As magnetic computer disks are developed to ever-greater data storage densities, the accuracy required for head positioning is moving beyond the accuracy provided by present technology using single-stage voice-coil motors in hard disk drives. This thesis details work to develop a novel active suspension arm with 2-dimensional actuation for use in advanced hard disk drives. The arm developed is capable of high-bandwidth data tracking as well as precision head flying height control motion. High-bandwidth data tracking is facilitated by the use of piezoelectric stack actuator, positioned closer to the head. The suspension arm is also capable of motion in the orthogonal axis. This motion represents active flying height control to maintain the correct altitude during drive operation. To characterise the suspension arm's structural dynamics, a high-resolution measurement system based on the optical beam deflection technique has been developed. This has enabled the accurate measurement of minute end-deflections of the suspension arm in 2-dimensions, to sub-nanometre resolution above noise. The design process of the suspension arm has led into the development of novel piezoelectric-actuated arms. In the work involving lead zirconate titanate (PZT) thick films as actuators, work in this thesis shows that reinforcing the films with fibre improves the overall actuation characteristics of the thick films. This discovery benefits applications such as structural health monitoring. The final suspension arm design has been adopted because it is simple in design, easier to integrate within current hard disk drive environment and easier to fabricate in mass. Closed-loop control algorithms based on proportional, integral and derivative (PID) controller techniques have been developed and implemented to demonstrate high bandwidths that have been achieved. The suspension arm developed presents an important solution in head-positioning technology in that it offers much higher bandwidths for data tracking and flying height control; both very essential in achieving even higher data storage densities on magnetic disks at much reduced head flying heights, compared to those in existing hard disk drives.

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