T-Cube NanoTrak Autoalignment Controller
*T-Cube Piezo Driver(s) (TPZ001) sold separately
- Compact Footprint
- Front Panel or PC Readout
- Active Fiber Alignment
- Maintain Optimum Power Throughput
- IR (InGaAs) & PIN Current Inputs Supplied
- Visible (Si) Detector Available Separately
- Range of PSU Options Available Separately
- USB Plug and Play Connectivity
- Full apt™ Software Control Suite Included
- Extensive ActiveX Programming Interfaces
- Used with 2 TPZ001 Piezo Drivers
The T-Cube™ NanoTrak™ Controller represents the latest developments in automated optical alignment technology. This auto-alignment controller is designed for use in entry-level lower bandwidth photonics devices and fiber alignment and is ideal for low-volume device assembly, characterization, and mapping. It is shipped with an IR range (InGaAs) detector (NTA007) and a PIN diode SMB input for use with external detector heads. A visible range (Si) detector (NTA009) is available separately.
This auto-alignment T-Cube™ unit is used together with a pair of external piezo amplifier channels (TPZ001 T-Cube™ Piezo Drivers) to provide a complete solution for manipulating piezo-actuated nanopositioning stages to align devices to within 10 nm resolution. This unit deploys the same advanced auto-alignment algorithms pioneered on our high-end, higher bandwidth, benchtop NanoTrak™ Controller (BNT001/IR). For an explanation of NanoTrak™, please click on the NanoTrak™ and Software Tabs above.
The user can control the device by using either the manual control panel or via the intuitive software interface provided with the unit.
For convenience, the footprint of this unit has been kept to a minimum, measuring only 60 mm x 60 mm x 47 mm (2.4" x 2.4" x 1.8"). It is also possible to mount the controller to the optical table directly so it is in close proximity to the device it controls. Tabletop operation also allows minimal drive cable lengths for easier cable management. All manual controls are located on the top face of the unit, making it convenient to adjust the piezo positions manually and to monitor the alignment via the easy-to-read target display.
TCH002 USB Controller Hub(PSU not shown)
USB connectivity provides easy plug and play PC controlled operation. These NanoTrak Auto-Alignment Controllers include very user friendly apt™ software, which allows the user to quickly set up complex systems. For example, all relevant operating parameters are set automatically by the software for Thorlabs stage and actuator products. Advanced custom motion control applications and sequences are also possible using the extensive ActiveX® programming environment described in more detail on the Software and Video Tutorials tabs.
Furthermore, multiple units can be connected to a single PC via standard USB hub technology or by using the new T-Cube Controller Hub (TCH002) for multi-axis motion control applications.
Power Supply Options
The preferred power supply (i.e., single channel, multi-channel, or hub-based) depends on the end user's application and whether you already own compatible power supplies. To that end and in keeping with Thorlabs' green initiative, we do not ship these units bundled with a power supply. This avoids the cost and inconvenience of receiving an unwanted single channel supply if a multi-channel or hub-based system would be more appropriate. The power supply options compatible with the TNA001 Series of NanoTrak Controllers are listed in the table below.
*Piezo Drivers (TPZ001) sold separately
Principal of Operation
The NanoTrak performs auto-alignments through use of gradient search algorithms, which operate similar to a compass finding the north-pole, locating the direction of peak signal. The sensitivity of the search is such that, even with small power gradients (far away from peak signal), the NanoTrak will decide in which direction the peak signal is located. This information can then be used to make positional corrections with attached high speed piezo actuators, without having to map or search a large area.
In the proximity of a peak signal, the signal gradient seen is much smaller, indicating that smaller positional correction is required. When peak signal is reached, the gradient seen changes to zero, indicating that no positional correction is needed.
The dynamic behavior of the NanoTrak allows it to continue the alignment process indefinitely. Should the alignment change, the gradient search will detect the change and make a corrective move.
Typical Application Example:
Optical Device Alignment
Optical power transmission through any system under alignment can be described as a Gaussian coupling. Coupled power lowers as a function of distance relative to the aligned position (dependant upon device). Discrete power level alignments can be thought of as positions about the ideal coupling position where the distances from the aligned position are equal. These discrete power alignment positions form concentric circles. These concentric circles represent the power contours and can be thought of as the gradient contours of a hill on a topographic map.
By detecting the gradient of the power at any given position, the NanoTrak can adjust the position until the power is maximized and the gradient becomes zero. This is achieved by scanning over the contours in a circular path to establish the direction of the signal maximum on the circular trajectory. The origin of the scan circle is then moved in the direction of the signal maximum.
Continuous active alignment can used to maintain alignment, or the search algorithms can be halted for next step assembly or R&D operations.
LV OUT CH1/2
0 to +10V. When the unit is used off the TCH002 hub, these outputs are connected to the EXT IN connectors on the associated Piezo Drivers. When the unit is used with the TCH002 hub, these outputs can be connected to an oscilloscope to enable the drive signal of the piezo actuator to be monitored.
Used to receive a signal of optical power from an external power meter; 0 to 10V range, 1MΩ input impedance.
*USB type A to type Mini-B cable included.
Typical APT User GUI
The APT (Advanced Positioning Technology) family covers a wide range of motion controller products ranging from small low powered single channel optomechanical motor drivers (the 'Cube' drivers) to high power multi-channel modular 19" rack nanopositioning systems (the APT Rack System).
All controllers in the APT family share a common software platform, the APT System Software. The software CD supplied with all controllers contains an installation of this system software, together with a wealth of support information in the form of handbooks, help files, tutorial videos, FAQs and other relevant information on using and programming these Thorlabs products.
By providing this common software platform, Thorlabs has ensured that users can easily mix and match any of the APT controllers in a single application while only having to learn one single set of software tools. In this way it is perfectly feasible to combine any of the controllers from the low powered single axis to the high powered multi-axis systems and control all from a single PC based unified software interface.
The APT System Software allows two methods of usage - graphical user interface utilities (supplied) for direct interaction and control of the controllers out of the box, and a set of programming interfaces that allow custom integrated positioning and alignment solutions to be easily progammed in the development language of choice.
Typical Configuration Screen
Detailed information on both usage modes is provided on the CD.
Also of particular interest is the inclusion on the software CD of a range of software video tutorials (see the Video Tutorials tab). These videos illustrate some of the basics of using the APT System Software from both a non-programming and a programming point of view. There are videos that illustrate usage of the supplied APT utilities that allow immediate control of the APT controllers out of the box. There are also a number of videos that explain the basics of programming custom software applications using Visual Basic, LabView and Visual C++.
The APT software is a 32bit native application that runs under 64bit Windows through it's WoW64 32bit emulator. Please note that although the software will run on 64 bit systems, it cannot be used with 64 bit development environment such as LabView.
Click here to go direct to the Thorlabs Download Area to access the full APT software CD. Experiment with the software using the simulator mode - refer to the Tutorial Videos for the APTConfig utility to learn how to select simulator mode.
These videos illustrate some of the basics of using the APT System Software from both a non-programming and a programming point of view. There are videos that illustrate usage of the supplied APT utilities that allow immediate control of the APT controllers out of the box. There are also a number of videos that explain the basics of programming custom software applications using Visual Basic, LabView and Visual C++. Watch the videos now to see what we mean.
To further assist programmers, a guide to programming the APT software in LabView is also available.