, has the potential to promote innovations, and can optimise efficiency and cost-effectiveness in manufacture. The Hybrid Hexapod® is orders of magnitude more precise than traditional hexapods, being 100 x stiffer, 30 x faster, and with 10x the usable work envelope of industry standard options.”
ALIO is always eager to discuss how the Hybrid Hexapod® can be used to benefit customer applications, and the company will work to customize specific solutions for particular customer applications.
As the demand for more and more exacting motion control increases across numerous industry sectors, it is vital that before investing, customers are informed enough to make sure that they select the right solution for their specific application.
The motion control sector is characterized by an array of vendors in many ways saying the same things, sometimes in subtly different ways. But statements of competence often flatter to deceive, a bald statement about accuracy, for example, obscuring enormous differences between the capabilities of vendors in terms of repeatability, and motion control solutions being fit for purpose.
Starting with the premise that if a good motion control solution is expensive, how much more expensive is a bad one (with all this implies in terms of time delays and costs of re-investment in a suitable motion control solution) in this piece, we attempt to arm manufacturers with the questions that they need to ask their short-listed motion control technology providers to ensure that the motion control solution option chosen is right first time and up to the job.
Questions need to be asked that delve into motion control vendors’ capabilities and their values.
Customer Focus. Ideally your chosen motion control technology vendor should sell solutions to customers not just products. The key is to be able to customize motion control solutions to specific customer applications. When working in the area of nanometer-level motion control, your chosen vendor should have extensive experience working in the nanometer world. The vendor should also have a demonstrable passion about — and absolute focus on — precision. A vendor supplying nanometer-level motion control solutions should be able to prove its credentials and demonstrate that it has provided a significant number of best-in-class, efficient, and cost-effective motion control solutions for an array of different industry applications. Ask your chosen vendor for evidence. All claims made should be able to be substantiated and this will prove whether your short-listed vendor is equipped to operate at the nanometer-level of accuracy or just the micron level.
What is Motion Control? This may seem like an odd question to ask a motion control technology provider, but it does actually get to the heart of the difference between vendors. Most vendors sell off-the-shelf solutions and leave their customers to align them with their specific applications. In a way, this demotes motion control to a necessary evil, a link in a process chain that is expensive and complicated. But when your vendor provides truly cutting edge nanometer-level accurate and repeatable motion control solutions, it elevates motion control from a necessary evil to an enabling technology. If a vendor provides the best-in-class, most accurate, and most repeatable motion control solutions on the market, they will be able to push the boundaries of what customers may see as possible, and will therefore promote the ability to manufacture innovative, bleeding-edge products that stimulate competitiveness. Try and assess your short-listed vendor’s view of motion control. Do they see obstacles and problems, or opportunities and solutions?
Partnership. Your chosen vendor should place an emphasis on being your strategic partner in product development. It is only by doing this that you can be confident about achieving your challenging motion control and manufacturing goals. Key is early stage engagement with you chosen vendor, and a feeling that they want to truly become embedded in the development of your end-use products and allied motion control solutions. Once again, the difference is between a vendor that sells off-the-shelf solutions (which is not that concerned about your product development process), and one that is dedicated to providing you with customized solutions (which will necessarily want to help you navigate the inherently complicated area of nanometer-level motion control solutions optimized to specific applications). You want to feel that if you don’t engage fully with your chosen vendor that you will compromise quality of outcomes, speed of outcomes, and cost of outcomes. Also, check out the warranty that your vendor is willing to extend. This is a sure-fire way of understanding the level or confidence they have in their own solutions.
Vertical Integration. When working in a world where nanometer-levels of accuracy are the norm, it is vital that motion control products are manufactured in one facility. Ask your vendor whether they have design, machining, metrology, manufacturing, and assembly under one roof. The cross collaboration between product development teams is vital to the achievement of reliable and repeatable ultra-precise motion control solutions, and vertical integration is disproportionately important as the demands for accuracy move from micron-level to nanometer-level precision.
