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Electronics Group 2006 Annual Report

The Group enjoyed a stimulating year, venturing into contemporary technologies, engaging with complex diagnostic and maintenance issues, and contributing to school and university administration. The tradition of engagement with research programs has continued, morale and cohesion are high, members support each other, and there is a strong sense of worth and identity within the group.

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





Total hours worked


(12 Months)


(11 Months)

December figures not yet available.

(ca 10300 with Dec. projection)

Hours billed


(12 Months)


(11 Months)

December figures not yet available.

(ca 6973 with Dec. projection)





Human resources were utilized as follows:


Percentage of total hours:





Administration and Group Support.

(Inc. Study Leave, Union/EBA work, Software support)


Despite greater than expected staff losses due to retirement, long service leave and illness, the group met its working hours target for 2006, through extended working days and unused flextime. The group will carry a budget surplus into 2007 because of external work largely undertaken in 2005, but invoiced in 2006.

Training expenditure and overheads were minimal during 2006 (but extensive in 2005), however considerable progress was made in upgrading both capital and non-capital equipment, in line with the groups structured plan. This action has largely addressed the under spending caused by budget uncertainties of recent years.


The Group commenced work on the SHRIMP SI project during 2006, as well as a range of smaller projects and renovations.

Notable developments undertaken included:

· Development of a prototype precision Magnetic Field Control system (FC4) for the SHRIMP SI, incorporating fuzzy logic control implemented on an FPGA platform, and high resolution (24 bit) measurement and control. (A Latimore, D Cassar, D Cummins, A Forster).

· Detailed testing of the prototype Iflex electrometer project (SHRIMP SI), and design of the production version. ( N.Schram, D. Corrigan, D Cummins).

· Debugging of the renovated PG61 Mass Spectrometer, various diagnostic tasks addressing data inconsistency issues. (A. Latimore, D. Corrigan, N. Schram).

· Specification development and technology assessment for a Distributed Vacuum (Management) System (DVS) for application to all SHRIMP instruments (D. Cassar).

· Preliminary design and HV supply purchasing for the SHRIMP SI High Voltage System (work in progress) (A Welsh, N Schram ).

· Completion of Power-Mode upgrade to the “Multi Anvil Press” for Earth Materials (D.Cassar).

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

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

· Fabrication and testing of 4 “ Low Field Tesla Tamer ” precision magnetic field probes for the SHRIMP group. (J Arnold ).

· Assembly and testing of a remote GPS monitoring station (AntPAC 2007) for deployment in Antarctica in 2006/7 for Earth Physics (Geodynamics) (A Welsh, N Schram).

· Fabrication of 8 “LDL Safe Lights” for the Earth Environment thermoluminescence laboratory (D.Cummins).

· An upgrade to the “1 Atmosphere Furnaces” in use by Earth Materials (A Forster).

· Fabrication and Commissioning of a “Pneumatic Sample Crusher Controller” for The University of Melbourne . (D Cummins).

· Design and fabrication of a Floating Beam Monitor for the SHRIMP Ion Optical test bench (J. Arnold, N.Schram)

· Design and fabrication of a “Tsukuba Furnace Controller” for the Imperial College London . (J Arnold, A Forster).

· Development of a ‘prototype' STE-processor board as a replacement for boards deployed in all SHRIMP instruments (A Latimore).


For most of the year the group comprised an Electronics Engineer and five Technical Officers supplemented by two Trainee Technical Officers.. D Corrigan continued to specialise in engineering design, working closely with both Engineering and Electronics staff. His primary task for 2006 was the construction of the Triton filament degasser. J. Arnold retired in October, followed by A. Welsh in November. . From January the ‘electronics' staff will be reduced to 3.8 posts (excluding Corrigan), as Forster retires in January, and Schram moves to part time employment. The group appointed two Trainee Technical Officers in 2003, in anticipation of the retirements now occurring.


The group has been very fortunate and successful in its training endeavours of recent years. We propose the recruitment of 2 Trainee Technical Officers as a ‘long term' solution to staffing needs.

In addition, we may attempt to recruit a mid-career technician as an interim measure to narrow the experience-gap we currently face.


The current leader (Schram) will move to part time work in 2007, leading to retirement later in the decade. The group requires a full time leader, so this role will pass to Latimore.


