Friday, March 2, 2018

Just another painful blister

After 10 days of assembly the Kern Pyramid Nano was finally alive! On Wednesday night all systems were as per specs, fluids were running cheerfully, and the spindle and 5 axis motion left us speechless.  It was the time for final laser calibration; the moment of truth. With the coolness of a pilot of a fighter jet, Michael 'the German dude' set his Renishaw apparatus and commenced the four hour adjustments procedure.  

Now if you are not an engineer then the next sentence and picture below will make absolutely no sense to you, and that is perfectly fine - so no hard feelings.  The total error over the 400mm table was well under 1 micron and not more than 0.1 micron per 100mm of table travel. "So the machine is well within what could be described as a miracle of mechanical engineering?" we've asked. "Actually I am not sure" said cool Michael. "What we see is not the 'machine error' itself but the error in nano-range is most likely just the effects of environmental temperature and vibration of the building."  And finally, it all sunk in. This is precisely why Kern calls Nano - nano.  Too tired to celebrate, we quietly went home, each of us dreaming our own nano dreams... 

Around lunch time on Thursday, I got a phone call from Josh: "Bad news, dad.  The x-axis has just disappeared of the screen. It looks like we have a problem with the linear decoder.  We are now disassembling the entire block, Michael has cancelled his return flight and is extending his stay for at least another week. Yes, we need a new encoder, new cabling and Kern is sending a spare CPU unit from Germany, just in case we need it too."  The four hour sub micron calibration vanished with the X-axis without a single part being machined.
The other day, Elon Musk's Space-X launched Zuma, the top secret US spy satellite. But moments after the launch, like our x-axis, the multi-million dollar satellite disappeared - literally vanished off the radar. Yes, engineering on any scale can be heartbreaking and engineering is not for the fainthearted. 
In January 2012, Pat Farmer accomplished one of the greatest feats in human history. He arrived at the South Pole after the longest and arguably most dangerous run ever. Pat ran for 21,000 kilometres - never complaining about being tired nor disappointed, or his painfully bloody blisters, cramps and injuries. He just ran - and that determination - that physical and mental triumph - put him in the company of the world's greatest adventurers and achievers.
And this is precisely what our "Made in Australia" project is all about:  endurance, not giving up, being tough as nails, and being prepared to pay the price.  And we'll enjoy every bit of that journey, even when it hurts.

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