As you may know we are big fans of 3D printing. Whether it’s helping a horse, supporting sleep suffers or producing a personalised pen, we have a lot of time for a disruptive technology that might be the biggest tech innovation we’ve seen in decades. So we were pretty chuffed to spend some time with a 3D printing guru.
The guru in question is Chad Henry, a research scientist from our manufacturing team. Hailing from the United States, Chad brings a unique charisma and enthusiasm to our labs in Clayton, Victoria.
In order to find out a more about the man behind the printer, we put a few questions to Chad about his work and his life outside the lab.
What do you enjoy most about your job?
I enjoy that there is such a breadth of applications for metallic 3D printed components. Learning about the details of new potential uses, in order to best utilise the technology is interesting.
What does your job entail on a week to week basis?
Lots of interaction with companies interested in metallic 3D printing to explain the technical details and costs of it, all in order to search for successful applications for them. The other part is running projects, where we are always learning new things.
What would you say has been the highlight of your career so far?
Because I helped design and make it, when the JSF F-35 went full speed down the runway and took off for its first-flight, that was quite a career highlight. But you could argue that the successful landing was more important.
What is the biggest challenge you’re grappling with in your role at the moment?
Large OEMs (original equipment manufacturers) that manufacture metallic components and integrate them into systems that result in high value products are few and far between in Australia. It’s these kinds of companies that are putting money into metallic 3D printing over in the US and Europe. Plus, the Australian industry is risk averse. All of this is makes the uptake of expensive new technologies challenging.
If you were at a casual dinner party, how would you respond if someone asked what you do/research?
I deliver metallic 3D printing technologies to companies to ultimately help the country, as I am partially government funded. Sometimes that takes a little R&D; to get things just right, so then we can develop and execute projects that have a positive return on investment for the company.
What are some common misconceptions about 3D printing?
It’s easy to do. It’s inexpensive and good business cases are abundant. Design optimisation doesn’t really matter.
What is the coolest thing you’ve ever printed in 3D?
Noting that cool is different from useful, I would say minimal surfaces (do an internet search if you need to – it is an interesting one) and mathematical based art.
What is the next big step for this technology? Good question. I’ll state two: 1) CAD software that makes taking advantage of the design freedoms inherent with 3D printing, and 2) driving down the cost. Both are important, already underway, and will continue to improve with time.
What was your first job?
Metallurgical Engineer at Bell Helicopter. This was in the late 90’s and we were 3D printing lost wax for investment castings then.
What profession other than your own would you like to attempt?
Sports Equipment Tester, analyser and designer. I am an OK athlete and I have an engineering mindset. I think I’d be good at it.
What hobbies do you have outside of your work?
I am a dad first and foremost. My kids are at a very fun age. I’d rather have dinner with them than anybody. The conversations are certainly candid and all over the place. Additionally, I try to find time for ice hockey, on- and off- road motorcycle track days, home brewing, table tennis, golf, and I have recently gone surfing a few times.
What advice would you give to somebody looking to follow your career path?
Have load-case and stress analysis capability and the knowledge to apply it to component design, along with the necessary CAD skills to then make it electronically.
What is the most funny/unique/odd situation you have experienced in your time at the CSIRO?
I have a 3D printed fish anchor (used to affix GPS devices) on my desk that was in a shark for some time before being removed. It has remnant organic tissue on it. Thank you CMAR (CSIRO Marine and Atmospheric Research). They learned a lot about sharks.
If you had infinite resources, what research/experiment/project would you like to work on?
Two things: 1) Getting real-time non-destructive evaluation capability into metallic 3D printers. There are multiple benefits that would result from this, and 2) Further developing large scale metallic 3D printing. Let’s just print the whole airframe.
Which song or band best captures your job and why?
I don’t know… let’s see… the vast majority of people seem to love 3D printing, but they don’t necessarily know the technical details or science behind it, so it just seems like magic. Maybe the magic is partly why they love it. Surely there are songs along that topic line. OK, I got it… how about, “You sexy thing (Do You Believe in Miracles?)” I mean, 3D printing is pretty sexy, right?
