$10m precision engineering centre for defence manufacturing opens at Mawson Lakes

By Candy Gibson

DSTG Optics Capability Leader Michael Harding in the new centre. DSTG Optics Capability Leader Michael Harding in the new centre.

A $10 million manufacturing treasure chest has been unveiled at UniSA with the official opening of the Precision Engineering Centre, showcasing new advanced optics capabilities that will transform a range of industries.

The centre – housing lab-on-a-chip technology, micro and nano-machining equipment, advanced sensing and state-of-the-art precision optics capabilities and expertise – is the only one of its kind in the Southern Hemisphere, placing Australia at the forefront of advanced manufacturing.

Willemin-Macodel SA applications manager Jim Davis and ANFF-SA microfabrication engineer Mark Cherrill.Willemin-Macodel SA applications manager Jim Davis and ANFF-SA microfabrication engineer Mark Cherrill.

The result of a decade-long collaboration between the SA Node of the Australian National Fabrication Facility (ANFF-SA) and the Research Engineering (RE) team at the Defence Science and Technology Group (DSTG), the centre is literally at the cutting edge of defence manufacturing.

Among its recent creations is the largest diamond-turned mirror in Australia, made with a multi-axis, ultra-precision machining system, and some of the tiniest sensors, which are helping to secure the future of South Australia’s advanced manufacturing sector.

The pioneering precision engineering facility is transforming a range of sectors of strategic national importance including defence, health and medical fields, manufacturing, mining, recycling and clean energy, water security, space, and agriculture.

UniSA Deputy Vice Chancellor: Research and Enterprise Professor Marnie Hughes-Warrington AO says that UniSA is proud to help advance Australia’s defence manufacturing sovereignty through DSTG’s Capital Refresh Program, which is providing researchers with ultra high-end fabrication and test equipment.

“The dynamic 10-year partnership between ANFF-SA and DSTG’s Research Engineering team has consistently demonstrated innovative solutions to mitigate risks associated with new technology,” Prof Hughes-Warrington says.

“The collaboration extends well beyond any physical infrastructure. It encompasses top-tier technical expertise and the cultivation of emerging talent, with a mutual desire to be trailblazers.”

DSTG Research Engineering program leader Ben Barona says the collaboration with ANFF-SA is positioning the South Australia as a global leader in innovative manufacturing.

“Combining ANFF-SA's expertise and capabilities with DSTG's science and technology applications, we've developed a truly integrated fabrication and testing capability with the Precision Engineering Centre. This paves the way for novel technologies and significant advancements in space optics and complex rapid prototyping,” he says.

“ANFF-SA's industry collaborations have also been pivotal, contributing to a significant boost in research capability and fostering an expanding local skills base.”

The centre, which is supported by UniSA and state and federal governments, officially opened at UniSA’s Mawson Lakes campus on Wednesday 13 December.