Safe transport containers for...

The European Southern Observatory (ESO) is building the world’s largest optical telescope in the Atacama Desert, Chile. Its Extremely Large Telescope (ELT) is scheduled to go into operation 2024.

Made of ZERODUR glass ceramic, the SCHOTT mirror substrate will provide a unique view of the stars.

TECOSIM assisted with the design of special containers required to transport the substrate to Chile from Mainz, Germany.

The Challenge

SCHOTT was casting the mirror substrate in different sizes at its Mainz headquarters prior to shipping it to an area close to Paris.

At this location, a specialised company grinds and polishes the glass surfaces down to 15 nanometers.

The substrate is then taken to Chile via ship and heavy haulage carrier.

Consequently, the required transport containers needed to be designed to withstand potential load impacts at sea and on the road.

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Project Description Info Box

  • Static and dynamic loads in mirror transport containers
  • Calculations and simulations of different load cases
  • Consideration of complex requirements for components
  • Finite element (FE) calculations utilised to select material quality grades and thickness widths


SCHOTT is a leading international technology company in the special glass and glass ceramic fields.

With over 130 years of outstanding development, materials and technology expertise, SCHOTT has an extensive portfolio of high-quality products and intelligent solutions.

The group maintains a global presence through production sites and offices across 34 countries, including headquarters in Germany, and they employ over 15,000 staff.

In 2016/2017, they generated sales of over 2 million euros. SCHOTT recognizes and practices responsible business ethics geared towards its employees, society and the environment.

For further information on SCHOTT:

European Southern Observatory (ESO)

The European Southern Observatory (ESO) is an exceptional intergovernmental science and technology organization with a focus on astronomy.

They design, construct and operate powerful, surface-based observation facilities to advance important scientific discoveries.

ESO also plays a significant role in promoting international cooperation in astronomical research.

There are currently three ESO telescopes situated in Chile’s Atacama Desert (La Silla, Paranal and Chajnantor)

For further information on ESO:


  • Guaranteed safe transport when exposed to different static and dynamic loads
  • Guaranteed impact resistance during the loading process
  • Assured operational capabilities under thermal load

Optimisation of stability thanks to design adjustments based on finite element (FE) calculations

TECOSIM Company Profile

A team of over 460 computer-aided engineering (CAE) specialists positions TECOSIM as the go-to development process partner. With branches in the UK, Japan, India, Germany and Romania we deliver unbeatable solutions that fully satisfy your requirements.

The Solution

TECOSIM assisted with the design of the transport container. The container was secure and sturdy.

The experts at TECOSIM calculated and simulated various potential imposed loads, such as those experienced during transportation over sea and roads.

Sudden swaying motions that could occur during crane handling and potential earthquakes were also included in the calculations.

Finite element (FE) calculations resulted in recommendations for container materials.

  • Development of a laminated glass simulation method which far exceeds previous standards
  • High prediction accuracy regarding the risks of injury for head impacts on a windscreen
  • Simulation results can be incorporated into new car designs immediately
  • Recommendations for improvements to structural designs for windscreens and panoramic windscreens.
  • A research project funded by the German Federal Ministry of Economics and Technology (BMWi).

TECOSIM Services

Calculating structural loads

 TECOSIM took into account the static transportation loads by road and on a ship.

The engineers took these results to calculate swaying stability during earthquakes and crane loading.

The container was included, and the lid was isolated (including the lock mechanism) during calculations. The developed structure guarantees exceptionally high impact resistance.

Designed to absorb dynamic loads

 The mirror substrate’s large mass could gain momentum inside the transport system. This increases the probability of damage to the glass ceramics.

Special elastomer dampers and coil springs in the transport container have been designed for accident-proof transportation.

The container must be able to absorb inertia when under load. TECOSIM’s computer-aided engineering (CAE) specialists applied random response analysis, simulating dynamic loads through a transport-specific acceleration range.

Very low load results during vertical and horizontal excitation revealed an excellent absorption effect in the transport container – meaning risk of damage to the mirror substrate was eliminated.

Inclusion of thermal loads

The Extremely Large Telescope (ELT) is being constructed on the Cerro Armazones, a 3,064-meter-tall mountain in the Atacama Desert, Chile.

Because of this, heat from sunlight and consequential material stresses had to be incorporated into the simulations.

Benefit to the client

TECOSIM assisted SCHOTT throughout this challenge. The engineers achieved outstanding stability in the structure which they developed for specific static, dynamic and thermal loads.

This resulted in extremely safe transportation of the mirror substrates.

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