Department of Engineering facilities

The Department of Engineering has world class facilities in manufacturing, civil and electronics engineering, located at La Trobe’s Melbourne and Bendigo campuses.

Our facilities provide students with interactive, industry-focused learning experiences where they can hone their technical and problem solving skills. They also serve as ideal collaborative spaces, where our researchers work with industry to produce innovative engineering solutions that benefit us all.

Manufacturing engineering

These laboratories allow our researchers to develop new methods and processes in manufacturing, create new materials, and assist in the development of improved and sustainable methods of extracting and using raw materials from our environment.

Supported by a comprehensive polymer research facility, the activities of this laboratory focus on the development of advanced functional polymer and composite materials (thermosets, thermoplastics and rubber). The laboratory engages in both fundamental scientific and industrial oriented research, focusing on the design, creation, processing and performance of advanced polymer and functional composite materials. Current research topics include functional polymer nanocomposites, natural fibre composites, biocomposites, 3D printing of polymers and composites, 3D bioprinting of tissues and sustainable polymer composites.

The laboratory features tools for injection moulding, filament extrusion, compression moulding, internal mixing, electrospinning, 3D bioprinting, thermogravimetric analysis, dynamic mechanical analyser and differential scanning calorimetry.

Research in this laboratory is a nexus for advanced materials research across the University and focuses on the development of new metallic alloys, ceramics and composite materials. These materials of the future will make the world a better place by providing more efficient use of energy, reducing waste and making more functional products with less material. Researchers investigate the synthesis of materials under extreme conditions (for example, at ultra-high pressures or on ultra-short time-scales) and make useful metal-matrix composites and ceramic matrix composites under these conditions.

Current research topics include the invention of novel materials that exhibit extreme properties, discovery of new materials through massively-parallel synthesis, synthesis of nano-cermet materials, development of novel nano/micro-architectured materials and metamaterials, and the creation of advanced bio-inorganic interfaces (such as neural tissue engineering scaffolds) and self-replicating bio-inorganic systems.

Equipment includes hyperbaric pressure laser chemical vapour deposition, laser-induced growth in diamond-anvil cells, vacuum arc melting and hot isostatic pressing.

This laboratory features interdisciplinary facilities for the creation of materials using high electric fields or electric-field-induced shocks waves. The synthesis techniques employed in this laboratory are new processes currently being developed solely by La Trobe, including directed-arc chemical vapour deposition for growing novel materials from liquids and gases with a controlled electric arc, and electric arc driven rapid compression for micro-scale extreme materials synthesis with instantaneous pressures of up to 10 million atmospheres.

We also use magnetic and electric fields in this laboratory to characterise new materials and determine their chemical makeup. In most cases, minute samples (less than ng) are ablated or dissolved in liquids, so that their constituent atoms can be analysed by mass spectroscopy. This includes advanced spectroscopy techniques, such as inductively-coupled-plasma mass spectroscopy and laser desorption ionisation mass spectroscopy. These methods can be used to detect impurities in material samples, determine the composition of mining ores and ascertain water quality.

This laboratory features wet and polishing facilities for microstructural and chemical analysis of new materials. Polymeric, metallic, or ceramic parts can be cut open, polished and etched to examine their interior structure using a scanning electron microscope or Nomarski optical microscope. The laboratory allows users to prepare solid, liquid and gaseous samples for further analysis.

Equipment in this laboratory includes analytical balances, a centrifuge, hot plates, pH meters with standard buffers, a conductivity metre, polishing machines, ovens, sputter coater, pellet press, hydraulic presses, micro-hardness indentation and optical microscopes.

This laboratory features additive and subtractive manufacturing equipment for rapid prototyping of specialised research apparatus. It allows users to machine and assemble simple parts right through to complex assemblies made from a wide range of materials. Students are introduced to computer aided machining practices in a supervised environment, designing and developing test samples for analysis in the advanced materials spectroscopy laboratory and advanced manufacturing laboratory.

Equipment includes 5-axis CNC milling machine, 3-axis CNC milling machine, abrasive waterjet cutter, laser cutter, injection moulder, fused deposition modeling and stereolithography 3D printers.

This laboratory facilitates new materials development, advanced manufacturing methods and materials characterisation. There is a materials processing space and equipment for the development of new ceramic, polymer and metallic materials, as well as metallographic and surface characterisation.

Equipment includes cutting and polishing equipment, contact angle measurements, and optical microscopy. The manufacturing space includes welding and furnace facilities as well as a state-of-the-art dynamic/static universal testing machine.

Civil engineering

Our civil engineering laboratories operate at La Trobe’s Bundoora and Bendigo campuses. We have laboratories for structures, geotechnical and hydraulics engineering, which house a wide range of equipment for testing and numerical analysis. These facilities are available for teaching, research and engagement with industry.

This laboratory features strong corner walls consisting of a one-metre-thick strong floor and three-metre-tall, one-metre-thick ‘L’ shaped reaction walls. The area of the strong floor is five metres by three metres and can carry up to one MN load. The laboratory features a concrete mixing facility for fabricating the real scale structural members. The 100 kN universal testing machine can be used for generating the stress-strain responses of structural steel and aluminium. The light frame structures are used for assessing the fundamental behaviour of beams under different loading conditions. The compressive strength of concrete is obtained by using the concrete cylinder testing machine. TechnoLab’s Experimental Mechanics Teaching System is also a part of the laboratory, providing a hands-on learning experience for undergraduate civil engineering students. It includes experiment kits for measuring reaction forces and deflection in beams and trusses.