Team. Drill into the experience and technical know-how of your short-listed vendor’s team. Especially when your demand is for nanometer-level motion control, you need to make sure that your vendor has a dedicated focus which will translate into innovative and cutting-edge motion control solutions. Much of this is about the culture you will see in a vendor company. Assess whether you detect a “can do” attitude and whether your vendor seems to nurture a collaborative environment. But above all see if you can feel a passion running through your vendor’s team. If the passion is there, honesty and integrity will often follow, and with that will come trust. And it is ultimately trust that you need to bottom out when choosing a vendor. You need to trust that the motion control solution that you buy fits your requirements, and is not just another unit shifted by the vendor to hit a sales target regardless of ultimate customer satisfaction.
Solutions. If your short-listed precision motion control technology provider is really credible, it will be able to show you a series of innovative solutions that redefine the motion control market. Here you should be looking for evidence of next-generation “blue ocean” technologies, not variations of legacy traditional motion control technologies. This is like the difference between vendors selling hexapods and a company like ALIO Industries that sells the Hybrid Hexapod®, which overcomes process limitations in traditional hexapods, and exhibits orders-of-magnitude improvements in precision, path performance, speed, stiffness, and larger work envelope. Nanaometer-level repeatable motion control is achieved by pushing the envelope, not tweaking years-old technologies to squeeze out ever decreasing increases in accuracy. Check out your vendor’s portfolio of products, the customized solutions they have provided, and the level of innovation that is evident in creating new solutions.
Interrogate precision claims. Pinning down motion control vendors over statements of precision is a minefield. Ultimately, claims on nanometer-level precision is meaningless unless this nanometer-level precision is achieved repeatably. Vendors that cannot achieve repeatable nanometer-level motion control often need to resort to at worst false, and at best illusory claims that muddy the waters. Some vendors even go as far as to publish “typical specifications” and “guaranteed specifications”, typical specifications showing what “could” be possible in a motion control solution, which is greater precision that can actually be guaranteed. In other words, they show what they would like to be able to do, and then demonstrate that what they actually can do is much worse. This takes lack of clarity to a whole new level, and is extremely confusing for customers. Again, look for evidence of vendors that are trying to move this conversation along. ALIO Industries, for example, now talks in terms of Point Precision® referencing performance specifications to a point in space at the single digit micron or nanometer level, and is working with NIST to move on from the planar methodology that current motion control standards use. It is vital that you interrogate precision claims diligently before a making motion control technology purchase. It is also critical that ASTM and/or other internationally registered standards are followed by vendors, instead of methods developed to flatter a particular vendor’s products and which provide flattering data calculations which give a false illusion of precision.
In essence the choice of a nanometer-level motion control solutions provider is based on a number of factors, and is a mix of not just technological competencies but also core values and what “makes a company tick”. Investment in an ultra-precise motion control solution is expensive, and customers need to be certain before nominating a motion control vendor that they will have a best-fit solution that is right first time.
For nearly 20 years, ALIO Industries has been working at the bleeding-edge of nanometer-level motion control. The company has set the standard for ultra-precise and repeatable motion control solutions, including the Hybrid Hexapod® which has less than 100 nm 3-Dimensional 6 axis Point Precision® repeatability, making it an essential technology for mission critical applications in the laser processing, optical inspection, photonics, semiconductor, metrology, and medical device sectors, and indeed all micro-machining projects.
However, it is the company’s ability to truly customize its core motion control solutions that sets it apart from alternative solution providers, offering significant value added by exactly matching OEM customers’ needs as well as pushing the envelope for new world nano-precision applications. ALIO’s on-going focus on exceeding OEM requirements helps its customers become leaders in their respective industry sectors.
Customers approach ALIO for unique applications due to the company’s long track record of successfully delivering complex prototypes that meet or exceed specifications the first time.
