The ever-increasing demands placed on industrial machine tool manufacturers, for greater speeds and accuracies, are beginning to exceed the capabilities of current machine tool technologies. However, the ongoing revolution in computer, sensor and actuator technologies has introduced the potential of economically meeting these higher demands through new approaches in machine tool design. One actuator technology currently influencing high precision industrial automation is the linear motor. This paper details the development of a single axis linear motor test-bed, replicating one axis of a laser cutting machine tool. Through analysis of system stiffness and torque disturbances, the performance of the linear motor driven axis is compared to that of a more common ball screw driven axis.