May 1, 2014 in Blog, Hydroformed Components

Hydroforming Telescopic Optical Mirrors


Hydroforming has changed how multiple industries across the globe function, produce products, and achieve at business. So its no stranger to being on the cutting edge.

But now the seminole, innovative technique has its eyes set high to the sky thanks to a French astrophysics lab and public institution Laboratoire d’Astrophysique de Marseille (LAM), and a piece of MSC analysis software called Marc Nonlinear FEA that will help scientists study hydroforming telescopic optical mirrors.

“Hydroformed mirrors are key to the future of astronomical telescopes,” says the article describing the process. Describing how the conventional process for telescopic mirror design typically used diamond point turning, which ends up being costly and extremely time-consuming.

But in order to achieve the the parabolas and hyperbolas that populate telescopic mirrors shapes, the CNRS-LAM has turned to hydroforming as a means of producing the instruments needed to peer into the vastness of space.

The process uses a 10 MPa clamp, a mold, and fluid at a high pressure (45 MPa). The fluid applies force to the optical surface to deform the mirror into its final form.

Because of hydroforming, the mirror’s surface remains untouched from conventional production tools, thus rendering it nearly perfect in shape and a much higher quality overall, which allow for a greater degrees of freedom, improved observable performance, and reduction of the mass and size of the finished and used product.

There is also a huge reduction in the cost of production as well, in addition to dramatically cutting down the time it normally takes to make just one lense. This allows for funds to be spent elsewhere, and gives the institution more time to focus on other tasks.

But the process isn’t complete without the software that allows scientists to see usually unobservable specifics. Because as the mirrors plastic deforms, the process becomes more difficult to optimize. So as part of the solution to make the process viable, scientists at CNRS-LAM are using Marc FEA analysis software to help eliminate errors and perfect the process.

According to CNRS-LAM’s, Zalpha Challita,

We selected Marc to analyze the hydroforming process because [is] has demonstrated the ability to provide accurate results, [it has] demonstrated the ability to accurately model the hydroforming process and will be used extensively going forward.

The innovative blend of hydroforming plastic and computer software will continue to be used for producing optical mirrors for astronomical instrumentation for long into the future.

LAM is one of the leading astrophysics research facilities in Europe, and one of its fundamental research areas is the instrumentation needed for astrophysics research.

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