Design, modeling, and performance of a high force piezoelectric inchworm motor

Timothy Galante, Jeremy Frank, Julien Bernard, Weiching Chen, George A. Lesieutre, Gary H. Koopmann

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

45 Scopus citations


A linear inchworm motor was developed for structural shape control applications. One motivation for this development was the desire for higher speed alternatives to shape memory alloy based devices. Features of the subject device include compactness (60×40×20 mm), large displacement range (6 mm), and large holding force capability (200 N). There are three active piezoelectric elements within the inchworm: two `clamps' and one `pusher.' Large displacements are achieved by repetitively advancing and clamping the pushing element. Although each pusher step is small, on the order of 10 microns, if the step rate is high enough, substantial speeds may be obtained (8 mm/s). In the past, inchworm devices have been used primarily for precision positioning. The development of a robust clamping mechanism is essential to the attainment of high force capability, and considerable design effort focused on improving this mechanism. To guide the design, a lumped parameter model of the inchworm was developed. This model included the dynamics of the moving shaft and the frictional clamping devices, and used a variable friction coefficient. It enabled the simulation of the time response of the actuator under typical loading conditions. The effects of the step drive frequency, the pre-load applied on the clamps, and the phase shifts of the clamp signals to the main pusher signal were investigated. Using this tool, the frequency bandwidth, the optimal pre-load and phase shifts which result in maximum speed were explored. Measured rates of motion agreed well with predictions, but the measured dynamic force was lower than expected.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)962-972
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Intelligent Material Systems and Structures
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 1999

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Materials Science
  • Mechanical Engineering


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