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Optical Testing and Manufacturing

Optical Testing and Manufacturing

At PlaneWave Instruments, we take pride in the excellent optical quality of our telescopes.  Each optical component of our systems goes through an extensive process of figuring, testing and inspection to guarantee excellent performance from every telescope we produce.

PlaneWave Instruments technicians use a custom optical metrology measurement system to generate a precision surface wavefront map for every mirror at each stage of the manufacturing process.  This data is used in one of our state-of-the-art, robotic optics figuring machines to smooth and correct any errors present in the mirror surface.  This measurement and figuring process is repeated until each mirror meets the exacting quality required for every PlaneWave telescope.

After final figuring, our mirrors are coated, inspected, mounted in their support cells and the optical quality measurement is repeated to ensure that no surface errors have been introduced during the process.  This is a critical step to ensure that the mirror will perform when installed into the completed telescope.  Many other manufacturers skip this important test or remove astigmatism and other errors from their measurements.  At PlaneWave Instruments, we understand that these errors cannot be ignored and can be detrimental to the quality of the complete telescope, so we do not pass a mirror on final assembly without verifying the complete surface wavefront.

In addition to testing each optical component during the manufacturing process, PlaneWave Instruments tests every one of our telescopes as a complete finished system in one of our modern test bays.  This allows us to ensure that each optical system is of the highest quality before it is shipped to a customer.  Because our test bays are independently temperature controlled, we can reduce atmospheric fluctuations that typically affect on-sky measurements, allowing for the most precise measurement of the quality of the telescope. This allows our expert technicians to efficiently identify and correct any residual alignment or figure errors in the complete optical system. This final optical test is the ultimate guarantee that our telescopes will yield the excellent performance that our customers have come to expect.