Press Releases



A purpose designed Benco support and manipulator frame has been supplied by Brixworth Engineering Co Ltd to the UK Astronomy Technology Centre (UK ATC) at the Royal Observatory, Edinburgh. This has been supplied to cover the handling requirements during the production and integration of a prestigious new K-band multi-object spectrograph instrument (KMOS), designed for the very large telescope (VLT), operated by the European Southern Observatory (ESO) and located in Northern Chile. The instrument is approximately 2.1m diameter x 1.5m long, has an anticipated total mass of 2.5 tonnes with an out of balance load of 3000Nm. A full rotation of movement of the instrument can be accommodated by the Benco manipulator frame, which even when fully loaded has been designed to withstand an earthquake side loading of 1.344g (13.2m/s^2).

The unit supplied to the UK ATC is based upon the Benco engine stand concept, which can be manufactured in a variety of configurations to cover loads up to 20 tonnes. A tailstock with in/out adjustment ensures easy loading of the instrument cryostat (or carcass) to the Benco frame using purpose designed interfaces. The head and tailstock flanges also incorporate indexing plungers to provide positive locking of the load, preventing unintentional rotation. While a full 360° rotation of the instrument was provided, locking of both axles at 45° intervals has also been incorporated to ensure the degree of access and manipulation required for the progressive assembly and installation of sub-components and associated wiring for the safe and successful completion of the instrument.

A manual ratchet drive was provided with 160:1 ratio for the controlled rotation of the workpiece, with provision for power drive from a standard cordless drill attachment also being possible. Lifting points at each corner of the frame (each fully load tested) were fitted to ensure that the frame could be lifted either with or without the load being attached. As well as the facility for bolting the frame to the floor, jacking castors were also fitted for easy manual movement of the frame within a laboratory area.

The KMOS instruments under production will be used to upgrade the optical and research capabilities of the existing telescopes which came on stream during the last decade. These are VLT’s, with primary mirror of 8 metres diameter, representing some of the largest units of this type currently in operation anywhere. The second generation of instrumentation, which is anticipated to be installed sometime during 2010, will combine the ability to carry out 3D spectroscopy using an integral field unit with a multi-object capability. In total, 24 objects randomly distributed over a 7 arcminute field can be observed simultaneously.