High-Precision Linear Motion Controllers for Beam Diagnostics

High-Precision Linear Motion Controllers for Beam Diagnostics

Every beamline in the world needs beam diagnostics to monitor the properties of the beam itself. Linear motion controllers are an essential part of any beam diagnostic system, enabling sensors and measuring devices to be precisely position in or around the beam. In this article we take a close look at how linear motion controllers are used in beam diagnostics, and the range of high-performance linear motion controllers produced by UHV design.

In particle physics research, “beamline” typically refers to the path along which a beam of particles or light passes; as well as the surrounding hardware such as vacuum pumps, valves,  diagnostic devices, beam profile control, and beam energy selection. Typically, the beam itself passes down a metal tube known as a beam pipe, the interior of which is maintained at ultra-high vacuum pressure.


Maintaining an Ultra High Vacuum within the beam pipe is crucial, as it reduces the probability of gas molecules interacting with the beam and producing unwanted collisions. As such, beamlines constitute some of the most technically impressive vacuum systems in the world.

Every functional beamline requires beam diagnostics. This refers to all instrumentation required to monitor the properties of the beam itself, enabling beam parameters and alignment to be corrected and optimized for specific applications. This instrumentation is essential to the everyday function of any accelerator: It’s estimated that diagnostics hardware (including sensors, actuators and linear motion controllers) represent between 3% and 10% of the total cost of an accelerator facility.

Actuators and Linear Motion Controllers in Beamline Applications

The various sensors deployed in beamline diagnostics – such as monitors for beam position, profile or current – can require incredibly precise positioning within the beamline. This positioning is carried out by linear actuators, often with position feedback using encoders or other devices which are in turn controlled by linear motion controllers.

For beam diagnostic applications, the performance of the linear motion controllers used is just as important as the accuracy, precision, repeatability, and robustness of the linear actuators themselves.

Linear motion controllers vary from relatively simple handheld devices to software-controlled computerized controllers. Handheld linear motion controllers are generally plugged directly into a motor and typically allow the user to control both the speed and direction of a linear actuator; whereas computerized linear motion controllers provide precise control via a software interface. Computerized linear motion controllers are suitable for light industrial and scientific uses where precision is crucial and system integration is required.

For precision beamline applications, the Multi-Axis Stepper Controller (MASC) from UHV Design provides single- or multiple-axis control of stepper motorized products (such as linear actuators) for beam diagnostics. The MASC features analogue and digital inputs for limit switches and encoders, and can be controlled via either integrated software, 3rd party software (such as Applied Motion Q and Si programmer) or a touchscreen jog box.

UHV Design provide linear motion controllers, actuators and a range of other ultra-high vacuum grade components for beamline diagnostic applications. To find out more about our range of linear motion controllers and other products, contact a member of the team today.