In-Place Machining Company, Milwaukee, Wis., (www.inplace.com) plans to collaborate with the British optics firm Zeeko Ltd., Coalville, United Kingdom (www.zeekotechnologies.com) to design and manufacture the world's largest lens and mirror-polishing machines.
In-Place designs and develops specialized machines that the company uses to do on-site machining and measurement for customers around the world. In 2003, In-Place designed and built a two-story tall machine that ground the 28-foot-wide lenses used by the Mount Graham International Observatory in southeastern Arizona. The University of Arizona, which operates the observatory, claims that the dual-lens binocular telescope that uses those lenses has the world's highest resolution and is the world's most advanced telescope.
Zeeko is an engineering firm that was spun out of the University College of London six years ago. It designs and manufactures precision optical polishing machines for manufacturers of cameras, satellites, guidance systems and telescopes. Its machines are capable of polishing mirrors and lenses up to 2 meters in diameter.
Zeeko needs large polishing machines built to mount its technology on to, says Jonathan Eder, president of In-Place Machining. In-Place Machining has the machine-tool design and engineering capability to make the machines, along with the necessary polishing technology and software.
Under the collaborative agreement, In-Place will design and manufacture machines and machine tool controls in its Milwaukee facility, and Zeeko will provide the polishing software and technology from its Coalville operation, to create mirrors and lenses 2.5 m and larger. The machines are expected to sell for several million dollars each.