One final thought from our 3D guru – a piece of pub trivia, or a nice fact to unleash upon unsuspecting dinner guests
People should know that 3D printing isn’t an overnight sensation. It has been in development for well over two decades.
And finally, just because it is a little pet peeve of mine, I’ll share a quick piece of advice. First though, let me say that by itself, it won’t make you sound like you know what you are talking about, but it will certainly help you “not” sound like you “don’t” know what you are talking about. Got it? OK … here it is … Regarding 3D printing of metals, the process is fusion (i.e. melting).
Just as we don’t all have the same tastes or preferences for football codes or teams – or even genres of music or flavours of ice cream – so too we don’t all have the same tastes or preferences when it comes to science.
Last year the CSIRO released the results of a major survey into public attitudes towards science and technology, and found four key segments of the population that view science in very different ways:
A: Fan Boys and Fan Girls. This group is about 23% of the population and they are very enthusiastic about science and technology. Science is a big part of their lives and they think everyone should all take an interest in it.
B: The Cautiously Keen make up about 28% of the public. They are interested in science and technology, but can be a little wary of it. They tend to believe that the benefits of science must be greater than any harmful effects.
C: The Risk Averse represent about 23% of the population. They are much more concerned about the risks of science and technology, including issues such as equality of access. Most of their values about science are framed in terms of risk.
D: The Concerned and Disengaged make up 20% of the population. They are the least enthusiastic and least interested in science and technology. Many of them don’t much trust it. They believe the pace of science and technology is too fast to keep up with and that science and technology create more problems than they solve.
If you are reading this article you are probably an A – and have self-selected to read the article as something you are interested in. But that is one of the problems: most audiences of science communications activities self-select from the As.
Interesting the disinterested
The research builds upon several other earlier surveys and its findings complement a 2014 survey designed by the Australian National University and conducted by Ipsos Public Affairs for the Inspiring Australia program.
This survey segmented Australians on the basis of how frequently they interacted with information about science and technology. It found that only half of the population could recall listening to, watching or reading something to do with science and technology, or even searching for science and technology information, at least once a fortnight. Also, 14% had much less frequent interactions with science and technology information.
So, while Merlin Crossley is quite right that we are increasingly well served by high-quality science communication activities, rather than simply needing even more, we believe we need a broader spread of activities, designed for different audiences who have different attitudes to science.
With science communication activities growing, the Fan Boys and Fan Girls have never had it so good. There are great science stories almost everywhere you turn, if you’re interested in those stories, of course.
But the CSIRO data showed that as many as 40% of the Australian public were unengaged, disinterested or wary of science – little changed since a similar Victorian government study in 2011.
So the growth in science communication is not necessarily growing its audience. To do that we need to align our science communication messages and channels with those that the disengaged and disinterested value.
Think of the football analogy mentioned above. A diehard AFL fan is not likely to seek out a rugby union match of their own volition. However, if you want to get them interested in rugby union, you might consider holding a demonstration match at an AFL game. Or even better, recruit AFL players to join one of the teams playing in the rugby union demo match.
More than blowing stuff up
There are many ways to get exciting science communication activities out of the existing channels and onto the Footy Shows and Today Shows of the world. Science communicators could show up at music and folk festivals and other community activities. They could get sports stars and TV personalities and musicians talking about science, much as the Inspiring Australia initiative has sought to do.
And they should think beyond BSU (blowing stuff up) approaches where the “wow” factor is high but longer term engagement is often quite low.
One of the other key findings of the CSIRO study was that the Fan Boys and Fan Girls are further away from the average point of community values than any other segment of the population. This means that Fan Boys or Girls probably have the least idea of what might appeal to the other segments. They know what turns them on, but they are probably only guessing what will work for the other segments.
So they need to recruit members of the other non-science fan segments to help devise science communication activities that appeal to them. For no one is going to understand the Bs, Cs and Ds like they understand themselves (even if they don’t much understand As!).
By Claire Harris
Ahh spiders. For a relatively small creature, they have the power to turn even the bravest among us into a quivering mess – and we include ourselves in that club. At our Sydney office, for example, we have seen dozens of St Andrew’s Cross spiders loitering around our newsblog garden.
