To improve the performance of atomic force microscopes regarding speed and noise sensitivity, it is important to consider the mechanical rigidity of the actuator (scanner), and the overall mechanical structure. Using finite element analysis in the design process, it was possible to increase the first resonance frequency from 950 Hz for the whole system to 23.4 kHz for the whole system. This constitutes a factor of similar to25 in resonance frequency and a factor of 625 in stiffness and, hence, noise immunity. (C) 2004 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.