A rugged iris mechanism has been designed to satisfy several special requirements, including a wide aperture in the “open” position, full obscuration in the “closed” position, ability to function in a cryogenic or other harsh environment, and minimization of friction through minimization of the number of components. An important element of the lowfriction aspect of the design is maximization of the flatness of, and provision of small gaps between, adjacent iris blades. The tolerances of the design can be very loose, accommodating thermal expansions and contractions associated with large temperature excursions. The design is generic in that it is adaptable to a wide range of aperture sizes and can be implemented in a variety of materials to suit the thermal, optical, and mechanical requirements of various applications.
The mechanism (see figure) includes an inner flat ring, an outer flat ring, and an even number of iris blades. The iris blades shown in front in the figure are denoted as “upper,” and the iris blades shown partly hidden behind the front ones are denoted as “lower.” Each iris blade is attached to the inner ring by a pivot assembly and to the outer ring by a roller/slider assembly. The upper and lower rings are co-centered and are kept in sliding contact. The iris is opened or closed by turning the outer ring around the center while holding the inner ring stationary.
The mechanism is enclosed in a housing (not shown in the figure) that comprises an upper and a lower housing shell. The housing provides part of the sliding support for the outer ring and keeps the two rings aligned as described above. The aforementioned pivot assemblies at the inner ring also serve as spacers for the housing. The lower housing shell contains part of the lower sliding surface and features for mounting the overall mechanism and housing assembly. The upper housing shell contains part of the upper sliding surface.
This work was done by Nelson J. Ferragut of Goddard Space Flight Center. For further information, access the Technical Support Package (TSP) free online at www.techbriefs.com/tsp under the Mechanics category. GSC-14550