Spider numbers change according to the conditions. A hot dry summer is not good for spiders. But also, too much rain can lead to increased fungal infections and more predators out to eat spiders for breakfast.
So what’s happening with all these spiders?
According to Dr Barry Richardson, Honorary Research Fellow at our Australian National Insect Collection (ANIC), they’re everywhere because it’s spider dating season!
“This is the time of year when most young spiders begin their active independent life; males especially moving around looking for mates,” Barry explains.
With all these single spiders out seeking companionship, we’ve been hearing more and more stories from people getting into sticky situations with these amorous arachnids.
One tale from a colleague of ours was enough to send shivers down anybody’s spine. While out jogging, she ran face first into a big web, almost swallowing the web’s resident. Luckily the spider was quick to get away; in fact it leapt off the web, scuttling for its life.
That got us thinking: is it common for spiders to leap off their webs to avoid bumbling creatures like humans?
Barry says that what our colleague observed was normal behaviour.
“Spiders are subject to very heavy predation by birds and wasps (depending on their size). So as soon as they see or feel (through vibrations) something coming they commonly leap to safety,” he said.
“When they land in the litter they curl up, stay still and try to look like a piece of debris. Orb spiders will also often run off the side of their web into the foliage if given the chance. This means they can quickly get back to the web to repair it and capture any lunchtime snacks.”
This behaviour is intriguing enough, but there’s plenty more to be interested in when it comes to spiders. Barry (who is a kangaroo and rabbit expert that took up jumping spiders as a hobby in retirement) also shared these wonderful eight-legged facts:
Have you ever wondered how the world appears to a spider? Spiders are hairy because they mostly ‘see’ the world through minute vibrations in the air and the hairs are part of a very sensitive detection system. They also use vibrations through the ground.
Why do some spiders have big eyes? Because they hunt by sight and their eyes operate as telephoto lenses capable of zooming four times life size. While there are only two big-eyed, hunting families of spiders — the jumping and the wolf spiders — these spiders make up more than half the individuals around our houses and yards.
We are big fans of the insect world, so it should come as no surprise that we look after the world’s largest collection of Australian insects and related groups such as mites, spiders, nematodes and centipedes at the Australian National Insect Collection (ANIC).
Housing over 12 million specimens (and a team of experts like Barry), the Collection is used by Australian and international researchers, industry, government and university students as a critical and authoritative resource for evolutionary biology, ecology, natural resource management, biosecurity and biogeography. We are constantly adding to the collection, which is growing by more than 100,000 specimens each year.
You can find out more about ANIC here.
Before we go, one last fact.
Some spiders ‘call’ for mates by tapping their feet, waving their legs and vibrating their abdomens to a species-specific pattern. Check out the dancing peacock spiders, only found in Australia, they should prove that not all spiders are frightening.
A living dinosaur. A missing evolutionary link. A specimen unlike any seen before it.
With such weighty words being thrown around, you could be forgiven for thinking we had discovered a Yowie, a Loch Ness Monster, or another Jurassic Park script. But the truth, while being a little more unassuming, is no less the stuff of legends.
In actual fact, we’ve found an enigma.
Today, we unveiled the Aenigmatinea glatzella – which has been coined the ‘enigma moth’ – to the world. This tiny insect, which has so far only been found in an isolated pocket of Kangaroo Island, South Australia, represents not just an entire new species of moth, but an entire new family. It’s the Lepidoptera equivalent of discovering, say, the platypus.
This is the first time since the 1970s that a new family of primitive moths has been identified anywhere in the world. So for a bald bug that lives, mates and dies in one day and could fit on a five cent piece, the enigma moth is causing quite a stir.
You can read more about the moth and our role in its discovery – as well as the launch of a foundation to support research into Australian moths and butterflies, and the moths and butterflies in our Australian National Insect Collection in Canberra – here. But in the meantime, we present to you the top five facts about this flying enigma:
- It is helping us crack evolution’s code. DNA analysis indicates that the evolution of moths and butterflies is even more complex than previously thought. For example, while the discovery of this new moth strengthens the evolutionary relationships between other primitive moth families, it also suggests that tongues evolved in moths and butterflies more than once.
