Astroengineering Lab


The Laboratorio de Astroingeniería del Desierto de Atacama, LADA (Astroengineering Lab of the Atacama Desert) is the first laboratory of astroengineering in the north of Chile. It was established in August 2016 in the context of a FIC-R project, supported by the Regional Government of Antofagasta. Informally it started in 2014, thanks to two CONICYT QUIMAL projects. QUIMAL 130004 allowed a local team of astronomers and engineers to set up the Ckoirama Observatory in the desert (being the first Chilean observatory in the north), and QUIMAL 140004 allowed setting up a machine shop devoted to astroengineering at Universidad de Antofagasta, as well as building an additional room for integration work.

Infrastructure and equipment

Mechanical equipment

The mechanical machine shop is set up in what is called the “Módulo de Mecanización” (MOME) in the Campus Coloso of Universidad de Antofagasta.

The MOME was built in 2016 trying to reduce the impact of environmental conditions on the operation of the shop. The base under the main machine was calculated to nullify any possible vibration during its operation. Also, the walls of the building are panels with a thick layer of thermally-insulating material. However, the construction is under an ongoing revision. During this month (June 2017) the windows facing North will be replaced by wall material, in order to eliminate direct sunlight impacting on the machine.

The main equipment we have in the MOME is:

  • Haas VF-2 vertical machining center (mill) with a 5-axis rotary table TRT100.

The maximum working area in 3 axis mode are:

    • XYZ travels 30”; x 16”; x 20”; (762 mm x 406 mm x 508 mm)

Maximum working areas for the rotary table are:

    • 3+2 Indexing (brakes engaged) Ø5.0″ x 5.0″ tall x 15 lb (Ø127 mm x 127 mm tall x 6.8 kg)
    • 5-Axis Machining Ø3.0″ x 3.0″ tall x 5 lb (Ø76 mm x 76 mm tall x 2.3 kg)

Also, there are minor equipment in support of the operation of the Haas machine:

  • Hydraulic hoist.
  • Heavy-duty transport table.
  • 10” Miter saw.
  • Desktop milling machine.

Prototyping equipment

The “fast prototyping” and basic electronical equipment is set up in what we call the “Módulo de Integración” (MODIN). The MODIN is thought as an open plan space, very flexible to accommodate new projects with modest requirements of space. The MODIN is a basic building and it is not well thermally insulated but it’s useful for office work and laboratory work.

The machines for “fast prototyping” work are:

  • 2 Makerbot Replicator 2X 3D printers
  • CNC benchtop mill machine Roland MDX-40A for soft materials (e.g. ceramic, plastic, wood)
  • Flux Beambox Pro laser cutter/engraving machine

The quality control of the the printing (as well as of the milling in the CNC at the MOME) is made by examination under the microscope, using a:

  • Aven 26700-400 Cyclops Digital Microscope

Electronic equipment

In support of basic electronic development we have:

  • Bungard CCD router, a CND drilling and milling machine, for electronic circuits.