Office of Technology Transfer – University of Michigan

High Performance Electromagnetic Actuators

Technology #5106


Moving magnet actuators (MMAs) and voice coil actuators (VCAs) are ideal for a broad variety of precision positioning applications of non-contact, cog free and backlash-free motion. Nanopositioning systems play the critical role of providing the scanning motion between a substrate and a probe in every scanning probe technique employed in nanotechnology, such as scanning probe lithography and metrology atomic force microscopy. While VCA and MMA technologies hold considerable promise in terms of motion range, challenges associated with limited bandwidth, off-axis instability, precision loss due to moving wires, and heat generation significantly restricted the applicability and industrial impact of scanning probe techniques; resulting in precluding of their use in achieving large range nanopositioning. Also applicable to enhance robotic, automation and mechatronic systems such as energy harvesting devices or actuators for micro air vehicles, improved actuation technology is of particular interest for more than $1.1B of sales opportunity in the large range nanopositioning market.


Researchers at the University of Michigan have introduced actuation ideas for moving magnet and moving coil (voice coil) actuators that accomplish the goals of achieving higher force output and speed, lower power consumption, frictionless, backlash-free motion and minimized unwanted loading on the bearings as well as providing good mechanical interface with the load. The innovations offered are based on a variety of ideas that range from using distinctive radially-oriented magnets instead of axial ones, diverse configurations and connections for magnets and coils, special conductive paths, to incorporating the use of wire leads in different forms. With its potential of overcoming the motion range of existing systems which are approximately 100 microns per axis while maintaining nanometric resolution, these high performance electromagnetic actuator technologies can have transformational impact on both large range, high-speed nanopositioning applications and mechatronic systems.


  • Large-range nanopositioning systems: i.e. semiconductor, data storage nanomanufacturing
  • Robotic, automation and mechatronic systems


  • Higher motion range, speed and efficiency
  • Lower power consumption
  • Good mechanical interface with minimized loading
  • Better heat conduction