Equipment includes strong corner walls, a 100 kN universal testing machine, light frame structures, a concrete cylinder testing machine and TechnoLab structural analysis equipment.

This laboratory features advanced benchtop geotechnical testing apparatus that are used to investigate the engineering behaviour of geomaterials under multi-coupled physics process in energy geotechnology, geoenvironmental and ground improvement applications.

Equipment includes soil classification (sieve, hydrometer, Atterberg limit), soil compaction and California bearing ratio testing, advanced chemo-thermo-mechanical triaxial cells, conventional and highly accurate consolidometers with a settlement accuracy of 1 um, large oedometer for prefabricated vertical drain consolidation testing, modified direct shear apparatus for shear creep monitoring, modified ring shear for advanced soil interface testing, different soil suction measurement and control devices (WP4C, psychrometer, pressure plate), soil electrical resistivity and thermal conductivity device, pundit PL-200 ultrasound testing equipment, surface roughness tester (MarSurf M400), mercury intrusion porosimetry, freeze dryer unit for sampling preparation benchtop centrifuge with in-house built hydraulic conductivity cell, and LaVision particle image velocimetry high-speed cameras (StrainMaster).

This laboratory features a range of teaching equipment for the delivery of courses in hydraulics/water resources engineering.

There is equipment for demonstrating Bernoulli's theorem, the function and dynamics of weirs, pressure and flow measurement, pipe friction and energy loss. The five-metre-long hydraulic flume for demonstrating the mechanics of flow also enables the practical teaching and demonstration of critical and sub-critical flow, hydraulic jump and dune formation. The inductively-coupled plasma mass spectroscopy machine detects metals and several non-metals in liquid samples at very low concentrations. The laboratory also enables jar testing, a procedure that simulates coagulation/flocculation with differing chemical doses to estimate the minimum coagulant dose required to achieve certain water quality goals.

Electronics engineering

Electronics are essential for the modern world, bringing us everything from smart phones and laptops, to electric vehicles and satellite navigation. Our electronic engineering laboratories facilitate design, fabrication and analysis of electronic devices with applications as diverse as robotics and machine vision, to environmental radar and Internet of Things.

This laboratory facilitates the design, building and testing of functional prototypes in robotics, automation, mechatronic design, machine vision and sensor systems. It helps researchers to solve problems with industry. It has led to the development of sewer condition assessment robots, agricultural pruning robots, radio frequency identification, wildlife Internet of Things tracker and WomBot, a robot designed to explore wombat burrows.

Equipment includes mechanical (3D printing, abrasive waterjet cutting, lasercutting and CNC milling) and electronic (embedded, PCB fabrication and reflow) prototyping capabilities.

This is an innovation think tank, and research and development laboratory, where students, academic staff and industry collaborate to design and develop solutions to complex problems. The laboratory is designed to allow individuals from different disciplines to work collaboratively and craft innovative approaches to products, services and programs that benefit society. The laboratory is also remotely connected to other similar laboratories in the United States and Europe, allowing truly interdisciplinary cross-continental collaborations.

Equipment includes a glass ideation board that spans nine metres and rapid prototyping and testing tools (3D printers, electronics, various development kits, and measurement and visualisation tools).

This laboratory facilitates image and video processing to tackle applications such as under water video processing based on deep learning models. Another focus is the development of efficient and effective algorithms for real time signal processing in low cost and low power embedded processors. This laboratory has helped researchers to develop edge-aware filtering for graphics and computer vision, an embedded system for real time personal protection equipment recognition and driver fatigue alerts, and real time high definition video enhancement.

Equipment includes high-performance personal computers with powerful graphics processing units and a range of embedded processors such as the Intel Neural Compute Stick, Nvidia Jetson Nano and Xavier AGX, Xilinx and Intel field-programmable gate array development boards.

This laboratory supports two streams of research in space science and engineering.

We operate three high frequency radars (TIGER) which form part of an international network called Super Dual Auroral Radar Network (SuperDARN). The SuperDARN network is operated by over a dozen nations to provide simultaneous coverage of southern and northern polar and mid-latitude ionospheric regions. TIGER explores the impact of solar disturbances on Earth by monitoring the location of aurora and related phenomena occurring in the ionosphere and upper atmosphere. Our research team are responsible for the development of a state-of-the-art digital field-programmable gate array-based, reconfigurable radar platform currently used by the Buckland Park radar in Adelaide. As part of the SuperDARN collaboration, the TIGER team supports the British Antarctic Survey and the South African National Space Agency who operate radars designed and developed at La Trobe. Our ongoing applied research facilitates regular advances in the radar’s capabilities and effectiveness, through the continual development of the radar operational software and Field Programmable Gate Array (FPGA) design.

Equipment includes portable radio frequency network analysers, spectrum analyser, high-performance dynamic spectrum optimisation and radio frequency signal generators.

In collaboration with the German Aerospace Centre (Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt, DLR) we also undertake space rated digital field-programmable gate array design and testing for satellite-based imaging instrumentation. The initial project was DESIS (DLR Earth Sensing Imaging Spectrometer). This design work is part of a currently operational hyper spectral camera mounted on the International Space Station. The DLR has since established a research program with us, focusing on next-generation space instrumentation technologies including on-board electronics, hardware and software, and advanced 3D additive materials.

Equipment includes Xilinx field-programmable gate array development boards and custom field-programmable gate array development platforms suitable for satellite instrumentation development.

Photo of Dr Song Wang

Our laboratories showcase the latest equipment in manufacturing, civil and electronic engineering. With a focus on real world applications, our facilities develop technical skills and provide the next generation of engineers with experience in complex problem solving and design.

Dr Song Wang
Department of Engineering

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