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.

6-D Laser LLC is an affiliate of leading nanometer-level motion control specialist ALIO Industries, its mission being the integration of ultrafast laser processing with precision multi-axis motion systems.

6D Laser’s central mission addresses limitations of existing laser processing systems which are largely due to sub-optimal positioning systems used by most system integrators. 6-D Laser tackles this problem by integrating ultra-fast laser material processing with the 6-D nanometer-level precision motion control solutions in which ALIO Industries specializes.

6D Laser vertically integrates all of the sub-systems required for precision laser micro-processing, and it does this by forming strategic partnerships with key component and subsystem suppliers that are required to achieve the goals of demanding precision applications.

In addition to its association with ALIO, 6-D Laser has also partnered with SCANLAB GmbH, which together with ACS Motion Control, has developed an unlimited field-of-view (UFOV) scanning solution for coordinate motion control of the galvo scanner and positioning stages called XLSCAN

In the area of high-performance planar processing, 6D Laser’s Unlimited Field-of-View (UFV™) solution combines the precision galvo scanning of SCANLAB’s XLSCAN system with ALIO’s precision monolithic XY stages for superior UFV™ accuracy.  As customers’ requirements of laser micro-processing applications become more demanding, the performance of legacy systems do not meet the specifications for accuracy, repeatability, and precision.

Conventional unlimited field of view systems that control a scan head and XY stage typically use the high-speed galvo scanners to compensate the slower stage’s following error. A tracking error is induced by the mass inertia and the design of each system’s servo control loop.

This means the real position of the laser spot lags the target position. Therefore, the real laser spot position is correct only after a certain amount of time – and the system momentarily oscillates. Because of this, any imperfections in the stage error mapping, or galvo field correction, will impact the overall precision due to the time lag in the servo loop cycle.

In practice, attempts are made to extrapolate the slower stage’s behavior using estimated values, but that approach only works reliably at slow speeds and for non-abrupt motions.

Especially at corners and sharp features with high acceleration or deceleration rates, this strategy can produce significant position errors.

The XL SCAN control solution used by 6D Laser applies intelligent filters to control the scan head and stages such that physical limitations of each system are taken into account prior to processing, in an integrated trajectory plan. The positions of both systems are coordinated with each other to sub-micron level precision within micro-second cycle time.

XLSCAN synchronizes the motion of the galvo scanhead and linear stages to increase the total field size without stitching or “tiling”. It has higher accuracy than competitive systems through intelligent trajectory planning. Its precision is only limited by the image field calibration and stage error mapping.

Automatic laser control can correct the spot distance relative to the velocity and the laser power across the scan field, and for increased throughput four scanheads can be controlled with a single XLSCAN controller.

In addition, the laser signal can be raised or attenuated in accordance with application requirements. This applies to straight as well as rounded laser markings, and multiple parameter changes and jumps for individual vectors are also possible.

Dr. Stephen R. Uhlhorn, CTO at 6-D Laser concludes, “Infinite Field of View (IFOV)processing systems offer considerable advantages over traditional field-stitching systems by combining the high-speed scanning of galvos with the large field sizes available with motion control stages. This increases processing speed while eliminating errors from field stitching. However, current systems are limited to processing 2D planar substrates. As manufacturing geometries continue to increase in complexity, the need to control angle of incidence (AOI) for non-planar substrates becomes crucial. 6-D Laser’s integrated IFOV laser processing system — built around ALIO’s 5-axis Laser Gimbal — solves this complex manufacturing problem.”

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 patented 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 Theta Z 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.

However, Bill Hennessey, CEO of ALIO Industries doesn’t look pleased. “I think that maybe the use of the words precision and accuracy by companies working in the motion control sector should be banned. They are meaningless words unless qualified, and even when qualified, can still mean nothing. I see companies claiming, ‘high precision’, ‘best accuracy possible’, ‘ultra precision’. What do these phrases mean to an end-user? How useful are they? Are they just marketing speak, or do they have a currency in industry? Nothing, not at all, and no I’d say!! At ALIO we talk of nanometer-level repeatability, accuracy and precision which actually means something, and as such the use of our motion control solutions in industry grows exponentially.”

The source of Hennessey’s disquiet is that he has positioned ALIO Industries as the world’s only provider of true nanometer-level motion control solutions, and with the Hybrid Hexapod, for example, has developed a technology that exhibits such True Nano Precision® that existing industry validation standards are useless, and a set of new standards based on ALIO’s Point Precision® methodology is being developed by NIST.

“You see, when discussing precision and accuracy, when it comes to motion control there are too many variables that are not fully understood by customers, and which technology suppliers are fully aware of and swerve in their marketing and communications, using data that flatters to deceive, or deceives completely”, Hennessey continues.

“In many ways, the most accurate end of the motion control market is quite a confusing place to be, as the handful of extremely accurate motion systems 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, 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.

The Hybrid Hexapod had been a game changer for enabling new and novel processes.”

