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The optimum pressing force, namely the preload, for a slider to obtain superior operation conditions in a surface acoustic wave motor have been examined. We used steel balls as sliders. The preload was controlled using a permanent magnet. The steel balls were 0.5, 1, and 2 mm diameter, with the differences in diameter making it possible to change contact conditions, such as the contact pressure, contact area, and deformation of the stator and the slider. The stator transducer was lithium niobate, 128 degrees rotated, y-cut x-propagation substrate. The driving frequency of the Rayleigh wave was about 10 MHz. Hence, the particle vibration amplitude at the surface is as small as 10 nm. For superior friction drive conditions, a high contact pressure was required. For example, in the case of the 1 mm diameter steel ball at the sinusoidal driving voltage of 180 V/sub peak/, the slider speed was 43 cm/sec, the thrust output force was 1 mN, and the acceleration was 23 times as large as the gravitational acceleration at a contact pressure of 390 MPa. From the Hertz theory of contact stress, the contact area radius was only 3 /spl mu/m. The estimation of the friction drive performance was carried out from the transient traveling distance of the slider in a 3 msec burst drive. As a result, the deformation of the stator and the slider by the preload should be half of the vibration amplitude. This condition was independent of the ball diameter and the vibration amplitude. The output thrust per square millimeter was 50 N, and the maximum speed was 0.7 m/sec. From these results, we conclude that it is possible for the surface acoustic wave motor to have a large output force, high speed, quick response, long traveling distance, and a thin micro linear actuator.