The company’s unwavering focus on honesty and integrity help customers understand the complex nature of precision applications. ALIO informs the customer of what they need to know and not just what they want to hear.
CUSTOMIZED SOLUTIONS FOR SPECIFIC APPLICATIONS WITH VIDEO
Laser Gimbal® Five-Axis Positioning Workstation. ALIO’s Laser Gimbal® Five Axis Positioning Workstation is the world’s only positioning system with 5-D vector path laser triggering. The system provides a novel solution for engineers and manufacturers that are using additive and subtractive laser processing techniques on cutting-edge materials to produce a variety of next generation products. (See video of workstation in action: VIDEO).
Additive Manufacturing – Phone Antenna Direct Printing. ALIO is capable of programmable path and contour control using its novel forward and inverse kinematic algorithms. This Hybrid Hexapod® operates at 100mm/sec 3D path velocity and is capable of micron-level path accuracy. In this Hybrid Hexapod® system the nozzle proximity is kept to within 5 microns of surface and was designed for a 24/7 production environment. (See video of ALIO smart phone antenna printing: VIDEO).
Optical Camera Module Assembly/Test. ALIO’s MINI Hybrid Hexapod® is ideal for automated lens alignment/bonding to CCD arrays. It has been helpful in building camera array modules, translational OIS, telescopic integrated lenses for miniature cameras used in every day products like cell phone cameras and drones. Any application requiring 6- degrees of freedom positioning with nanometer/arc-sec levels of incremental motion and repeatability is a good fit for this product where product sensor resolution improvements are driving the need for higher precision. (See video of ALIO Mini Hybrid Hexapod in action: VIDEO).
Sensor Metrology. ALIO has experience providing systems to many of the world’s largest metrology companies for their internal measurement systems. The company can provide solutions for even the most precise targets. (See video of ALIO Nano precision 6-Axis Nano Metrology® System: VIDEO).
Hybrid Hexapod® For Wafer Metrology. ALIO has supplied a 5-axis, open frame Hybrid Hexapod® design for wafer metrology. It’s precision comes from precision crossed-roller bearings, and integrated frameless DC servo motors driving ballscrews. It has a cubic travel range of 350mm “X” x 350mm “Y” x 75mm “Z” and tip/tilt travel ± 2 degrees. ALIO was able to provide ± 0.1 micron bidirectional XYZ repeatability. (See video of ALIO’s Hybrid Hexapod® Large Open Center 5-Axis Platform in action: VIDEO).
Wafer Metrology Low-Profile XY-Theta With Large Open Aperture. ALIO’s vacuum expertise and broad selection of stages allowed the opportunity to couple four HV (10-7 Torr) stages to provide a nano-precision® solution. This R-XY-Z stack once again uses a pure linear based Z solution vs. the legacy Z-wedge design. (See video of ALIO’s semiconductor metrology XYR 300 mm open center system in action: VIDEO).
Application: Fiber/Optical Assembly (Private Label). ALIO’s metrology grade XY stage is the foundation for an exceptional three-axis alignment platform. ALIO’s unique design of the Z axis provides a completely linear based vertical solution with near air bearing performance. The Z stage with a high force linear motor, linear encoder, linear high-precision crossed roller bearings and integrated linear air counterbalance exceeds any mechanical based vertical axis on the market as well as some air bearing options. One major advantage to this unique solution allows for the customer’s payload to be mounted directly on the top of the stage in-line with the motor, encoder, bearings, and counterbalance thus minimizing overhanging brackets and greatly reducing potential Abbé errors. ALIO’s linear Z axis is 5 times order of magnitude more precise than old school z-wedge solutions.
Application: Nano Metrology. ALIO has taken its industry-leading, near air-bearing performance open center metrology stages, to the next level. This crossed roller bearing 300mm XY Nano Metrology® stage is DC Servo linear motor driven with 300mm open center, has unmatched motion performance with 3-Sigma, 6-D (linear, straightness, flatness, pitch, yaw and roll) and bi-directional repeatability of less than +/- 250nm. In other words, the volumetric bi-directional repeatability of any XY point is within a sphere of 500nm or less.
