CNRS Uses MSC Software’s Marc Nonlinear FEA to Simulate Hydroforming of Optical Mirrors Dedicated to Astronomy Instrumentation

Numerical simulation matched the experimental results and reduced production times

NEWPORT BEACH, Calif. — (BUSINESS WIRE) — March 18, 2014MSC Software Corporation, a global leader in helping product manufacturers to advance their engineering methods with simulation software and services, today announced that researchers at the Laboratoire d'Astrophysique de Marseille (one of the public institutes in astrophysics of the French National Center for Scientific Research) are using MSC Software’s Marc Nonlinear FEA software to simulate a new process that involves the use of hydroforming to reach extreme optical mirror shapes, necessary for the next generation of astronomical telescopes and instruments, and to reduce the cost and lead time of producing freeform mirrors.

We selected Marc to analyze the hydroforming process because the software has demonstrated the ability to provide accurate results in problems involving complex nonlinear changes in geometry and materials properties,” said Zalpha Challita, in post-doctoral position at CNRS-LAM. “Marc demonstrated the ability to accurately model the hydroforming process and will be used extensively going forward.”

Freeform mirror surfaces – surfaces with a shape more complex than a symmetrical conventional mirror surface (as for example, sphere, parabola, hyperbola, etc.) – offer substantial benefits by providing additional degrees of freedom that make it possible to improve the optical performances of the instrument, reducing the overall instrument mass and size. The hydroforming technique deforms the material to its final form, thanks to the contact with a specific mold shape, in a single step by applying a fluid at high pressure on the optical surface. This method also has the potential to produce a higher quality surface because it eliminates the need for a mechanical tool to contact the mirror surface.

The hydroforming process is difficult to design and optimize because the mirror undergoes plastic deformation to provide a freeform optical surface. Finite Element Analysis (FEA) was performed with Marc to quantify the residual errors after the hydroforming process and to optimize the system. The capabilities of Marc in fine tuning optimization allow it to match the experimental results according to the error budget of a few micrometers authorized in astronomical optics.


The LAM (Laboratoire d’Astrophysique de Marseille) is one of the most important public research institutes in Europe in the area of astrophysics. It associates fundamental research in astrophysics with technological research in instrumentation. It is one of the few laboratories in France to be qualified to develop instrumentation for space missions. It is a joint research unit (UMR7326) of the French National Center of Scientific Research (CNRS) and the Aix-Marseille University (AMU) with about 50 researchers, 75 engineers, technicians and administrative staff, 15 post-doctoral researchers, 18 doctoral students and 20 contract employees. For more information, visit

About MSC Software

MSC Software is one of the ten original software companies and a global leader in helping product manufacturers to advance their engineering methods with simulation software and services. As a trusted partner, MSC Software helps companies improve quality, save time, and reduce costs associated with design and test of manufactured products. Academic institutions, researchers, and students employ MSC’s technology to expand individual knowledge as well as expand the horizon of simulation. MSC Software employs 1,100 professionals in 20 countries. For additional information about MSC Software’s products and services, please visit:

The MSC Software corporate logo, Simulating Reality, MSC Nastran, Adams, Actran, Digimat, Dytran, Easy5, Marc, Patran, MSC, MasterKey, MasterKey Plus, MaterialCenter, SimDesigner, SimManager, and SimXpert are trademarks or registered trademarks of MSC Software Corporation and/or its subsidiaries in the United States and/or other countries. NASTRAN is a registered trademark of NASA. All other trademarks belong to their respective owners.


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