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Qioptiq SAKER Development Team wins 2012 Design Team of the Year Award

Qioptiq engineeing proficiency is recognized at the BEEA - British Engineering Excellence Awards

December 7, 2012

St. Asaph, United Kingdom - In the engineering world the time allocated for the design phase is shrinking, whereas design requirements are getting tougher. Achieving the project milestones and dealing with the challenges encountered along the way is the measure of a good design team.

Qioptiq's SAKER project team in St. Asaph UK, have recently received accolades from the British Engineering Excellence Awards as 2012 Design Team of the Year. The BEEA Awards aim to demonstrate and promote the quality of engineering design within the UK and to provide a benchmark of excellence. They also serve to demonstrate the power of engineering design innovation within the UK to the world. The Judges said of the Qioptiq SAKER team: “This was a very challenging, multidisciplinary design, delivered on time by a really strong team. Qioptiq has demonstrated what can be achieved by recognising a requirement and having the right team determined to deliver it”.

The Qioptiq SAKER is a Fused Weapon Sight (FWS) providing the Dismounted Close Combat User with an enhanced detect, recognize and identify capability combining image intensifier and uncooled thermal imaging sensors into a single sight unit. This is a remarkable piece of equipment but perhaps more remarkable is how this product was conceived, designed, manufactured and delivered in an incredibly tight time schedule by a British design team.

Through discussions with user groups and customers the requirement for a fused weapon sight became clear. A top level specification was generated using Company knowledge of the target market, plus inputs from DSTL (UK MOD). This was used to determine the requirements. But it was not quite as simple as that; SAKER would require the combination of two complementary but very different technologies.

The Design Team faced a number of challenges. SAKER needed to be compact, lightweight and to have low power consumption. SAKER also needed to give all the recognition and identification advantages of a visible image, coupled with the detection capability of the thermal image combined into one sight. In order to achieve this a number of innovations needed to be made in the package, the two objectives and the image-combining optics and they needed to be made quickly.

The design commenced in Oct 2011 with the aim of a product launch at WBR Soldier Technology Conference in June 2012. An extremely tight plan was drawn up that delivered a prototype by 1st June. By Christmas, the date for the conference was confirmed as being earlier than anticipated. In addition, a second parallel launch was required in USA. This meant that two prototypes had to be delivered by 21st May.

A key feature of the product would be an innovative combination of optical, mechanical and electronic technologies to provide the optimum size, weight, power and cost trade-offs. However by mid February the programme was running 2 weeks late. In order to meet the new launch date all team members, including two key suppliers, would have to really perform.

The electronic design was completed ahead of time but there was still a long way to go. Many design challenges still needed to be overcome, including that of the collimator optics. The conventional approach for the design of the collimation optics can result in a complex and expensive collimator. To avoid this problem, the team used electronics processing to scale the TI image on the display, resulting in a much simplified collimation optic.

The software development was completed 2 weeks early however the plastic (low mass) beam splitter was not going to be available on time. In order to meet the launch date an alternative glass version was needed but this meant last minute changes to the housing and the electronics. By early May some assembly had been carried out but there was a significant amount of work left to do. With only days to go a monumental effort by the team resulted in the delivery of two fully operational prototypes in time to go to the launch conferences.

In all a total of 4,174 person-hours were required to deliver the project on time resulting in SAKER winning “Best Situational Awareness Device” at the WBR Soldier Technology Conference as well as the “Design Team of the Year Award 2012” at the BEEA “British Engineering Excellence Awards”


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