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Electronics Group 2012 Annual Report

Research School of Earth Sciences Electronics Group Annual Report 2012
Andrew Latimore, Tristan Redman, Norm Schram, Derek Corrigan, Daniel Cummins, David Cassar, Hideo Sasaki,
Research School of Earth Sciences, Australian National University, Canberra, ACT 0200, Australia

Figure 1: Electronics Group Labour Distributions 2012


The Electronics Group provides technical support to all Earth Sciences’ academic research. The Group holds the responsibility for maintaining and servicing electronic systems within RSES and offers a development facility able to engineer innovative electronic solutions. The Electronics Group endeavours to ensure the Research School of Earth Sciences remains a state of the art institution.

During 2012 the Electronics Group successfully completed a major assembly project, finishing construction and testing of the first one hundred ANU Short Period Seismic Recorders. The recorders were designed by the Electronics Group during 2010/11 and are now in full production, the project will extend into 2013 to manufacture a total of 260 units. The Group worked efficiently to produce the units within the scheduled time period and Group members David Cassar and Tristan Redman were involved in deployment of the first 50 units. Production of the recorders was made possible by the new automated pick and place electronic component assembly machine that the Electronics Group purchased for the project, this facility will decrease design to completed product times providing the Research School of Earth Science with faster electronic engineering services.

In parallel to the Seismic Recorder project the Group continued to develop and implement other major tasks some of which are in their second year of refinement including, Earth Material’s Attenuation Apparatus new acquisition system, Earth Physics’ ICPMS Laser Cell shroud design, Earth Chemistry’s MAT 261 electronics systems upgrade, Accelerating Mass Spectrometer automated sample preparation system implementation, and new microprocessor design for control of SHRIMP electronics systems.

The Electronics Group has kept up with the heavy electronics maintenance load of the school using 20% of labour resources to fault find and repair equipment.

Electronic Engineering Highlights

SHRIMP Developments (Latimore, Cummins, Corrigan, Cassar, Schram, Redman, Sasaki)

This year the Electronics Group has installed new Magnetic Field Controllers version 4 “FC4” onto SHRIMP RG and SHRIMP 2. The new electronics required considerable time to construct and tune. Each mass spectrometer’s magnet requires individual Fuzzy Logic control parameter which involves careful analysis of system performance. The Field Controller 4 project was first introduced onto SHRIMP SI and has achieved unprecedented magnetic stability, following this success Earth Chemistry requested two additional controllers to be installed onto the existing SHRIMP facilities to improve machine resolution. By the year’s end the Ion Probe Group were running all Earth Sciences SHRIMP Machines with new Magnetic Field Controllers.

Attenuation Apparatus system upgrade (Latimore, Redman)

During 2012 The Electronics Group implemented major changes to the operation of Earth Materials’ Attenuation Apparatus. The modifications included removing aging synchronous rectifiers, preamplifiers and analogue filtering and providing new digitising system using modern National Instrument acquisition electronics and upgrading the host computer. The modifications have provided the operator with analysis resolution capability of 18-bits at sampling rate of ten thousand samples per second. The new National Instruments Labview software interface has improved functional flexibility by allowing automated analysis and improved electronic noise levels.

Thermo Scientific ARGUS VI mass spectrometer installation (Cassar, Latimore, Sasaki)

The Electronics Group has designed and constructed auxiliary control equipment for the ARGUS VI mass spectrometer. The Group developed a pneumatic valve controller that remotely operates all high vacuum valves incorporated in the ARGUS VI’s source line allowing the user to automatically manipulate the system via the host computer. The Group has designed and constructed power electronics for the mass spectrometer’s source line including a twin furnace controller and contributed to the design and construction of power distribution infrastructure.

Finnigan MAT 261 Mass Spectrometer Upgrade (Schram)

This year the new electronic systems for the Finnigan MAT 261 mass spectrometer were completed and implemented. The heritage mass spectrometer is now equipped with automated computer control allowing the operator access to all system parameters and incorporates mass analysis software for acquiring data and tuning the mass spectrometer. The Electronics Group has developed systems to integrate with existing electronics to ensure future serviceability and minimise rebuilding working systems. The developments include; 8 channel digital 32-bit counters for beam current measurements, stepper motor controllers automating the high voltage source electrostatic deflection plates and sample carousel selection.