- The species name glatzella has an amusing double meaning. While bestowed in honour of its discoverer, Dr Richard Glatz, in German glatze means ‘bald head’. Indeed, this cryptic moth is bald – it hardly has any scales on its head. But elsewhere on the body, these scales appear as a brilliant purple and gold.
- It’s rare. It has so far only been found at one location on Kangaroo Island off the coast of South Australia.
- It lives on Southern Cypress-pine trees (Callitris gracilis), a very ancient element of our flora dating back to the supercontinent Gondwana.
- The adult moths are short-lived. In just one day they emerge from their cocoons, mate, females lay their eggs, and then die.
And, in case you haven’t seen it already, we’ve created this excellent short film of the enigma moth to honour its official introduction to the public. Enjoy!
By Andrew Warren
Deep in the bowels of our Lab 22 manufacturing facility in Clayton, Melbourne, we’ve created something extraordinary – components for the world’s first 3D printed jet engine.
These engines aren’t just remarkable because they’ve been 3D-printed, but because they were created by using a range of different additive manufacturing technologies and successfully combined into a finished product that wouldn’t otherwise have been possible.
We used our Arcam Electron Beam Melting printer in combination with cold spray technology to produce a range of components for the engines, which also used a new titanium metal powder we developed that performs better than previously used products, and is also cheaper to use.
The 3D-printed jet engines (one was featured at the International Air Show in Avalon) prove that test parts can be produced in days instead of months. This could result in incredible benefits for the international aeronautical industry.
Here’s a video produced by the team at Monash that shows the process behind the printing.
Monash University’s Centre for Additive Manufacturing led the project in collaboration with our Lab 22 researchers and Deakin University. The project was supported by funding from the Science Industry Endowment Fund (SIEF).
SEIF is a Fund that strategically invests in scientific research for the national benefit – helping Australian industry, furthering the interests of the Australian community or contributing to the achievement of Australian national objectives. The fund supports collaborative partnerships between scientific, research and tertiary institutions, with an emphasis on exchange of scientific knowledge and ideas.
As we continue to expand our range of additive manufacturing machines at Lab 22, we’re able to further push the boundaries by developing new techniques that harness the expanded commercial and technical capabilities available.
Projects like this are helping put us at the forefront of the global aerospace industry and attract the attention of international companies looking to create stronger ties with Australian manufacturing.
By Dr Narelle Fegan and Dr Andrew Leis
Keeping our food safe
The recent outbreak of hepatitis A, which is thought to be associated with the consumption of frozen berries, has highlighted food safety concerns and sparked debates around country of origin labelling and testing of imported foods. Ensuring the safety of our food supply can be a complex process that involves maintaining good hygienic practices in the production and handling of foods at all stages between the farm and consumption.
With some foods, we can reduce the risk of foodborne illness through a heating process, which includes practices like cooking, canning and pasteurisation. However, with fresh produce (such as leafy green and fruits), a heating step is less desirable – we have to rely more on hygienic production to deliver a safe food product. There are quality assurance schemes in place to ensure that fresh produce is grown, harvested, packed and transported to limit contamination by foodborne pathogens.
These schemes rely on people involved in all parts of the production chain following the procedures outlined, to deliver a product that is safe to consume. Such quality assurance schemes operate across the globe and imported products are required to meet the same hygienic standards as food produced in the importing country.
Can testing of food ensure it is safe to eat?
Microbiological testing of foods is only one aspect of quality assurance schemes designed to help keep our food safe. Scientific evidence and history tells us that testing of products for pathogens is not an efficient way of determining if food has been contaminated.
This is particularly true of pathogens that occur very rarely in food (such as hepatitis A) as only a very small amount of the food will be contaminated, and we can’t guarantee we will sample the portion of food where contamination occurs. The difficulties associated with pathogen testing of foods include:
- Contamination is not evenly distributed within the food and only certain portions of the food may contain the pathogen.
- Testing for foodborne viruses destroys the portion of food that is tested.