2007 promises to be very challenging. The group has a very large development workload, which includes the SHRIMP SI. Maintenance tasks have increased through the ageing and expansion of the RSES instrument base. The group no longer has the resources (manpower and obsolete spare parts) to support much of the aged equipment deployed throughout the school, particularly obsolete vacuum system electronics. Group members have withdrawn from broader university, college and school roles in order to concentrate on core business.

We anticipate that project delays will occur within 2007, and it may prove essential to quarantine selected staff from ‘general' duties, on a rotational basis, in order to progress the SHRIMP SI project.

The group has a core of skilled and talented staff, upon which it can be reconstructed, and we approach the challenges of 2007 with vigour and enthusiasm.


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Engineering Group 2006 Annual Report


Engineering Workshop time was in high demand this year.

59% of total hours for the year were devoted to charged RSES internal work. The total work done for clients outside RSES accounted for 12% of our time and 29% of our time was uncharged.

Internally the main commitments were:

SHRIMP SI- Multicollector and ESA internal components (Mr G. Woodward, Mr C. Were, Mr D. Thomson, Mr B. Buttler, Mr B. Taylor, Mr A. Wilson)

SHRIMP 1 Refurbishment (Mr G. Woodward, Mr C. Were, Mr A. Wilson)

Steel adapter plates designed and manufactured to allow Polycrystalline cubes to be used in the multi-anvil press in place of Tungsten Carbide cubes. (Mr B. Buttler, Mr D. Thomson, Mr B. Taylor)

Secondary Column test bench (Mr G. Woodward, Mr L. Williams)

Filament Degasser for Prof M. McCulloch's Finnegan mass spectrometer (Mr G. Woodward, Mr B. Taylor)

New and refurbished pressure vessels for Prof H. O'Neill (Mr G. Woodward, Mr C. Were)

Helium Tanks and Pipette system for Dr J. Dunlap (Mr B. Taylor, Mr C. Were)

Field work equipment for Dr M. Gagan (Mr C. Were, Mr A. Wilson, Mr D. Thomson, Mr L. Williams)

Fitment of Lead doors to circular radiation shields for Prof R. Grün (Mr C. Were, Mr L. Williams)

Field work equipment for Prof M. McCulloch (Mr C. Were)

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

Continued design and development of vacuum crushing vessels for Dr M. Honda (Mr D. Thomson, Mr C. Were, Mr A. Wilson, Mr B. Buttler, Mr B. Taylor)

Two large external projects were taken on this year:

A Vacuum Sample Crusher was built for the University of Melbourne 's Argon and Noble Gas laboratory run by Dr D. Phillips. (Mr B. Buttler, Mr B. Taylor)

SHRIMP 2 ESA assemblies (Quadrupole Lens and Alpha Slit) for “Australian Scientific Instruments”. (Mr G. Woodward, Mr C. Were, Mr D. Thomson, Mr B. Buttler, Mr B. Taylor, Mr A. Wilson)

Our time was also required by various faculties and research areas across campus for a multitude of smaller tasks.

Uncharged time was split as follows:

39%. Staff Training, both technical and general, including study leave.

38%. Workshop administration- Purchasing, workshop management, OHS Policy development and implementation, school committee work, and time logging.

14%. Workshop Infrastructure. This includes the time taken for improvements and modifications to tooling, machines, workshop layout, workshop storage and assistance with workshop building maintenance. The timber parquetry in the workshop is currently being repaired therefore extra time has been taken up moving machines and benches.

6%. Machine maintenance.

3%. Other- Sydney engineering exhibition, unloading deliveries.


Early this year Mr Link Williams was chosen as the College of Science apprentice fitter and machinist. Link was the first College of Science appointment at the ANU and will serve his apprenticeship under the guidance of workshop staff at RSES, Faculty of Physics, RSC and RSPhysSE.

Mr JP. Robbie, who left early in the year, was replaced by Mr Brent Buttler. Brent is a skilled tradesman with prior experience in Computer Numeric Control in the tool making industry.

Other Developments

Every effort has been made this year to ensure maximum use of the schools computer controlled machines. We have invested time learning SolidCAM- the Computer Aided Manufacturing (CAM) software package by Solid Works. This program allows more efficient use of the 3D part files generated by Solid Works which now seems to be the preferred package among designers at ANU.

Figure 1: Optomechanical Flexture for students at the College of Engineering and Information Technology


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