IPCMS Laser Aperture Control Automation (Corrigan)

This year the Electronics Group has continued work on improvements to the Inductively Coupled Plasma Mass Spectrometer’s Laser ablation system. During 2012 the Electronics Group completed and installed a new aperture selection unit and gas flow control system. The Group has conducted further development into several auxiliary systems for the laser including a vacuum shroud to encase the laser, motorisation of the cell device and variable width aperture mechanism utilising stepper motor technology.

AMS Graphitization Furnace Automation (Sasaki, Cassar)

During 2012 the Electronics Group completed the construction of the 20 channel Automatic Graphitization Furnace system. The project has been successfully installed and is operational. The system will autonomously control 20 graphitization channels and operate 20 liquid nitrogen molecular traps simultaneously. The interface is touch screen controlled running Labview firmware will automatically measure the required volume and graphitize the sample. The Group has designed the liquid nitrogen control mechanics which includes vacuum insulated vessels for the molecular traps and level sensing. The project aims to minimise liquid nitrogen loss and improve sample preparation productivity.

Fabrication projects (Cassar, Cummins, Sasaki, Redman, Latimore, Schram, Corrigan)

The Electronics Group has work productively this period on several fabrication projects.

  • 4 x Field Controller version 4.
  • 9 x STE MICRO version 2.1.
  • 100 x ANU Short Period Seismic Recorder.
  • Getter pump controller.
  • Vertical Furnace Controller 4 channel.
  • 6 x Tesla Tamer.
  • Seismometers in schools.

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Engineering Group 2012 Annual Report

Research School of Earth Sciences Engineering Workshop Annual Report 2012
Andrew Wilson, David Thomson, Geoff Woodward, Carl Were, Brent Butler, Hayden Miller (1/2 time share with Rock Physics), Ben Tranter (1/6 to 1/2 time share with GFD)
Research School of Earth Sciences, Australian National University, Canberra ACT 0200, Australia


Important scientific outcomes in Earth Sciences often require the boundaries of mechanical possibility to be approached. With experience and commitment from its staff and with their ability to apply knowledge extremely well, the boundaries of what is possible have not only been approached on a regular basis but have been moved significantly. In many cases, research today is no longer limited by mechanical boundaries at all.

A combined total of one hundred and thirty eight years of machining knowledge and experience are shared among the current workshop staff listed above. Ninety five of these years have been spent within the workshop at RSES dedicated purely to research in the Earth Sciences.

Wire EDM- top and bottom profile

RSES Engineering Workshop Highlights

Some of the major projects undertaken in 2012 are listed below:

  • Prep Line for Argus6 Mass Spectrometer, Dr Marnie Forster (Brent Butler, David Thomson, Carl Were, Andrew Wilson, Ben Tranter)
  • Seismic Recorders, Dr Nick Rawlinson (David Thomson, Brent Butler, Carl Were, Geoff Woodward)
  • SHRIMP Maintenance (David Thomson, Geoff Woodward, Brent Butler)
  • Field Work Equipment for Dr Bear McPhail (David Thomson)
  • Replacement Parts and Modifications to HTP Apparatus, Rock Physics Lab (Brent Butler, Geoff Woodward)
  • AMS Graphitization Line, Dr Stewart Fallon (Carl Were, Hayden Miller)

Table 1
RSES Engineering Workshop Resource Distribution 2011

Labour totals hours %
Uncharged Jobs 1158 15.2
Research Support 6076 79.5
External work 404 5.3
Total 7638  
Uncharged Jobs    
Staff Training 263 3.4
Administration 578 7.6
Workshop Infrastructure 126 1.6
Machine Maintenance 142 2.0
Other 49 0.6
Total 1158  
Research Support Distribution    
Earth Chemistry 2795 44.2
Earth Environment 951 15.0
Earth Materials & Processes 819 13.0
Earth Physics 1485 23.5
External clients+ other 273 4.3
Total 6323  

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