ALIO Industries is synonymous with best-in-class nanometer-level motion control solutions, and is well known as the only motion control technology supplier that offers true nanometer-level accuracy and repeatability.
Exemplifying the company’s grip on the ultra-precise motion control sector, ALIO Industries recently introduced its market-leading Hybrid Hexapod® technology, which out performs any other hexapod solution available to industry. The Hybrid Hexapod® is a game-changer in the field of motion control, and stimulates innovation as an enabler of next-generation manufacturing processes.
However, with upwards of 20 years working in the area of nanometer-level motion control, ALIO Industries has also developed TRUE NANO® precision rotary stages to meet and exceed today’s demand for high precision rotary motion. ALIO’s line of rotary stages continues to expand as the company works with each customer on a one-to-one basis to provide customized motion control solutions, not off-the-shelf mass motion control products.
Mechanical Rotary Stages
ALIO’s mechanical bearing rotary stages have been designed with crossed roller bearings for improved stiffness for offset loads and rotational precision. Integrated with servo torque frameless motors, these stages can handle applications where the mass and acceleration needs are extreme, while still maintaining nanometer-level precision performance.
ALIO’s focus on materials and machining is absolute in the manufacture of its rotary product line, just as it is with its linear products, ensuring the bearings and metal are located in ultra-machined parallel surfaces as shown by the machined lands on all stages.
Standard ALIO rotary stages have 0.2 arc-second repeatability using ALIO supplied motion controllers. Standard mechanical crossed roller bearings are rated at 13 to 20 microns of radial and axial run-out, with optional run-outs of certain models below 5 microns.
The mechanical bearing rotary stage family has multiple motor sizes to meet duty cycles as well as mass and acceleration needs from 80 mm to 300 mm in diameter. Vacuum rotary union options are available on the inner diameter for mounting a vacuum chuck.
Low Angle Mechanical Rotary Stages
ALIO has also designed mechanical bearing rotary stages with angular contact bearings representing the most compact design on the market. Integrated with servo ironless motors, these stages best fit metrology applications where small angular adjustment is needed with nanometer-level precision performance.
Air Bearing Rotational Stages
When ultra-tight run-out precision motion is needed, manufacturers can choose from ALIO’s continually growing line of air bearing rotary stages. Whether it is exceptional stiffness or cost-effective motion that is the priority, ALIO Industries can offer a variety of options to meet the needs of today’s nano-precision applications.
Dual Axis Rotary Systems
ALIO’s two-axis systems are designed around the customers’ mass with variable counterbalance, cable guidance, and cable and air feed-through capabilities. With hard-stops allowing for ± 110 and ± 170 degrees of rotation for nearly unlimited part access on the horizontal axis, ALIO’s dual axis rotary systems exhibit angular travel ± 180 for the rotation about the vertical axis.
Incorporating ALIO’s industry-leading torque ratings, the company’s two-axis gimbal rotary systems are capable of high rotational speeds while maintaining the stand-out precision levels expected from ALIO Industries’ systems. Metrology, laser processing, additive manufacturing, and many other industry sectors have benefited from these ALIO products., and air purge is incorporated for contaminant protection and longer life. Internal cable and air line routing provide an extremely clean finished product.
AZ-EL Rotary Assembly
ALIO Industry’s AZ-EL rotary assembly systems also incorporate the company’s exceptional torque-ratings and are capable of high rotational speeds while maintaining the precision levels synonymous with any ALIO motion control systems. As with the two-axis gimbal system, the AZ-EL rotary assembly systems are used in metrology, laser processing, additive manufacturing, and numerous other industry applications.
Any company interested in ALIO’s nanometer-level motion control solutions are advised to contact the company, and discuss the ways in which bespoke solutions can be designed to precisely fit with specific application requirements.