AFFRIC reaching for the sky
$104m development taking off, says Ian Kett.
If you look to the skyline at the back of Deakin’s Geelong Waurn Ponds Campus now you can see two new impressive structures emerging.
The Australian Carbon Fibre Research Facility (now called Carbon Nexus) and the Fibre Processing Building for CSIRO are now well underway.
Just down the hill and hidden within the GTP (but not from the staff who work there!) has been the ongoing and extensive renovation of Building na.
These extensive capital works are part of the development of the $104 million Australian Future Fibres Research and Innovation Centre (AFFRIC).
AFFRIC is an exciting collaborative venture between Deakin University, CSIRO Fibre Materials in Belmont and the Victorian Centre for Advanced Materials Manufacturing (VCAMM). Its purpose is to expand the collective capacity for research on all aspects of fibre manufacturing, including carbon fibre development.
This important program is supported by two major Government grants: $37 million through the Australian Government’s Education Investment Fund (EIF) and $10 million from the Victorian Government’s Science Agenda Strategic Project Fund, collectively representing 62% of total cash contributions to the project. Additional in-kind and cash contributions from the collaborating organisations provide the rest of the budget.
The construction of the two new purpose built buildings at the Waurn Ponds Campus, the installation of new state-of-the art equipment, extensive renovation and development of the Geelong Technology Precinct, the intended development of a shared workshop facility in Building la and the relocation of CSIRO from its Belmont premises to Deakin is expected to substantially accelerate research activity and facilitate strong collaboration. In fact significant research activity is already generating across the four main AFFRIC research platforms of:
- Carbon Fibre Manufacture and Materials Technology
- Nano-Fibre Discovery, Characterization and Application
- Green Natural Fibres
- Smart and Functional Fibrous Materials
Development of the Carbon Nexus research facility is an important part of AFFRIC and incorporates the construction and installation by Despatch Industries in the USA, in conjunction with Furnace Engineering in Australia, of a $9 million Carbon Fibre Line capable of producing commercially relevant quantities of Carbon Fibre.
A much smaller Single-tow Carbon Fibre Research Line is also being constructed by Despatch Industries for Carbon Nexus which will further expand research flexibility, efficiency and capacity.
When Carbon Nexus is up and running it will provide a globally significant, University based, industrial-scale carbon fibre research capability unique in the world.
Exceptionally strong and light, carbon fibre is a defining material for 21st century manufacturing and there is already very strong international interest in the work we are doing.
The construction phase of AFFRIC is being completed in stages with Building na due to be completed before the end of the year and the other buildings by June 2013.
Installation of the Carbon Fibre Line is expected to be finalised by the end of 2013 however the smaller CFR Line, which will eventually run in tandem with the main Line within Carbon Nexus, is expected to commence operation at the beginning of the new year in a temporary location in Building ni and produce our first carbon fibre.
AFFRIC is an ambitious major program, involving multiple funders, stakeholders, complexities and a fair amount of disruption but with continued collaboration, goodwill and drive, it is one that stands to significantly raise the bar in Australia and internationally and eventually assist us to reach well beyond the skyline.