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RESEARCH SUPPORT 2005

Electronics
Engineering


ELECTRONICS GROUP

Demand for Electronics support remained consistent during the year, with resources allocated as shown:

 

Budgeted

Actual

Comment

Total hours worked

11396

(12 Months)

10530

(11 Months)

More leave taken than forecast.

December figures not yet available.

Hours billed

7977

(12 Months)

6521.4

(11 Months)

December figures not yet available.

Billable

70%

65%

Higher admin. percentage due to the nature of tasks undertaken (numerous small projects). Higher devolved purchasing burden due to administrative restructure.

Human resources were utilized as follows:

Task:

Percentage of total hours:

Development

46.7%

Maintenance

18.3%

Administration and Group Support. (Inc. Study Leave, Union/EBA work)

35%

The group should carry a budget deficit into 2006 due to a combination of:

(a) External work largely undertaken in 2005, which will be invoiced in 2006.

(b) Aus$5,300 shortfall in recharge earnings due to the incapacity of some clients to meet recharge.

(c) Lower than expected ‘Billable Hours Worked' as a consequence of unplanned leave, illness and university-level management contribution.

Once realized, the income from external sales of equipment produced and funded during 2005 should fund capital depreciation, and return a modest surplus.

The group was again very restrained in Capital expenditure, but did address the long standing under-investment in staff training and development. In addition to external courses attended (SolidWorks, Altium DXP, Nexar FPGA, Leadership), the group ran courses for RSES staff on Altium DXP, Altium Nexar FPGA, LabView and SolidWorks, and a structured seminar on electrometer principles.

The Group did not have the opportunity to undertake a large-scale project during 2005, but nevertheless remained fully employed on a plethora of small scale developments and renovations. Some innovative technical developments in support of the proposed SHRIMP SI were completed or commenced during the year.

Notable developments undertaken included:

· Design, implementation and field testing of Low Field “Tesla Tamer” probes to facilitate stable isotope analysis on SHRIMP (N.Schram, A.Welsh, J. Arnold).

· Partial renovation and upgrade of SHRIMP 1 (sample manipulator, data acquisition, primary deflection, computer and software) to facilitate unattended / automated overnight analysis of successive samples. (A. Welsh, P. Lanc, J. Foster [both Earth Chemistry], A.Latimore, N.Schram).

· Commissioning and refinement of Instrument Control and Data Acquisition software (LabView) for the PG61 mass spectrometer (A. Latimore).

· Debugging of the renovated PG61 Mass Spectrometer, primarily related to the Sample Changer and Source HV issues. (A. Latimore, D. Corrigan, N. Schram)

· Automation of pressure control of, and data acquisition from, the Earth Physics 500 Tonne press. (D Cassar, P. Lanc (Earth Chemistry), D. Cummins).

· Design and assembly of the filament degasser system to support the Triton mass spectrometer (D. Corrigan)

· Renovation and upgrade of sample manipulation motor-drive electronics on SHRIMPs II and RG (A. Welsh, P.Lanc [Earth Chemistry]).

· Fabrication and testing of 16 “ Tesla Tamer ” precision magnetic field probes for ASI and the SHRIMP group. (J. Arnold).

· Design and development of revised Beam Monitors for both SHRIMP SI, and upgrade of existing instruments (D. Cummins, A. Latimore).

· Manufacture of a ‘Tsukuba Furnace Controller' for Earth Materials (J. Arnold, D.   Cummins, A. Forster).

· Design of a ‘low cost' flexible Electrometer (Iflex) for potential application to SHRIMP SI and elsewhere within RSES [work in progress] (N. Schram).

· Design and fabrication of several solid state ‘safe lights' for the Luminescence Dating Laboratory (D Cummins).

· Design and fabrication of a ‘safe' power-mode-control heating mat for stabilizing the temperature of fluid-filled tanks for Earth Physics / GFD (A. Forster, D. Cassar, J. Arnold).

· Upgrade of the Coolant Control instrumentation on the 4 kiloTonne press used by Ringwood Superabrasives. (D. Cummins, A. Forster).

· Design and fabrication of a multi-chamber acid resistant Sample-Evaporation oven for Earth Environment. (A. Latimore).

· Research and preliminary design of an innovative Magnetic Field Control system for use on SHRIMP SI and upgrade of existing SHRIMP instruments [work-in-progress] (A. Latimore).

· Upgrade of the SHRIMP II Multiple Collector motion control electronics (N. Schram).

STAFFING

The group comprises an Electronics Engineer and five Technical Officers supplemented by two Trainee Technical Officers. D. Corrigan continues to specialise in engineering design, working closely with both Engineering and Electronics staff. His primary tasks for 2005 were the debugging of the renovated 61cm Mass Spectrometer, and furthering progress on the Triton filament degasser.

