Towards freeform optics manufacturing capabilities in Thailand for Space and Astronomical applications

Lead Research Organisation: University of Sheffield
Department Name: Materials Science and Engineering

Abstract

Thailand is quickly building its astronomical instrumentation development capacity. In the past decade, National Astronomical Research Institute of Thailand (NARIT) has actively grown its workforce on two fronts: astronomical instrumentation for the Thai National Observatory (TNO) and space instrumentation and satellite development through the Thailand Satellite Consortium (TSC; NARIT, the Siam Photon Laboratory and the Geo-informatics and Space Technology Development Agency). TSC is currently building its first "made in Thailand" satellites - a major national milestone. However, one limitation restricts independent advancement on these fronts: to access innovative technologies, Thailand must rely on developed countries for hardware and associated support, and this is particularly true for optical design and manufacture, which depend heavily on heritage, expertise and specialised equipment.

NARIT desires to remove this barrier and invest in a future Thailand optical manufacturing capability, which will help to drive Thailand's economy and industries in line with the Thailand 4.0 economic model. This project proposes a programme that provides both knowledge exchange and a joint Thai-UK research project, to upskill Thai academics and engineers in conventional and additive optical manufacturing methods, to enable internal capability and impact within wider disciplines.

The project will enable the transfer of 2 key technologies to Thailand:

- Freeform optics are identified as a NARIT research priority; they are novel, versatile optical elements with no axis of rotation or symmetry. Increasingly, they are used in pioneering optical designs offering abundant new opportunities for optical designers. The emergence of these new types of surfaces has been very much in pace with the development of Single Point Diamond Turning (SPDT).
- Metal additive manufacturing (MAM), which has significant potential when applied to optical manufacturing and freeform optics in particular. MAM is the process of building a component layer-upon-layer in metal and it is commonly used low count bespoke parts. MAM prints a near-net shape without material removal, formers, or shape manipulation, which define conventional manufacture

Combining Metal Additive Manufacturing with optical freeform manufacturing has, therefore, a lot of potential for the production of pioneering astronomical and space instrumentation. SPDT and MAM have also a strong potential to be spun out into business ventures to stimulate the local economy.

Publications

10 25 50
 
Description Designed multiple mirrors to be used at the main observatory in Thailand. 
Organisation National Astronomical Research Institute Of Thailand
Country Thailand 
Sector Public 
PI Contribution Sheffield's focus was on the AM feasibility and "design rules" of the parts.
Collaborator Contribution Knowledge transfer
Impact No impact yet
Start Year 2021
 
Description Developed future work 
Organisation National Astronomical Research Institute Of Thailand
Country Thailand 
Sector Public 
PI Contribution Setup potential future collaboration work with NARIT and helped to lay groundwork for their own AM ambitions.
Collaborator Contribution Knowledge transfer
Impact No impact yet
Start Year 2022
 
Description Hosted two Thai researchers for a week of intensive training and teaching on AM machines 
Organisation National Astronomical Research Institute Of Thailand
Country Thailand 
Sector Public 
PI Contribution Built several successful mirrors (see twitter) and taught the researchers how to operate the machines.
Collaborator Contribution Knowledge transfer
Impact No impact yet
Start Year 2022
 
Description NARIT Bi-Weekly Calls 
Organisation National Astronomical Research Institute Of Thailand
Country Thailand 
Sector Public 
PI Contribution Project calls
Collaborator Contribution Updates provided
Impact No impact yet.
Start Year 2020
 
Description Project Partner - Durham University 
Organisation Durham University
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution The main point of the project is to transfer knowledge to the Thai partner (NARIT). The University of Sheffield are providing information regarding additive manufacturing.
Collaborator Contribution The main point of the project is to transfer knowledge to the Thai partner (NARIT). Durham University are providing information on the polishing of optics and traditional optic design.
Impact The design that will be the worked example on this project has been agreed. It is being re-designed so it can be polished successfully. Then a AM redesign can be worked. All of these steps are not about the actual product but are about demonstrating the techniques and methods involved in design and manufacturing.
Start Year 2020
 
Description Project Partner - NARIT 
Organisation National Astronomical Research Institute Of Thailand
Country Thailand 
Sector Public 
PI Contribution The main point of the project is to transfer knowledge to the Thai partner (NARIT). The University of Sheffield will provide knowledge regarding additive manufacturing.
Collaborator Contribution NARIT have been involved in workshops and seminars provided by the UK partners (University of Sheffield, Durham University and UK-ATC.
Impact The design that will be the worked example on this project has been agreed. It is being re-designed so it can be polished successfully. Then a AM redesign can be worked. All of these steps are not about the actual product but are about demonstrating the techniques and methods involved in design and manufacturing
Start Year 2020
 
Description Project Partner - UK-ATC 
Organisation UK Astronomy Technology Centre (ATC)
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution The main point of the project is to transfer knowledge to the Thai partner (NARIT). The University of Sheffield is providing information regarding additive manufacturing.
Collaborator Contribution The main point of the project is to transfer knowledge to the Thai partner (NARIT). UK-ATC is providing information regarding novel optic design.
Impact The design that will be the worked example on this project has been agreed. It is being re-designed so it can be polished successfully. Then a AM redesign can be worked. All of these steps are not about the actual product but are about demonstrating the techniques and methods involved in design and manufacturing
Start Year 2020
 
Description Taught Thai researchers about mirror design, optics modelling and AM. 
Organisation National Astronomical Research Institute Of Thailand
Country Thailand 
Sector Public 
PI Contribution Fortnightly (approx.) lessons on the various topics, the Sheffield focus on the AM.
Collaborator Contribution Knowledge transfer
Impact No impact yet
Start Year 2021
 
Description UK Consortium Meeting 
Organisation Durham University
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Consortium meeting
Collaborator Contribution Consortium meeting
Impact No impact yet
Start Year 2020
 
Description UK Consortium Meeting 
Organisation UK Astronomy Technology Centre (ATC)
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Consortium meeting
Collaborator Contribution Consortium meeting
Impact No impact yet
Start Year 2020
 
Description Workshop / Seminar - Optics, AM and Designing Optics for AM 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Postgraduate students
Results and Impact The University of Sheffield presented Optics, AM and Designing Optics on six consecutive Wednesday mornings.

The plan is to educate a PhD student and she can disseminate the information and knowledge to the rest of NARIT.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2020