Robotics & Mechatronics

Bosch Rexroth supports stargazers

1st Quarter 2010 Robotics & Mechatronics

Critical elements of one of the world’s largest telescopes are guided and protected by extruded aluminium profiling from Bosch Rexroth.

The profiling, which is used for rapidly constructing structures and building safety constructions, has been employed to solve some challenging problems on the large binocular telescope (LBT) located on Arizona’s Mount Graham, USA.

As tall as an 11-storey building, the LBT’s viewing power exceeds that of the Hubble telescope by a factor of 10, allowing scientists to peer into the depths of the universe. However, structural engineering also plays a vital supporting role at the facility.

Optical elements

It is the optical elements that make the LBT so fascinating – the LBT is the only such telescope in the world that uses two mirrors on a common platform. Each mirror is 8,4 m in diameter. The mirrors are linked optically, and attain a resolution corresponding to that of a 22,5 m mirror. Located about 24 m below the mirrors is the PEPSI (Potsdam Echelle Polarimetric and Spectroscopic Instrument), a high-resolution spectrograph built by the Astrophysical Institute of Potsdam (AIP) in Germany. The light gathered by the mirrors has to be continuously fed to PEPSI.


The light passes through high-sensitivity fibre-optic waveguides which are bundled inside jackets to form the 'energy chain'. One of the greatest challenges involved with the LBT project has been to stabilise the energy chains so that each energy chain can move on both the horizontal and vertical plane to follow the mirrors’ motion without this having any effect on the light feed.

A second challenge resulted from the fact that the PEPSI is located at the lowest point in the azimuth pit. This space is actually a large concrete cylinder with a centre that corresponds to the telescope’s vertical axis. The fibre-optics needed to be routed down through a small opening, to the spectrograph and the azimuth pit needed to be covered to prevent accidents.

Framing a solution

“We knew how to approach the problem,” explains Frank Dionies, mechanical engineer, AIP, “We use extruded aluminium made by Rexroth in a lot of our project applications.”

In order to solve the problem with the energy chain, the engineering team developed a modular framing system, in which the cable track holding the waveguide was mounted on extruded aluminium beams.

According to Dionies, Rexroth profiling and its accompanying versatile connectors allow any structure to be assembled quickly and efficiently. “After we had installed the framing, the telescope crew decided to lay one of the permanent ladders above the azimuth pit. This meant that we had to move the energy chain to the opposite side. It took only three hours to dismantle the framing, reconfigure and reassemble it, and mount it again.”

For more information contact Kevin Lombard, Tectra Automation,+27 (0) 11 971 9400,,


Share this article:
Share via emailShare via LinkedInPrint this page

Further reading:

Aluminium profiles for COVID-19 protection screens
First Quarter 2020, Tectra Automation , Other technologies
Rexroth aluminium profiles from Tectra Automation are used to safeguard personnel across a range of industries and numerous applications. The durable composition of these profiles and their adaptability ...

AGVs for automated production
First Quarter 2020, SICK Automation Southern Africa , Robotics & Mechatronics
Automated and flexible production processes are the answer to increasing quantities, smaller batch sizes, and high production speeds. Automated guided vehicle (AGVs) systems and their smaller relatives, ...

Moving into 2020 with Festo digitalised products
First Quarter 2020, Festo , Robotics & Mechatronics
Industry 4.0 is rapidly automating the modern working world and helping the machine and system building sector reach new heights.

Factory harmony
First Quarter 2020, Omron Electronics , Robotics & Mechatronics
A promising model for the new harmony on the factory floor is based on intelligent, integrated and interactive design of tomorrow’s manufacturing processes.

Robot with air-water actuators has fluid motion
Fourth Quarter 2019 , Editor's Choice, Robotics & Mechatronics
Hydraulics and pneumatics are widely used for power transmission: hydraulics for moving heavy loads with highly controlled motion, and pneumatics for lighter loads and rapid, repetitive motions. Many ...

Underwater robot with a unique fin
Third Quarter 2019, Festo , Editor's Choice, Robotics & Mechatronics
      Swimming like the natural model The longitudinal fins of the polyclad and the cuttlefish extend from the head to the tail along their backs, their undersides or the two sides of their torsos. To ...

Suction cup for sheet metal handling
Third Quarter 2019, Tectra Automation , Pneumatic systems & components
Tectra Automation has introduced the new SAX bell-shaped suction cup from Schmalz to its range of vacuum components. This is a single-piece suction cup with a vulcanised connection nipple made of reinforced ...

Manoeuvring agricultural robots with 2D laser scanners
Third Quarter 2019, SICK Automation Southern Africa , Robotics & Mechatronics
How can we harness modern technology in a way that will allow people to collaborate with business even more intelligently, efficiently and sustainably in the future? The solution is 2D laser scanners ...

The future of collaborative robots
Third Quarter 2019, Omron Electronics , Robotics & Mechatronics
Factories worldwide are dealing with the challenges of manufacturing a wide variety of low volume products to meet customer demands, as well as shorter product life cycles and labour shortage issues. ...

Industry 5.0 – the best of both worlds
2nd Quarter 2019, Cobots , Editor's Choice, Robotics & Mechatronics
The convergence of robot capabilities and human skills.