The Hexagon Loxham Precision Laboratory, a new facility designed for leading-edge ultra precision research, has been opened at Cranfield University in the U.K. Cranfield has strong links with aerospace technology, and the laboratory will aid significant research into the manufacture of mirrors for the NASA James Webb Space Telescope and will also help scientists develop technologies for finding Earth-like planets and forms of life in space. The facility is also designed to support master’s students studying on Cranfield’s new Ultra Precision Technologies course.
The 400-m2 laboratory includes a state-of-the-art temperature and humidity controlled workspace and is the latest addition to the Cranfield University Precision Engineering Center. This center of excellence in advanced manufacturing technologies houses what are stated to be the most accurate diamond machining facilities in the world, together with high-specification equipment including the most accurate large-scale measuring machine in the U.K.
The Precision Engineering Center also manages the Engineering Physical Sciences Research Council’s (EPSRC’s) Integrated Knowledge Center for Ultra Precision based at the OpTIC Technium in North Wales, and is currently contributing to the EPSRC’s Grand Challenge 3-D mintigration, which focuses on micro device fabrication methods.
Paul Shore, McKeown Chair of Ultra Precision Technologies and Head of the Precision Engineering Center, said: “Cranfield has a history of delivering high-quality ultra precision technologies for a range of different applications and sectors. This new facility reinforces our commitment to precision engineering.”
The new laboratory is sponsored by Hexagon Metrology, a global manufacturer of ultra-precision metrology systems. The company has supplied it with an ultra-high accuracy Leitz PMM-F coordinate measuring machine to facilitate mirror production for extra-large telescopes.
The laboratory is named after the late John Loxham, who was an eminent precision engineer and metrologist. In 1958, he was appointed Head of Cranfield’s Department of Aircraft Economics and Production, where he diversified its activities to include Management Science, which eventually led to the formation of the Cranfield School of Management, and Precision Engineering, producing the Cranfield Unit for Precision Engineering.