The design and characterisation of miniature robotics for astronomical instruments
Cochrane, William Andrew
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Micro robotics has the potential to improve the efficiency and reduce cost of future multi-object instruments for astronomy. This thesis reports on the development and evolution of a micro autonomous pick-off mirror called the Micro Autonomous Positioning System (MAPS) that can be used in a multi-object spectrograph. The design of these micro-autonomous pick-off mirrors is novel as they are capable of high precision positioning using electromagnetic propulsion through utilising non-conventional components and techniques. These devices are self-driven robotic units, which with the help of an external control system are capable of positioning themselves on an instruments focal plane to within 24 μm. This is different from other high precision micro robotics as they normally use piezoelectric actuators for propulsion. Micro robots have been developed that use electromagnetic motors, however they are not used for high precision applications. Although there is a plethora of literature covering design, functionality and capability of precision micro autonomous systems, there is limited research on characterisation methods for their use in astronomical applications. This work contributes not only to the science supporting the design of a micro-autonomous pick-off mirror but also presents a framework for characterising such miniature mechanisms. The majority of instruments are presented with a curved focal plane. Therefore, to ensure that the pick-off mirrors are aligned properly with the receiving optics, either the pick-off mirror needs to be tipped or the receiving optics repositioned. Currently this function is implemented in the beam steering mirror (i.e. the receiving optics). The travel range required by the beam steering mirror is relatively large, and as such, it is more difficult to achieve the positional accuracy and stability. By incorporating this functionality in the pick-off mirror, the instrument can be optimised in terms of size, accuracy and stability. A unique self-adjusting mirror (SAM) is thus proposed as a solution and detailed. As a proof-of-concepts both MAPS and SAM usability in multi-object spectrographs was evaluated and validated. The results indicate their potential to meet the requirements of astronomical instruments and reduce both the size and cost.