Actuation mechanisms could be simpler.
Back actuators have been proposed as alternatives to edge actuators considered previously for use in aligning hexagonal segments of lightweight segmented astronomical mirrors planned for use in outer space. The proposed back actuators could also be useful on Earth as parts of wafer-conveyance systems in the semiconductor industry.
Whereas the prior edge actuators were required to impose rotations and torques (in addition to forces and displacements) at joints between mirror segments, the proposed back actuators would be required to impose only forces and displacements (sometimes accompanied by small incidental torques and rotations). The advantages of the back-actuation approach, relative to the edge-actuation approach, are that the actuation mechanisms could be made simpler and a single overall actuation scheme could incorporate what were previously separate actuation schemes for (1) orienting the mirror segments at the required angles and (2) placing the mirror segments at the required distances along the optical axis from the focus.
Each hexagonal mirror segment would be supported at three points by sets of linear actuators (see figure). The linear actuators at each support point would include one to impose displacement along the optical axis (the z axis in the figure) plus one or two to impose displacement along one or two of the hexagonal axes. The linear actuators could be, for example, shape-memory-alloy actuators or piezoelectric actuators that move in the manner of an inchworm like those described in several previous NASA Tech Briefs articles.
This work was done by Eui-Hyeok Yang and Dean Wiberg of Caltech for NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory. For further information, access the Technical Support Package (TSP) free on-line at www.techbriefs.com/tsp under the Mechanics category. NPO-30550
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Back Actuators for Segmented Mirrors and Other Applications (reference NPO-30550) is currently available for download from the TSP library.
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