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The project is run by the Optical Science Laboratory at University College London and Cranfield University. The top-level goal is ambitious: to gain a factor of 10 in surface precision and manufacturing time, and address complex aspheric and free-form surfaces.
But where is the new paradigm? Process-development has tended towards optimising processes in isolation. UPS is taking a more holistic view, optimising the end-to-end process-chain over three new 1-metre CNC production machines, running five state-of-the-art processes. Cranfield is building an ultra-precision grinder and an atomic plasma machine. Zeeko Ltd (originally a UCL spin-out) has delivered to OpTIC a hybrid 1.2m machine which will run "Zeeko Classic"™ membrane polishing, "Zeeko Jet"™ fluid-jet polishing, and "Zeeko Grolish"™, a new process between polishing and bound-abrasive grinding. Smaller machines and measuring instrumentation will support process-development.
An ambitious technology project needs a challenging real-life application to bring focus and inspiration. This is provided by the next generation of extremely large telescopes ("ELT's")the 50-100 metre telescopes that will search for earth-like planets orbiting other stars, and galaxies at the very epoch of their formation. ELT's will be tiled with many hundreds to thousands of interlocking 1-2 metre hexagonal mirrors which, in the European baseline design, are all spherical for ease of manufacture. However, there is a large cost in both the resulting complexity of the rest of the optical system, and in performance degradation which will compromise key science goals. If only off-axis aspheric mirrors could be economically made, it could overcome these limitations. UPS seeks to identify a process-route, and then to exploit the emerging technology over a wide range of market sectors.
An interim Optical Polishing Laboratory with smaller Zeeko machines is operational at OpTIC, after starting in July 2004. The project team is currently planning the development of the rear of the building to house the core National Facility, which will integrate the smaller equipment with the new 1m machines as they arrive over the next year. The project team will be actively exploring how this world-class facility can help support the local Electro-Optics Cluster, the wider Welsh Optics-Electronics industry, and ultimately stimulate a renaissance in UK surface manufacturing.
Page last modified on 18 jun 10 16:45 by Fabrizio Sidoli