The man from Hawaii

Frankfurt Airport: The jet from San Francisco touches down in the rain. The passenger on seat 5f has been travelling for hours and coming all the way from Honolulu. Not being accustomed to the cold temperatures, he curses as he stands waiting for a taxi as he has only packed shorts and t-shirts and is completely unprepared for the April weather. “We were quite relieved when the customer had to go shopping for long trousers and a sweater – this gave us two more hours to perform some final changes to the hexapod controller”, remembered Dr. Rainer Glöß from Physik Instrumente (PI). Hexapods are in demand in Hawaii, as astronomy on the islands is on the rise and the need for precise alignment of telescopes is critical.

That was back in 1993 and the small team at PI used the extra hours for final alignments to the Hexapod. Later that day the interferometer measurements shown in the lab gave the man from Hawaii a show of the superiority of the Hexapod technology compared to conventional stacked architectures. The telescope market has been one of the key markets of Physik Instrumente ever since.

More than 20 years later, Hexapods from PI are still sought after by science and research, as the in-house programming of the controller guarantees precise positioning which is crucial when searching for new galaxies and stars. Hexapods are sophisticated automation solutions and the controller has to coordinate six struts for an object to be moved in all degrees of freedom with incredible precision.

“The controller design has to be as simple and intuitive as possible, so that the Hexapod system can be easily integrated in the customer’s automation environment – this is our challenge”, Glöß said.

The experience with the ‘Man from Hawaii’ had a lasting impact on Glöß and he continues to be very proud of the simplicity of controlling and integrating the Hexapod into a client’s environment. With its six degrees motion, precision and accurate positioning, it was first assumed that the technology is too complex, but users quickly dispel this myth and can even now use a mobile app to control their Hexapod.

The passenger on seat 5f could only dream of such a scenario. But the connections to Hawaii have remained intact. PI Technology still helps astronomers from Hawaii and Chile control their telescopes – in spite of April weather.

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