Observatory on La Palma, ballscrews open the door to the stars

Astronomy is important because physics in itself does not invent things, just as biology does not cure anything. Scientists, engineers and physicians often use fundamental research conducted in space or in the field of astronomy as a basis for their own innovations. Today, astrophysicists conduct research using huge telescopes, some connected across continents, as well as light-sensitive instruments in the most remote areas of the Earth. Learn how nimble ballscrews detect the most powerful explosions in the universe and help solve the mysteries of modern astrophysics.

 

On the trail of the mysteries of the universe - ballscrews make it possible

Anyone looking up at the sky is astronomically speaking looking into the past rather than the future. The universe is packed with high-energy particle streams. This cosmic radiation originates from things like stellar explosions, active galaxies, as well as gamma ray bursts. The exact nature of the sources of such radiation, the "cosmic particle accelerators", is not well understood. There are a total of four large latest-generation Cherenkov telescopes in the world: Australia, Namibia, La Palma and the USA. Positioning the telescopes at different locations in the northern and southern hemispheres allows researchers to observe both halves of the sky in an optimal way. Using these giant mirrors, the researchers can see over five billion light years into the universe.

On La Palma, two imposing Cherenkov telescopes known as " MAGIC" transform the Earth's atmosphere into a gigantic particle detector. Within a few seconds, almost a thousand mirrors focus on the most distant activities in the heavens. Each individual reflector plate aligns itself with a preset laser point. Each of the mosaic-like mirror elements is driven on two sides by an incredibly fast and highly reliable ballscrew from Eichenberger Gewinde AG.

 

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Nimble ballscrews open the eye into the universe. Supernova remnants,
active galactic nuclei, black holes and pulsars are regularly observed.


It's magic

The Eichenberger experts provide inspiration for the realisation of new product ideas and entirely new types of drives and screw drive solutions. They challenge the limits of what is technically feasible and make the impossible possible. The masterminds behind the Cherenkov telescope project recognised the potential of Eichenberger's dedication and cold-rolled ballscrews so they placed their trust in the Swiss company. The MAGIC team was fully convinced by the Eichenberger passion for perfect motion combined with the commitment to creating both a foundation for a long life cycle and a strong competitive position for its partners.

It gets really dark on La Palma. Stargazing and visiting the observatory are amongst the highlights for tourists. The whole island is a UNESCO protected area that safeguards the quality and natural darkness of the sky. There are a number of telescopes in the vicinity of the Roque de los Muchachos Observatory. The two largest aerial Cherenkov telescopes in the world, MAGIC I and II, owe their performance to the robust, Carry 12x2 rolled ballscrews. These are at the heart of each of the small drive units on the side of the mirrors.

 

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MAGIC Telescopes
(engl. Major Atmospheric Gamma-Ray Imaging Cherenkov Telescopes)


Magical performance thanks to cold-rolled ballscrews


These telescopes aim to decode the previously unobservable energy range of electromagnetic radiation between 30 and 300 GeV (1 GeV is equivalent to about 1.6 1010 joules). Objects under observation include active galactic nuclei, supernova remnants, neutron stars and black holes. In addition, the measurements contribute to a better understanding of the mysterious gamma ray bursts and the enigmatic dark matter. A technical masterpiece is called for so that the telescopes are capable of delivering such rapid response times and exceptional precision. The innovative details and special manufacturing processes of the Eichenberger screw drives are the basis for this perfect motion with maximum dynamics. The Carry power units are manufactured and hardened cost-effectively in large series using the thread rolling process.



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Ballscrew 12x2 with single-thread ball return


Core competences – thread rolling and hardening


The thread rolling, the longitudinal fibres of the material are deflected rather than cut, unlike with grinding, milling or turning. The result is a compressed, smoothly rolled, extremely resilient surface, which is essential for for long service life of the spindle. Furthermore, the roughness values around Rz 1.0 on the thread flanks and in the base radius as well as a significantly reduced notch sensitivity are a major advantage. The rolling friction coefficient for steel balls is 0.003 to 0.001 compared to 0.1 to 0.05 for steel-on-steel (lubricated) sliding friction. The excellent sliding properties of the cold-rolled ballscrew ensure minimal abrasion and minimise surface contamination. This enables low-noise rolling of the balls.



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During thread rollingthe longitudinal fibres of the material are deflected.
This cold forming leads to significant increase in the hardness.



Years of experience with in-house induction hardening has given Eichenberger a great deal of know-how. Unlike a hardening workshop dedicated exclusively to hardening steel, the thread specialist strives to obtain the best possible combination of hardness and precision. This is crucial for the high lead accuracy of the ball screws across an impressive range of diameters. Meeting this challenge is especially important with small dimensions, as the smaller the diameter, the more competence and skill it takes to do the hardening.

 

Härten 300 dpi-1

Core competence: Induction hardening

 

The ideal partner for everything from individual parts to series

The mechanical wheel is not something to be reinvented, and yet it is the Eichenberger challenge to continually push the boundaries of cold-rolled ballscrews. Competence goes beyond knowledge, as it requires problem-solving expertise too. Every newly developed screw drive is included in the thread rolling product range. Over the decades, this has resulted in a huge selection of ball screws and sliding screws.

Our designers always try to start from a standard nut and spindle and adapt these components according to the specific requirements of the application. This offers a key price advantage, as in high-price Switzerland, the challenge for designers is to develop great technical value in a market-driven, competitive product. Technological knowledge, research and development are equally important as the willingness to change and the mastery of efficient manufacturing processes.

 

  • «Carry»:    Ballscrew drive for applications involving moving large loads with low energy consumption.
                 Some versions offer especially high travel speeds.
  • «Speedy»:  This high helix thread spindle converts linear into rotary motion – at fast traverse speed. 
                 New: some available in aluminium
  • «Rondo»:   The very smooth-running round thread spindle.
                 New: some available in aluminium
  • «Easy»:     Hard-anodised light screw made of aluminium with an efficiency of more than 0.8,
                 for higher loads than with normal sliding screws. The special profile prevents the
                 nut from jamming.

More details

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