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ES442 - Precision Engineering and Microsystems

(15 Credits)


To provide a rigorous understanding of first-principles design applied at the limits of practical performance and to introduce ideas and methodologies for miniaturization that are essential to modern technology, e.g. in the large UK instrumentation sector. Additionally, to provide insights into the science and practice of metrology.

Learning Outcomes

By the end of the module the student should be able to:

  • Criticize constructively designs for (electro-) mechanical systems, making judgments on their effectiveness.
  • Produce and defend conceptual design solutions for applications that make unusually high demands for mechanical stability, precise motion control, etc. or that benefit from high degrees of miniaturization.
  • Appreciate the range and principles of special manufacturing methods needed for high-precision systems and micro-devices and make informed choices of candidate processes for specific tasks.


  • Introduction: the need for miniaturization; scaling effects; the interactions of Precision Engineering, Micro-mechanics and Nanotechnology
  • Micro-Systems Technology: examples of design and fabrication approaches for micro-mechatronic systems.
  • Micromechanical Manufacture: limits of capability of conventional mechanical manufacturing; concepts and performance of non-conventional methods such as diamond turning, ductile mode grinding, photo-lithography, LIGA, ion-beam processes, laser ablation.
  • Principles of Precision Mechanism Design: loop analysis, alignment principles, kinematics of constaint, mechanism mobility, psuedo-kinematic design, symmetry, nulling and compensation strategies.
  • Design of Precision Instruments: semi-kinematic slideways and bearings, flexure mechanisms, sensors, actuators and drives, generalized levers, materials selection, vibration isolation.
  • Sub-micrometre Metrology: Optical interferometry, grating technologies, surface metrology instruments, length comparators and their sensors, scanning tunneling and atomic force microscopes.

Illustrative Bibliography :

Foundations of ultraprecision mechanism design [electronic resource] Smith, S.T. Gordon & Breach, Science Publishers 1994, 1992 ISBN 0203565509
From Instrumentation to Nanotechnology Gardner, J.W. Gordon & Breach, Science Publishers (1991) ISBN 9782881247941
Microsensors, MEMS and Smart Devices Gardner, J.W., . Wiley (2001) ISBN 9780471861096
Precision Engineering: an evolutionary view Evans, C. Cranfield Press (1989) ISBN 1871315018
Precision Machine Design Slocum, A.H. Prentice Hall (1992) ISBN 9780136909187
Principles of Precision Engineering Nakazawa, H. OUP (1994) ISBN 9780198562665