PI started designing and manufacturing its own piezo ceramics based on special PZT (Pb[ZrxTi1-x]O3) formulations at its, Lederhose, Thuringia site in 1990. After the reunification with the GDR, PI hired a number of experienced material scientists in this area and founded PI Ceramic.
"Over the decades, we have learnt how piezo ceramics behave and how to tune its different ingredients. We use this wealth of data for modeling when we design new systems. Having access to the piezo material and manufacturing technology puts PI in a very special position compared to other providers of precision motion systems. Large industrial ceramics manufacturers don’t focus on actuator-type ceramics, it’s only a niche for them ", says Dr. Marth and explains why this is a competitive advantage. What about Chinese competitors? "Not all piezo materials are created equal. Lighters and buzzers usually work with cheap piezo ceramics from Asia. Our key applications are in industrial precision motion with the highest demands on performance and lifetime. Obviously there are counterfeit products but our main competitors come from the USA and Japan", reports Dr. Marth, who has been working with the technology for more than 35 years.
A reward: The SEMI Technology Innovation Showcase Award was presented to PI for an innovative drive technology, called PiezoWalk® based on coordinated motion of multiple piezo actuators. The customers demand even more: There's no place for production downtimes in the semiconductor industry. As a precaution, companies are more inclined to change components beforehand in order to prevent downtimes. "That does not always make economic sense" says Dr. Marth.