New Instrumentation Platform

There’s a new facility especially for designing custom instrumentation and laboratory equipment.

First published: 11/12/2013

Updated at: 10/12/2013 at 11:07 am

It’s not often researchers get to easily access an engineering brain to design a solution to a research problem.

But that’s exactly what happens at the Monash Facility for Instrumentation and Technology Development in designing and building custom instrumentation and laboratory equipment.

The technology research platform is a new capability in the VPTN and is headed up by Chris Phyland, who spent 25 years working with the CSIRO and among other things, engineered an application for an ultra-battery designed for electric vehicles, to store power from wind farms.

Bringing together minds that use different rigours to solve a problem is what can bring it to life.

“In the last month, we have had 105 unique jobs to produce one-off pieces of equipment or research apparatus. The jobs might have involved fabricating parts for physiological research, for example instrument making, or modifying equipment to have finer movement to enable easier investigation for researchers,” Chris said.

“From the moment a researcher requests the job, the design process starts using CAD (computer aided design) computer modelling using 3D models to simulate the motion of moving parts.

“Because everything we do is a one-off, the job is constant intellectual and physical challenge. One of the pieces of equipment we have developed was a cover that hides most things on a computer keyboard so that only a few of the buttons show through. These will be used for global research into brain function. The team has also made a mirror box for psychiatric testing and is presently working on an electronic glove prototype which measures and collects data on pressure applied by touch.

“Staff at the facility have also been involved in developing an atmosphere chamber to keep organisms alive and stereotaxic frameworks to keep a patient’s head still while they track eye movements.

“Sensors to measure temperature, pressure, force, conductivity or a magnetic field are also common requests. Anything we can automate also helps improve research outcomes.

“Another job involved research into coal under high pressure and high temperatures. One of the team engineered an autoclave to collect gases and oils given off when coal was heated to 400 degrees and then analysed the condensation.

The Monash Facility for Instrumentation and Technology Development houses a Sodick AQ300L Wire Electric Discharge Machining (EDM) machine, also known as a ‘wire cutter’. This machine uses a thin metal wire as an electrode to spark erode the work piece. The EDM machine uses electric current to cut conductive materials leaving a smooth surface that requires no further finishing or polishing.

This machine can be used to cut plates, make punches, tools, and dies from any conductive material, including hard metals that are too difficult to machine with other methods, such as graphite, carbide and tool steel.

The EDM uses wire held between upper and lower guides which can be moved independently along the X-Y axis giving the ability to cut tapered and transitioning shapes. EDM machining is commonly used when low residual stresses are desired as the machining is ‘no contact’ and places no force on the work piece.

“This stress free cutting means that new materials can be tested without putting them under pressure which may distort the tests,” said Chris.

The facility equipment and expertise is available on a fee-for-service basis. Click here for more information or contact peter.arnold@monash.edu, phone: +61 (3) 9905 0500

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