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Piezoelectric actuator

Piezoelectric actuators are transducers that convert electrical energy into a mechanical displacement or stress using a piezoelectric effect. Since piezoelectric elements have excellent responsiveness and conversion efficiency from electrical energy to mechanical energy, various types of piezoelectric actuators utilizing the piezoelectric effect of piezoelectric elements have been developed in recent years. A piezoelectric actuator which utilizes the piezoelectricity of crystal has been used widely in a high precision positioning mechanism since it can control a minute mechanical displacement at high speed. Piezoelectric actuators have the advantage of a high actuating precision and a fast reaction. Such actuators are components with a high electrical capacity whereby only part of the electrical energy supplied to the actuators is converted to mechanical energy. The piezoelectric actuators are driven in various manners according to the purposes and methods of use of systems to which they are applied. The piezoelectric actuators have been applied to products such as a piezoelectric buzzer, an inkjet head of a printer, and an ultrasonic motor. In ink jet printers, a piezoelectric actuator is generally used in the ink jet head of the ink jet printers for ejecting liquid ink therefrom. Piezoelectric actuators normally include a plurality of piezoelectric elements arranged in a stack. Each of these elements, in turn, includes a piezoceramic layer which is provided on both sides with metallic electrodes. A multilayer piezoelectric ceramic actuator includes a piezoelectric effect element formed by stacking a number of thin sheets of piezoelectric material in a displacement direction, so that a large amount of displacement can be obtained with a low driving voltage. An internal electrode is interposed between each pair of adjacent piezoelectric material sheets, and the internal electrodes are interconnected every other one, so that all the internal electrodes are divided into two groups. A laminated type piezoelectric actuator is composed of a laminated structure of piezoelectric films of piezoelectric ceramics, etc., each having thickness of several tens microns and has a thin film internal electrode provided thereon. Such type of actuator is featured by its capability of generating large force with relatively low drive voltage and has been widely utilized in the fields of high precision positioning control of a semiconductor manufacturing apparatus such as exposure apparatus, control of valves of a mass flowmeter, thickness control in an extruder of plastic film and optical axis control of an optical device, which require high precision control of minute displacement in the order of micron or less.

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