Piezoceramic Drive Solutions for Medical Engineering

Medical engineering and related life-science disciplines have a multi-faceted requirements profile for the motion drives employed. The spectrum goes from high-precision positioning systems to simple drive components which are compact, fast, reliable and energy-saving. Piezoceramic drives are perfect for both these applications.

Piezoceramic drives for medical engineering

Physik Instrumente (PI) successfully integrates appropriate solutions in a wide variety of medical applications. Since the piezoelectric ceramics are developed and manufactured in-house at PI Ceramic, PI can be very flexible in reacting to customers' requirements. From the piezoceramic disk for generating ultrasound through to six-axis positioning systems for load positioning in strong magnetic fields, PI and PI Ceramic provide a broad spectrum of drives for medical engineering.

  • Clinical research and diagnostics
  • Microscopy and therapeutic applications
  • High-precision dosing
  • Moving test strips, pumps and nebulisers

Piezoceramic elements

Piezoelectric materials convert electrical energy directly into mechanical energy and vice versa. Their motion is based on crystalline displacements, so there is neither friction nor wear. Piezoceramic components can be used as ultrasonic generators, actuators or sensors. They therefore have a wide range of applications in medical engineering. These include micro-dosing pumps and nebulisers to generate homogenous aerosols, sensors for flow measurement, and air-bubble detectors. Even systems which are energy self-sufficient can be realised.

Piezo actuators

A piezo actuator is basically a large number of piezoceramic elements stacked together in order to achieve larger travel ranges. The motion is based on crystalline effects and so there are no rotating parts, neither is there any friction; piezo actuators are therefore practically maintenance-free and non-wearing.

To keep the operating voltages low, the individual layers in the so-called multilayer actuators are very thin. They are manufactured using co-fired technology which guarantees maximum reliability. The actuators are electrically insulated in a way which is humidity resistant and are used in medical engineering, e.g. in dosing applications, pumps and valves.

Piezoelectric drives for large travel ranges

Drives that are based on piezomotors combine the high stiffness and dynamics of pure piezo actuators with unlimited travel ranges. They also operate with high resolution in the nanometer range. This means they can always replace conventional motor-spindle combinations when these are not small, precise, fast, powerful or reliable enough. In medical engineering, this is the case when pipetting or in robotics, for example. Different versions cover a wide variety of application requirements.

High-accuracy piezo positioning systems

PI usually uses piezo actuators or piezoelectric linear drives in its positioning systems. Friction-free flexures provide maximum guiding accuracy, while capacitive sensors measure the position. They come from PI's own product programme, as do the controllers and the control and operating software.

The perfectly matched components are one of the main reasons why the systems have a high positional accuracy in the nanometer range. In medical engineering they are mainly used for imaging and robotics applications. The dynamics and compact size of the piezo positioning systems can also benefit positioning and scanning applications where nanometer accuracy is not required.


Hexapod systems are based on six high-resolution actuators which act on a common platform. Their parallel kinematics design means they operate with higher dynamics and precision than independent axes constructed in series. The control not only allows repeatable precise motion to the target position, it also makes it possible to precisely specify the exact route. In medical engineering hexapods are mainly used for handling systems or for surgery and endoscopy. In therapeutics, they allow the patient to be placed in exactly the right position, for treatment of a tumor, for example.

Contact Details

Physik Instrumente (PI) GmbH & Co. KG
Auf der Roemerstr. 1
76228 Karlsruhe
+49 721/4846-0
+49 721/4846-1019
Catalogues and brochures

Available White Papers


Positioning Loads Accurately to the Micrometer 11 September 2014 PETRA III is an innovative storage ring-based X-ray light source in the world and it provides international scientists with excellent experimentation facilities.


Ultra-High-Resolution Microscopy in a Modular System 04 October 2013 In life sciences, chemical-pharmaceutical analyses or modern material sciences, the optical resolution and information content of classical microscopy methods are no longer sufficient.


Imaging Methods in Medical Technology: Piezo Actuators for Precise Positioning Systems and Scanners 22 August 2011 Imaging Methods in Medical Technology: Piezo Actuators for Precise Positioning Systems and Scanners