ALIO Industries believes that any claim of precision or accuracy must be first meaningful, and second provable. When looking at motion control solutions such as the Hybrid Hexapod, this is vital, as in common with all hexapods it is a motion control technology that operates with 6 degrees of freedom (DOF), and operates in 3-dimensional space. Because of this the conversation needs to move toward volumetric accuracy.

Despite this, all 6-DOF motion control solutions suppliers are characterised 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 traditional 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. 

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.

Hennessey continues, “Traditional hexapod providers are aware of these issues, but instead of confronting them, mask the inefficiencies inherent in the system by throwing meaningless precision claims at the situation or not drawing attention to them at all. One for example makes accuracy claims that seem really good, but are in fact impossible to achieve on any 6-link architecture, and above all would be totally out of reach of any customer. The reason for this is that the precision specs that they quote only apply to single axis moves from the center / mid-stroke default position. Who would ever buy a 6 DOF hexapod to only use it one axis at a time at its center of travel?  The accuracy as you move to different positions and angles has to degrade probably by multiples of 5x to 10x.”

The Hybrid Hexapod® represents a quantum step forward in motion control, and for the first time provides the ability to achieve repeatable nano-level precision, stimulating innovation and promoting manufacturing efficiency previously considered impossible. It is redefining the area of precision motion control, and the rule book is having to be rewritten to accommodate it and to position it correctly against industry alternatives.

The level of precision achievable with the Hybrid Hexapod renders the vague and illusory industry standard claims of micron and sub-micron precision redundant, and has forced industry to move towards the concept of Point Precision®.

Point Precision® includes all 6 DOF of errors of each axis in motion, guaranteeing the precision point in the full work envelop, and allows for a “precision number” to be quoted based on an exact point on the wall (as if you used a laser pointer) whereas today’s standard only gives the measurement to the wall as if using a flood light. As a signifier of accuracy and precision today, Point Precision® truly is a must for many applications from laser processing to metrology.

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.

Market-leading nanometer-level motion control solutions provider, ALIO Industries, caused some waves at the SPIE Photonics West event held in San Francisco at the beginning of February with a display of innovative and unique products.

ALIO showcased several industry-unique precision positioning products and high throughput scanning solutions for laser micro-processing, this year exhibiting alongside recently launched affiliate company 6D Laser LLC.

ALIO is renowned throughout industry for the development of its patented Hybrid Hexapod® and its True Nano® XY positioning stages.

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. 

At Photonics West, ALIO Industries showed live demonstrations of the world’s first and only Hybrid Hexapod® with +/- 30 degrees tip and tilt travel — the new HH-30 Hybrid Hexapod® — which offers more than an order-of-magnitude better precision than alternative hexapod technologies, more travel range in all degrees-of-freedom (DOF) , and significantly higher velocity. The new HH-30 and the world’s most precise compact 6 DOF positioner, the “Mini” Hybrid Hexapod® were front and center at the show, and ALIO was encouraged to see that attendees were increasingly well-informed and recognized that when looking for repeatable nanometer-level precision, ALIO’s solutions are unique.

ALIO’s True Nano® XY positioning stages exhibit unequalled 6-D Nano Precision®. With nanometer-level straightness and flatness, users can be certain that point precision is True Nano®. ALIO’s XY stage family comes with enclosed- or open-center versions from 50-450 mm travel, and standard axis bi-directional repeatability is less than 40 nanometers with optional 10 nanometers bi-directional repeatability for demanding metrology or manufacturing requirements. ALIO uniquely provides its True Nano® XY Stages with NIST traceable data guarnteeing nano precision, not just the marketing data sheet optimism typical with alternative technologies.

At Photonics West, ALIO showcased its new Asymmetric-SeriesTM True Nano® XY positioning stages which represent another unique offering in the industry. When travel ranges for the X and Y axes are not the same, rather than relying on performance-compromising stacked configurations, ALIO’s space-optimizing Asymmetric-Series stages exhibit the same extremely rigid and stable structures that are at the heart of the company’s popular monolithic XY series.

Perhaps one of the key developments from ALIO at Photonics West were technology solutions for precision laser micro-processing, launched under affiliate company 6-D Laser.

6-D Laser has as its central mission to address the limitations of existing laser processing systems which are largely due to sub-optimal positioning systems used by systems integrators. The company tackles this problem by integrating ultra-fast laser material processing with the 6-D nanometer-level precision motion control solutions provided by ALIO Industries through the Hybrid Hexapod®.

6-D Laser has vertically integrated all of the sub-systems required for precision laser micro-processing, and has done this by forming strategic partnerships with key component and subsystem suppliers that are required to achieve the goals of demanding precision applications, including Amplitude Laser, SCANLAB, and ACS Motion Control.

Introducing an integrated ultrafast laser micromachining system that combines the positioning capabilities of the Hybrid Hexapod®, with high-speed optical scanning leads to a system that can process hard, transparent materials with wide-range taper angle control for the creation of high aspect ratio features in thick substrates, without limitations on the feature or field size.

