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As part of a four-year collaborative project investigating ultra precision surfaces, Cranfield University has acquired a reactive atom plasma figuring system.

The system, developed by RAPT Industries in the USA, will play a key role in improving the speed of manufacture of the ultra-precise optics which interlock to produce the large telescopic mirrors used to look for Earth-like planets near to far-away stars.

Professor Paul Shore, Professor of Ultra Precision Technologies, said: "In precision production engineering terms, the manufacture of segments for the next generation of large telescope designs is probably the most significant precision engineering challenge we have seen. The aim is to produce ultra-precision surfaces at 10 times the accuracy and with ten times greater speed than we are currently able to do.

"Our new machine uses a plasma torch to remove atoms from the surface of an optic to give it its correct surface shape. And this process is one of those identified as being useful in speeding up the manufacture of ultra precision optics."

The university hopes that, once the system has been used in fundamental studies, it can set about building a much bigger version.

"Essentially, we are linking ultra-precision research at Cranfield with plasma physics to allow us to develop better techniques for making ultra-precision surfaces," continued Professor Shore.

As part of the bigger project, Cranfield University professors Paul Shore, Dave Stephenson and John Nicholls, together with University College London and OpTIC Technium, are set to establish a unique UK national facility in North Wales for making large optics. Ends

For further information about the Ultra Precision Surfaces Project, please contact Angelisa Conby, Press & Publications Officer E: pressoffice@cranfield.ac.uk T: 01234 754996

Ultra Precision Research at Cranfield University

Cranfield's precision engineering research activities include a significant amount of ultra-precision technology development in regard to fabrication technologies and novel precision machine systems.

Ultra-precision machining facilities include a range of diamond turning and grinding machines, including high-performance machines built at Cranfield and recently purchased commercial systems.

Cranfield's long-established Ultra Precision Machining Laboratory, one of the most advanced in the world, houses the UK's large X-ray optics fabrication facility as well as a number of state-of-the-art metrology systems for surface form and texture evaluation. Cranfield is heavily involved in developing complex surfaces, including making ultra-precise components for space science missions and instruments, such as for the James Webb Space Telescope.

New high-performance machining facilities are also being developed, including high-performance large optics fabrications systems based on advanced machine tool concepts.

National High Temperature Surface Engineering Centre at Cranfield University

The centre has an international reputation for excellence in research into novel high-temperature corrosion protection coatings, thermal barrier coatings and coating systems to resist erosive wear.

Cranfield has extensive facilities for PVD, CVD coating and plasma spray (LVPS) coating of high temperature components and has the only university facilities in Europe to deposit EBPVD thermal barrier coatings onto turbine blades.




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