A program aimed at inspiring the next generation of micro engineers is starting to pay off for an advanced manufacturing hub that develops products across a range of industries.
The South Australian node of the Australian National Fabrication Facility (ANFF) is one of eight university-based hubs around the country, funded by the Commonwealth and state governments, CSIRO and participant universities.
Since 2014, ANFF-SA has run a week-long Winter School with 50 places for promising micro engineering graduates from South Australia, interstate and overseas, which has seen more than 250 students attend, its director, Associate Professor Craig Priest revealed.
The mix of graduates, researchers, and Honours and PhD students take part in an interactive program on the design and fabrication of microfluidic/electronic, micro-electro-mechanical systems, optical and sensing chips.
“We are strengthening the knowledge base of our up-and-coming engineers as Winter School exposes them to emerging techniques, using our cutting-edge technologies," A/Prof Priest explained.
"They can incorporate these innovations into their learnings as they pursue careers in the new economy."
Products developed in recent years include a microfluidic device offering gene-modified cell therapy; a non-invasive device to test urine for the presence of bladder cancer cells; a micro needle for an in-home blood-testing platform; and a microfluidic chip for high-value mineral extraction.
The SA node is host to more than $12 million in state-of-the-art equipment, including a high-tech micro-milling machine, micro-injection moulder, and3D micro x-ray imaging, together with a deep reactive ion etcher and advanced lithographic equipment housed within ISO Class 5 and 6 clean rooms.
ANFF-SA also works with researchers to design and make devices that support their research towards commercialisation and the facility is used if industry needs a specialised component or device designed and manufactured. Companies can also send their staff to work within ANFF or ask the facility to recruit a specialist to work on their project within the SA node.
Nanotechnology researcher at WA's Curtin University, Deepali Arora, participated in the inaugural ANFF-SA Winter School in 2014. She returned this year to help run a Winter School practical session and use the clean room for one of her own projects.
Micro engineers can contact ANFF-SA's National Facility Manager if they are interested in next year’s Winter School. The SA node also offers work experience to high school students who demonstrate a passion for the sector.
Image: Researcher Claudia Binder takes Winter School students through a practical session. Source: ANFF-SA.