Measurement and assembly of two large telescopes in the Arctic Circle

Measuring in extreme conditions requires reliability and durability 


The advanced technology of Hexagon Manufacturing Intelligence is playing a vital role in an ambitious and innovative project being completed in northern Norway. Asturfeito, a Hexagon customer in Spain for over five years, leads the project, which involves the installation of two large 13.5-metre diameter radio telescopes that will observe the universe around us from an isolated location within the Arctic Circle. The measurement and later assembly for this project has utilised the advanced technology of a Leica Absolute Tracker AT402.

Asturfeito is a Spanish business with a global reputation in the fields of equipment commissioning, engineering, manufacturing and assembly. The company is located in the Asturias region and exports 90 percent of its production, mainly within Europe but also to the Americas and Africa. The business has a team of over 200 professionals working in a 32,000 square-metre space equipped with the latest-generation technology and operates in sectors such as scientific installation and laboratory research, nuclear power, oil and gas, renewable energy and industrial plants.

Total precision to explore the universe

Laser-Tracker-Asturfeito-Case-StudyRecently Asturfeito has developed an important project in the Arctic Circle, which has seen them rely on the Leica Absolute Tracker AT402, whose level of performance has already proven to be of vital importance in previous projects for the Asturian company, as well as for other operations in Norway. Initially, it was used to verify all of the components of the complex installation for the two radio telescopes, ensuring that each component exactly met the required specifications and guaranteeing a perfect adjustment during the later assembly. Once at the Arctic Circle, the AT402 proved essential in assembling all of the pieces in this complex installation as it was used to control the bearing pins to ensure the correct horizontal and vertical rotation of the telescopes.

Among the demanding requirements that the laser tracker was subjected to, such as a huge measurement volume, unstable bases, difficult light conditions and changeable temperatures, were added other constraints specific to the high-level technology involved in the project. “The two 13.5-metre diameter radio telescopes have a flatness tolerance in the azimuth and elevation axes bearing seats of less than 0.04 millimetres in a 1.2-metre diameter. The demands are very high, but the equipment worked seamlessly during intense use and in demanding working conditions in a machine welding construction workshop, and also under really extreme environmental conditions such as those found in the Arctic geographical area,” said Manuel Martínez Morilla, Manager of
the Quality Department at Asturfeito.

Complete confidence in laser tracker technology

Asturfeito uses a number of Hexagon products in its engineering work, including the Leica Absolute Tracker AT402 and AT960 models as an older LTD640. Throughout their long-term relationship ofAlignment-Inspection-with-Laser-Trackertrust in Hexagon technologies, the prestigious Asturian company has been equipped with the necessary technology to complete all their projects requiring intermediate and final dimensional controls, in addition to the precise verification process of machine tools.

”The measuring systems provided differentiate us from the competition by giving us a clear advantage in terms of improving manufacturing speed and capacity, as well as allowing us to collect accurate measurements in places others aren’t able to handle,” said Manuel Martínez. “We are extremely satisfied with the products and services supplied by Hexagon as well as the training their technicians have provided to ours. It was a few years ago that we began working with them as a result of recommendations from our customers, and that decision was a great success”.

This is not the first project related to astronomy that Hexagon has been a part of together with Asturfeito. Five years ago, Hexagon technology was used on the ALMA project together with Asturfeito. The companies share a harmony with respect to values, objectives and ways of facing all types of challenges and technological projects between the businesses. The ALMA project consisted of supplying 66 antennas with submillimetre precision in the Chajnantor plateau of the Chilean Altiplanor, at 5,000 metres above sea level, contributing to the largest astronomy project in the world.

Laser tracker systems

A long-term standard in industrial metrology: laser tracker systems lead the field in terms of the accuracy, reliability and durability of portable coordinate measuring machines.