MEMS stages comprising a plurality of comb drive actuators provide micro and up to nano-positioning capability. Flexure hinges and folded springs that operably connect the actuator to a movable end stage provide independent motion from each of the actuators that minimizes unwanted off-axis displacement, particularly for three-dimensional movement of a cantilever. Also provided are methods for using and making MEMS stages. In an aspect, a process provides a unitary MEMS stage made from a silicon-on-insulator wafer that avoids any post-fabrication assembly steps.
Further provided are various devices that incorporate any of the stages disclosed herein, such as devices requiring accurate positioning systems in applications including scanning probe microscopy, E-jet printing, near-field optic sensing, cell probing and material characterization.