The Development of high-precision hexapod actuators for the Hobby-Eberly Telescope Wide Field Upgrade
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Hexapods are finding increased use in telescope applications for positioning large payloads. Engineers from The University of Texas at Austin have been working with engineers from ADS International to develop large, high force, highly precise and controllable hexapod actuators for use on the Wide Field Upgrade (WFU) as part of the Hobby Eberly Telescope Dark Energy Experiment (HETDEX)‡. These actuators are installed in a hexapod arrangement, supporting the 3000+ kg instrument payload which includes the Wide Field Corrector (WFC), support structure, and other optical/electronic components. In addition to force capability, the actuators need to meet the tracking speed (pointing) requirements for accuracy and the slewing speed (rewind) requirements, allowing as many observations in one night as possible. The hexapod actuator stroke (retraction and extension) was very closely monitored during the design phase to make sure all of the science requirements could be met, while minimizing the risk of damaging the WFC optical hardware in the unlikely event of a hexapod actuator or controller failure. This paper discusses the design trade-offs between stiffness, safety, back-drivability, accuracy, and leading to selection of the motor, high ratio worm gear, roller screw, coupling, end mounts, and other key components.