Walker, D.D., Beaucamp, A.T.H., Doubrovski, V., Dunn, C., Freeman, R., McCavana, G., Morton, R., Riley, D., Simms, J. and Wei, X. (2005) New results extending the Precessions process to smoothing ground aspheres and producing freeform parts. SPIE - International Society for Optical Engineering. Proceedings, 5869. pp. 79-87. ISSN 0277-786X

Zeeko's Precession polishing process uses a bulged, rotating membrane tool, creating a contact-area of variable size. In separate modes of operation, the bonnet rotation-axis is orientated pole-down on the surface, or inclined at an angle and then precessed about the local normal. The bonnet, covered with standard polishing cloth and working with standard slurry, has been found to give superb surface textures in the regime of nanometre to sub-nanometre Ra values, starting with parts directly off precision CNC aspheric grinding machines. This paper reports an important extension of the process to the precision-controlled smoothing (or 'fining') operation required between more conventional diamond milling and subsequent Precession polishing. The method utilises an aggressive surface on the bonnet, again with slurry. This is compared with an alternative approach using diamond abrasives bound onto flexible carriers attached to the bonnets. The results demonstrate the viability of smoothing aspheric surfaces, which extends Precessions processing to parts with inferior input-quality. This may prove of particular importance to large optics where significant volumes of material may need to be removed, and to the creation of more substantial aspheric departures from a parent sphere. The paper continues with a recent update on results obtained, and lessons learnt, processing free-form surfaces, and concludes with an assessment of the relevance of the smoothing and free-form operations to the fabrication of off-axis parts including segments for extremely large telescopes.

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