Motion solutions are an integral part of modern industry. They help workers accomplish their tasks quickly and easily, and deliver high-precision outputs every single time. This leads to operational efficiency and in turn, cost savings and greater profitability, not to mention superior quality of products.
Among the most important components of motion, solutions are high-precision linear stages. Simply put, these are motor-driven platforms (or stages) that move a payload — an object that is placed on the platform or stage — in a single plane of movement with the highest amount of precision possible. The payload can be anything, say an item that needs to be processed like a circuit board, or a tool like a laser cutter.
Why Are Linear Stages Important?
Linear stages are essentially positioning devices — it places an object and/or another device in the exact spot where it is needed. These stages are provided extremely high-precision motions in a single axis, significantly decreasing runout. This is an important factor in various industries and applications like semiconductor manufacturing, photonics instrumentation, scanning probe measurements, and various scientific operations.
Another critical role of linear stages is to provide repeatability of the required high-precision motion. Take semiconductor manufacturing, for example. Semiconductors have several tiny components, sometimes even in the micrometer and nanometer scale that need to be placed precisely onto the boards. Humans can definitely be trained to handle these materials, but it would be extremely difficult and would take a long time to master. What’s more, physical fatigue can result in inconsistencies. With the help of linear stages, such processes can be automated and thus ensure that each product meets the standard.
Finally, linear stages are used to speed up tasks. Again, humans can perform such jobs but they are restricted by the limits of physiology. There are also various steps that humans must do before they can perform such tasks, like wearing the appropriate attire to comply with workplace safety standards as well as to protect the integrity of the product. With linear stages and motor systems, these extra steps can be eliminated. Indeed, these machines can perform the tasks that they are programmed to do as soon as they are turned on. There is no need to “warm up,” so to speak, or to perform other preparatory procedures. Speed, along with precision and repeatability, are important facets of mass production.
Other Benefits of Linear Stages
Linear stages have become a mainstay in various industries because they also provide a host of other benefits. For example, an air-bearing linear stage is held up by an air cushion, which helps minimize mechanical contact between the machine and the component or product being processed. This eliminates friction and vibration, as well as wear-and-tear of the motion system itself. This further lowers the risk of runouts and minimizes the need for maintenance and/or replacement.
Linear stages powered by linear motors, meanwhile, are largely considered the most precise of any linear stage set-up because they do not rely on mechanical components like belts or rack and pinions, which removes velocity disturbances from the equation. The lack of mechanical components also renders them almost maintenance-free, needing only about one to two minutes of upkeep for every six months of operation. This type of linear stage also has the encoders built right into the system. And by delivering the right amount of current to the motor, you can get the exact amount of force you need.
A linear stage is just one of the many motion solutions available in the market. Depending on your business needs and production requirements, you may have to invest in other products like rotary stages or XY stages. You may even combine a linear stage with another motion system to provide a greater range of movement. However, by and large, linear stages can already offer the high-precision motion positioning necessary in various fields.