Schaeffler direct drive motor brings intergalactic advantages

Schaeffler has provided a rotating direct drive motor solution for operating a giant telescope located on La Palma in the Canary Islands. It is one of the world's largest reflecting telescopes, providing astronomers and astrophysicists alike with a high performance platform to closely observe distant galaxies. The location at the Roque de los Muchachos ridge on La Palma, (which rises to a height of almost 2,500 metres) offers professional stargazers ideal research conditions thanks to the Atlantic island's extremely low levels of light pollution.

The Gran Telescopio de Canarias (GTC) has 36 reflectors and a diameter of 10.4m, and the silver-coloured steel structure is one of the world's largest reflecting telescopes. The GTC, which was opened in 2009 at a cost of 80 million euros, weighs around 300 tonnes and has already spotted more than 2,000 planets and discovered galaxies far away. For obvious reasons giant telescopes such as the GTC must operate with extremely high precision. Scientists observing the stars at night or in the early hours of the morning rely on long exposure times, which means the telescope must be able to move with millimetre precision - a challenging task given the mass involved.

Drawing on previous experience in the field (Schaeffler had already supplied a torque motor for a satellite observation station in Changchun, China, which is part of the National Astronomical Observatories belonging to the Chinese Academy of Sciences), Schaeffler Iberia was involved in developing an instrument rotator for one of the GTC's focal stations, known as the Cassegrain Focal Station (CG-Set). IDOM, a Spanish company that provides engineering and architecture services, was commissioned to develop this new CG set. Due to its previous positive experience with Schaeffler Iberia on various projects, IDOM chose Schaeffler as its partner in the development of the instrument rotator drive.

The instrument rotator is a high-precision mechanism and controls the focal tracking and rapid positioning system that rotates the two-tonne telescopic camera: Schaeffler's drive solution not only had to ensure the system's ability to precisely position the camera and regulate its speed, but also had to feature a compact, lightweight instrument rotator as well. To this end, the company devised and developed a segmented, slotless RMF torque motor for the drive of the instrument rotator. Assistance was also provided by Schaeffler during the mounting process in order to determine the motor's control parameters. The direct drive from Schaeffler Industrial Drives is characterised by its dynamic yet even motion and high energy efficiency. The special motor, which is more than two metres in diameter, was developed and built based on a proven drive concept used in machine tools for grinding operations.

This system also offered other advantages; for example, the segmented design of the motor reduced the costs of transportation and mounting. Further, the relatively compact design facilitated the installation process, and optimised the overall system performance and maintenance. A particularly important advantage was that only the affected segment - rather than the entire motor - could be replaced when servicing is required.

Learn more about Schaeffler's products and services at

Schaeffler (UK) Ltd

Unit 308, Fort Dunlop
Fort Parkway
B24 9FD

+44 (0)121 313 5830

More applications
3 hours ago
Nabtesco delivers solutions for every drive application
To continue meeting increasing demand, Nabtesco is substantially expanding its production capacities with the construction of a new factory in Hamamatsu, 250 km southwest of the its headquarters in Tokyo – which will double the annual production capacity to two million precision gearboxes by 2026.
21 hours ago
Festo showing ‘Progress in Motion’ at PPMA 2022
The Festo stand at PPMA 2022 will focus on key applications for the process and packaging sector. These include innovative process valve controls, servo-controlled flow wrapping and a new solution for controlling web tension with dancing rollers.
1 day ago
IFM Electronic makes IIoT easy at PPMA 2022
At this year’s PPMA Show, IFM Electronic is focusing on its moneo IIoT platform. This has been developed specifically to provide a convenient solution to the challenge of converting the huge amount of data produced by modern plant and machines into useful information that can be used to reduce downtime, optimise efficiency and cut costs.
1 day ago
Bürkert extends capabilities with Fine Controls partnership
The key distribution partner agreement between Bürkert and Fine Controls brings OEMs or end users in process control a distributor who can supply all the parts necessary to build a complete process system, as well as offering design and specification support.
5 days ago
Individual service for signal integrity
The demands on connection technology performance are constantly increasing. By providing customised support, Phoenix Contact helps customers select connection components to ensure the highest possible signal integrity.
5 days ago
Aveva MES rises in the leader ranks of the latest Gartner report
Aveva’s Manufacturing Execution Systems (MES) offering, which is deployed in the UK & Ireland by AVEVA Select partners SolutionsPT, has been recognised as a global leader in industrial software in the latest 2022 Gartner Magic Quadrant for Manufacturing Execution Systems.
5 days ago
Harwin and MSA Components sign German distribution deal
Harwin is bringing greater strength to its German supply chain through a new strategic partnership with MSA Components. The agreement allows MSA to offer all the latest products from Harwin’s extensive portfolio.
6 days ago
Siemens selected by Microsoft for RAMP Programme
Siemens Digital Industries Software has been selected to participate in the Rapid Assured Microelectronics Prototypes (RAMP) Phase II initiative.
6 days ago
Kontron receives VDC Research’s Gold Award for vendor satisfaction
Kontron has been recognised for outstanding customer satisfaction. The company has received the Gold Vendor Satisfaction Award for IoT and Embedded Hardware technology from VDC Research.
6 days ago
Mouser wins Vishay Distributor of the Year Award
Mouser Electronics has received the 2021 High Service Distributor of the Year award from Vishay Intertechnology, one of the world’s largest manufacturers of discrete semiconductors and passive electronic components.

Login / Sign up