At Photonics West 6D Laser demonstrations included its Polygon Scanner System, and its Unlimited Field-of-View (FOV) Micromachining System. In respect of the Polygon Scanner Systems, 6D Laser has partnered with Next Scan Technology to provide fully integrated planar laser processing systems that combine ALIO’s precision motion stages with high-throughput polygon scanners. For its Unlimited FOV Micromachining System 6D Laser has partnered with SCANLAB to provide fully integrated XLSCAN systems that combine ALIO’s precision motion stages with ACS’s motion control systems.

Laser micro processing has driven innovation and manufacturing efficiency in various industry sectors. 6-D Laser’s micro-processing solutions win through as they can make ultra-precise micro features, are agnostic to which material is being processed, and are highly repeatable. As such, they are now seen as the go-to solutions compared with traditional non-laser driven micro-processing technologies in the consumer electronics, semi-conductor, medical device, solar cell, and optical sectors.

6-D Laser LLC was formed in 2018 as an affiliate of leading nanometer-level motion control specialist ALIO Industries, with the mission of integrating ultrafast laser processing with precision multi-axis motion systems. 6-D Laser offers Hybrid Hexapod-based laser micromachining systems for wide-range taper angle control, 5-Axis Laser Gimbal-based systems for laser processing 3D substrates, and unlimited field of view scanning solutions for laser processing large-format substrates.

Coming out of stealth mode and coinciding with its official launch in 2020, 6-D Laser has launched its website (www.6dlaser.com), and has also announced that the company will be showcasing its radical new approach to laser micro processing at the SPIE Photonics West event, booth 2149, 4-6 February in San Francisco, CA.

6D Laser’s central mission addresses limitations of existing laser processing systems which are largely due to sub-optimal positioning systems used by most system integrators. 6-D Laser tackles this problem by integrating ultra-fast laser material processing with the 6-D nanometer-level precision motion control solutions in which ALIO Industries specializes.

At the heart of 6-D Laser’s integrated ultrafast laser micromachining system is ALIO Industries’ Hybrid Hexapod®, which takes a different approach to traditional 6 Degree of Freedom (6-DOF) positioning devices, and exhibits much higher performance at extremely competitive prices.  Rather than 6 independent legs (and 12 connection joints) ALIO’s approach combines a precision XY monolithic stage, tripod, and continuous rotation theta-Z axis to provide superior overall performance.

The combination of serial and parallel kinematics at the heart of ALIO’s 6-D Nano Precision® is characterized by orders-of-magnitude improvements (when compared to traditional hexapods) in precision, path performance, speed, and stiffness. The Hybrid Hexapod® also has a larger work envelope than traditional hexapods with virtually unlimited XY travel and fully programmable tool center point locations. The Hybrid Hexapod® has less than 100 nm Point Precision® repeatability, in 3-dimensional space.

​6D Laser vertically integrates all of the sub-systems required for precision laser micro-processing, and it does this by forming strategic partnerships with key component and subsystem suppliers that are required to achieve the goals of demanding precision applications. In addition to its association with ALIO, 6-D Laser has also partnered with SCANLAB GmbH, which together with ACS Motion Control, has developed an unlimited field-of-view (UFOV) scanning solution for coordinate motion control of the galvo scanner and positioning stages called XLSCAN.  6-D Laser has also partnered with NextScanTechnology to provide high-throughput scanning systems that take advantage of the high rep-rates in currently available in ultrafast lasers, and Amplitude Laser, a key supplier of ultrafast laser systems for industrial applications.

Dr. Stephen R. Uhlhorn, CTO at 6-D Laser says, “Introducing an integrated ultrafast laser micromachining system that combines the positioning capabilities of the Hybrid Hexapod®, with high-speed optical scanning leads to a system that can process hard, transparent materials with wide-range taper angle control for the creation of high aspect ratio features in thick substrates, without limitations on the feature or field size.”

Ultrafast laser ablative processes, which remove material in a layer-by-layer process, result in machined features that have a significant side wall taper. For example, a desired cylindrical hole will have a conical profile.  Taper formation is difficult to avoid in laser micromachining processes that are creating deep features (> 100 microns).  Precision scanheads can create features with near-zero angle side walls, but they are limited to small angles of incidence (AOI) and small field sizes by the optics in the beamline.

Uhlhorn continues, “6-D Laser’s micromachining system controls the AOI and resulting wall taper angle through the Hybrid Hexapod® motion system, and the programmable tool center point allows for the control of the AOI over the entire galvo scan field, enabling the processing of large features.”

At Photonics West, 6-D Laser will be demonstrating a large format, 2D unlimited field of view (UFOV) scanning solution and a high-throughput polygon scanning system. Key members of the team would be delighted to discuss the specifics of your particular applications.

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.

Copyright 2021 ALIO Industries | Website by SmartaStudio