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Date: 05/2003
PI News: 273 Precision Actuators for SALT, the Largest Segmented Mirror Telescope in the Southern Hemisphere

273 Precision Actuators for the Largest Telescope in the Southern Hemisphere

PI is currently delivering custom high-resolution actuators and controllers for SALT (Southern African Large Telescope). According to officials, SALT is the largest single telescope in the southern hemisphere with a hexagonal mirror array 11 meters across and "will be able to record distant stars, galaxies and quasars a billion times too faint to be seen with the unaided eye - as faint as a candle flame at the distance of the moon".

Testbench for one actuators cluster Testbench for one actuator cluster. A total of 9 clusters will control the largest telescope in the southern hemisphere. These custom actuators and controllers are based on PI's 30+ years of nano-motion-control experience.

Multi-Axis Controller Reliable control of all 273 axes is based on 9 custom PI C-880 multi-axis automation controllers (here shown with a multi-axis fiber alignment stages) custom interfacing and software.

The actuators, a custom version of the heavy duty M-235 ball screw DC Mike are driven by 9 custom PI C-880 multi-axis automation controllers custom interfacing and software. The decision to use the PI actuators and controllers was made for the following reasons:

  • Superior actuator performance and compliance with strict accuracy requirements even under adverse environmental conditions, as found in comparative testing performed by SALT engineers.
  • Minimum risk, because of PI's proven track record.
  • Reasonable price
  • PI's ability to meet the tight delivery schedule.

PI has also deliverd 6 DOF hexapods, piezo actuators and fast steering mirrors for a number of large telescopes around the world.

Hexapod for NASA Infrared Telescope (IRTF) Active tip/tilt mirror for Subaru Telescope(Mauna Kea, Hawaii).
Secondary Hexapod Alignment System and Active secondary tip/tilt mirror for the NASA Infrared Telescope Facility (IRTF) on Mauna Kea, Hawaii Active tip/tilt mirror for Subaru Telescope(Mauna Kea, Hawaii).


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PI is a leading manufacturer of nanopositioning, linear actuatorsand precision motion-control equipment for photonics, nanotechnology, semiconductor and life science applications .
PI has been developing and manufacturing standard & custom precision products with piezoelectric and electromagnetic drives for 40 years.
The company has been ISO 9001 certified since 1994 and provides innovative, high-quality solutions for OEM and research.
PI is present worldwide with eight subsidiaries and total staff of 500+.