- Because the food is destroyed during testing, not all of the food can be tested as there would be nothing left for us to eat. Only some of the food can be tested – but sampling plans have been developed to try and maximise the chances of detecting foodborne pathogens.
- Testing methods for foodborne viruses in particular can be difficult to perform, as we have to try and isolate viruses and their genetic material from foods which are often very complex in nature (containing fats, sugars and salts, which can all make it more difficult to detect pathogens).
For these reasons testing of food is only one part of quality assurance schemes, with more attention focusing on hygienic production to limit the opportunities of food becoming contaminated with pathogens.
Why would frozen berries be at risk of carrying hepatitis A?
Freezing is a highly effective and convenient way to increase the shelf-life of foods, and unlike heat-based sterilisation techniques, it preserves most of the nutritional value of the food (some components, like vitamins, are quickly destroyed by heat). Freezing not only prolongs shelf life but also allows us to enjoy very seasonal products, such as berries, at any time of the year.
Preservation of viruses and bacteria during freezing is affected by the rate of freezing and the amounts of sugars and other molecules nearby that help to slow the growth of ice crystals. In a household freezer, water freezes quite slowly – consider the time it takes to freeze water in ice cube trays. Slow freezing favours the formation of ice crystals. As the crystals grow in size, they can kill some bacteria and viruses. On the other hand, high local concentrations of sugars and other molecules can protect the microorganisms from damage.
Frozen berries are generally safe to eat, and have only occasionally been involved in foodborne outbreaks. Hepatitis A virus infection as a result of eating contaminated food (not just berries) is also very rare, particularly in Australia where on average only five cases a year are associated with food consumption in Australia. This is very small compared to other foodborne pathogens in Australia such as Norovirus, where an estimated 276,000 cases a year are associated with food and bacteria, or Campylobacter where 179,000 cases are associated with the consumption of food.
What can we do to ensure the food we eat is safe?
It is not possible to ensure safety by testing a final product. Therefore, systems based on hazard analysis and identification of critical control points have been developed and adopted by governments and food producers through food regulations, industry guidelines and quality assurance schemes. However, human error through poor planning or poor execution can lead to one or more failures along the supply chain. The best thing we can do to ensure the food we eat is safe is to foster a culture of food safety. This means better educating all those involved in the food industry, as well as governments and consumers, so that they understand the safety risks associated with the production, manufacture and consumption of foods.Food safety needs to be seen as an investment, not a cost.
For more information, visit our website.
It’s been a momentous couple of days in the history of Australian space exploration. Just yesterday, the newest antenna in NASA’s Deep Space Network was officially commissioned at our Canberra Deep Space Communication Complex, five years to the day from its original ground breaking ceremony.
The new dish, Deep Space Station 35, incorporates the latest in Beam Waveguide technology: increasing its sensitivity and capacity for tracking, commanding and receiving data from spacecraft located billions of kilometres away across the Solar System.
The Canberra Complex is one of three Deep Space Network stations capable of providing two-way radio contact with robotic deep space missions. The Complex’s sister stations are located in California and Spain. Together, the three stations provide around-the-clock contact with over 35 spacecraft exploring the solar system and beyond. You may remember this technology being utilised recently for the Rosetta and Philae comet landing; and for communicating with the ever so far-flung New Horizons spacecraft on its journey past Pluto.
As a vital communication station for these types of missions, the new antenna will make deep space communication for spacecraft and their Earth-bound support staff even easier.
But don’t put away the space candles just yet. For today marks the 55 anniversary of the signing of the original space communication and tracking agreement signed between Australia and the United States, way back on the 26th February 1960.
It is a partnership that has that has led to many historic firsts and breakthrough discoveries – the first flybys of Mercury and Venus, the vital communication link and television coverage of the first Moonwalk, robotic rover landings on (and amazing views from) the surface of Mars, the first ‘close-ups’ of the giant outer planets and first-time encounters with worlds such as Pluto.
So, we say welcome to the newest addition to the Deep Space Network and happy birthday to our space-relationship with the US. Here’s to another fifty five years of success!
P.S. We couldn’t finish the blog without including this little gem: