Within the last years, atomic force microscopy (AFM), which was primarily invented for image acquisition, has become subject of increasing interest for nanomanipulation and nanofabrication issues. The AFM offers several advantages when compared to other technologies that enable for high precision manipulation. Its ability to operate under different ambient conditions (gas, vacuum, liquids) and also the very low requirements concerning sample properties (no need for conducting or vacuum-compatible material) makes the device a suitable and flexible tool for manipulating at the nanoscale, either for structuring surfaces with nanometric precision or for handling individual nanoobjects. Applications of AFM-based manipulations are manifold which are the prototyping of novel nanoscale devices, reparation or modification of nanostructures, or the characterization and handling of biological samples. However, even though the AFM basically offers all these kinds of manipulation techniques, commercial systems are designed mainly for image acquisition and thus often do not provide suitable control mechanisms to perform micro-/nanomanipulations with the flexibility that is needed. E.g. customizable feedback loops, arbitrary tip movements, varying forces and automation facilities are features that are required for complex nanoscale device fabrication. In this paper, a novel AFM control system and its application for micro-/nanomanipulation and -manufacturing will be presented. The paper is organized as follows. First, an overview on the design of the controller software and hardware is given followed by a description of a method for the compensation of thermal drift. Experimental results are presented, both for the handling of individual carbon nanotubes and for the automated structuring of a gold layer by AFM-based mechanical scratching. Last, the paper is concluded with a prospect to future experiments that will become possible by the new AFM control system.

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