OUTLOOK

2006 promises to be another interesting year, as we focus on the SHRIMP SI. The 4D database system introduced in 2005 has simplified job-tracking and the processing of chargebacks for work undertaken, and has assisted the Group's drive towards independence, transparency and accountability. There is continued clear evidence that the ‘internal recharge' system of cost recovery has affected the flow of spontaneous and low cost projects, and challenged the abilities of our clients to raise funds to match their aspirations . Changes to the administrative and management processes used by the group, stemming from the RSES Administration restructure, did frustrate group efficiency throughout 2005, with the expected long-term efficiencies yet to be realized. The group largely met its succession responsibilities during 2005 through a combination of staff development and mentoring, which it must continue through 2006. It is probable that the retirement or move to reduced hours of senior members of the group in 2006 will precipitate the transfer of responsibility to the younger members. With a reduced staff level, the Group will face a challenge in maintaining resource commitment to the innovative long lead time projects which have distinguished its contribution to the science at RSES, and a timely response to maintenance and short-term projects.

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ENGINEERING GROUP

2005 was a positive year for the Engineering workshop. Extra effort was put into improving the functionality and efficiency of the workshop as well as enhancing collaboration between other workshops on campus in line with the formation of the College of Science . These commitments as well as extra administration requirements, no doubt contributed to a relatively high proportion of uncharged hours, 39%.

With the commencement of SHRIMP SI on hold until 2006 and internal requirements down a little from previous years, we were able to take on more work from external sources. SHRIMP Multi-Collectors for “Australian Scientific Instruments” formed the bulk of this work. Our services were also in high demand from other ANU Faculties and research schools, as well as from “Ringwood Super Abrasives”. The total work done for clients outside RSES accounted for 20% of our logged time. Income from this work, as well as contributions from all areas of the school and a successful Major Equipment bid have enabled the replacement of schools ageing Wire Electro-discharge Machine.

41% of our time was devoted internally with prominent work including:

Continuation of the secondary column test bench for SHRIMP (Mr G. Woodward)

Refurbishment of 5/8 inch pressure vessels and manufacture of new ½ inch vessels for high pressure experiments in the Experimental Petrology laboratories (Mr JP. Robbie)

Continuation of the modified lid and faraday cups for the SHRIMP 2 Multi collector (Mr B. Taylor, Mr A. Wilson)

Improvements to the automation of SHRIMP 1 (Mr B. Taylor, Mr D Thomson, Mr JP. Robbie, Mr A. Wilson)

Continuation of the filament degasser units for the Finnigan Mass Spectrometer for Prof. M. McCulloch (Mr D. Thomson, Mr G. Woodward, Mr C. Were, Mr B. Taylor)

Manufacture of high temperature, controlled atmosphere furnaces for synchrotron x-ray spectroscopy (Mr JP. Robbie)

Manufacture of a Sample Evaporator chamber associated with the 61cm mass spectrometer for Dr T. Esat (Mr C. Were)

New Cooling Jackets for the controlled atmosphere furnaces in the Experimental Petrology laboratories (Mr B. Taylor)

Precision diamond grinding of samples and pistons for use in high pressure/ temperature experiments in the Rock Physics laboratories (Mr B. Taylor, Mr C. Were, Mr JP. Robbie, Mr A. Wilson, Mr G. Woodward)

STAFF TRAINING AND DEVELOPMENT

Mr A. WILSON completed the ANU course: “achieving excellence as leaders”. This course dealt with several aspects of management and strategic planning and also included a group project and presentation.

Mr C. WERE continued the advanced diploma in Mechanical Engineering at the Canberra institute of Technology (CIT).

Mr B. TAYLOR completed the course associated with his CIT fitting and machining apprenticeship- “Certificate 3 in Mechanical Engineering Trade” and was also involved with the “TICUNA” team from the Faculty of Engineering and Information Technology. The team competed in the Formula SAE competition, a national event in which teams of engineering students design, manufacture and race an open wheeler racing car.

We also arranged a “Mastercam” software training session, which was open to all ANU workshop staff.

OUTLOOK

2006 will be an interesting and busy year for the Engineering Workshop with a number of significant projects to complete and the usual amount of short term work to contend with. Some fascinating and challenging projects are expected, notably from Earth Materials where new research directions will require us to extend our capabilities in our “trade mark” area of machining hard materials. Depending on the commencement of SHRIMP SI, Earth Sciences workshop may well need to investigate sharing the workload with the other ANU workshops. Sharing workloads has been discussed at meetings throughout 2005 and is considered a key issue to the accessibility of mechanical resources at ANU. The main barrier to distributing workloads across ANU is the cost, specifically the lack of a subsidized rate for the researcher if their work is carried out in a different workshop. With the current funding arrangements no change to this “user pays” rule is expected in the short term. With the formation of the College Structure, discussion between the ANU workshops throughout the year has centered on the changes required to maximize our capacity and effectiveness. Several initiatives to be further developed between ANU workshops in 2006 include: Staff swapping (to enhance knowledge management and develop skills), sharing of some administrative tasks to avoid duplication, improved planning for equipment purchases, document skills and equipment and improve access to this information via the ANU website. An apprentice fitter and machinist will be taken on in 2006; this position will be shared between several schools and faculties to provide a broad range of skills.

 

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