In addition to the scientific aspects of the research programs, which brought some superb presentations to light, one of the items on the agenda was a competition to find a nickname for the Centre, as by the time we introduce ourselves with the whole name, everyone has forgotten what the subject was.
The winning entry was CRC Smartprint, a most apt title, as our mission is to research aspects of the printing industry, and to develop new materials and processes for the industry that will make us all just that bit smarter than the competition. So watch out for the shortened version of our name, it will be coming your way a quite a lot from here on. Our full title (with all 50 letters) of course remains the official name of the Centre, and will appear in all dealings with the Government, and on any legal documents.
However a more significant activity for the Centre has been the Second Year Review.
At the second and fifth years of activity, all CRC’s are examined by two review panels, to assure the Commonwealth that the objectives and planned outcomes of the research are on track, and that the money is being spent correctly.
Stage one of the review is conducted by a panel of independent scientists of world-class reputation, to ascertain the quality and relevance of the research (and the researchers).
Over the first week of July, an eminent trio of scientists, comprising Professor Andrew Fogden from Sweden, Dr Gary Baum from the USA, and Dr Ken Maddern (a fair dinkum Aussie), travelled around our research nodes at the Australian National University in Canberra, the University of Wollongong, Monash University, and CSIRO, to speak with the staff and students of the Centre. As a result a most comprehensive report has been lodged by the panel, which will be forwarded to Canberra.
There is more to come, as stage two of the review, which will be conducted in a couple of months, is focused on the financial, management, educational, and governance of the Centre. The reviews require a lot preparation and participation, but are a most important part of the operation of a co-operative research centre, as I am sure that every reader will be pleased to know that their taxes are being spent carefully and wisely.
Meanwhile in the new National Printing Laboratory, new challenges are still evolving, and with the arrival of yet more state of the art instrumentation, we have been able to apply some new techniques to old problems with the aim of helping printers.
We have now had commissioned a piece of equipment with tremendous potential, called Spectrum 1, which is a Fourier Transform Infra Red (FTIR) Spectrophotometer. What’s new about that I hear some ask? But wait, this instrument is a very clever slant on an already powerful analytical tool (albeit a quite expensive one).
Many will already know that a spectrophotometer scans a sample with a beam of energy covering a series of wavelengths, and measures how much of the energy is absorbed by the sample. Different types of instrument utilise particular areas of the electromagnetic spectrum (for example, visible light, infra red, ultra violet), and these scans are used to generate information about the chemical composition of the sample.
But I digress, so back to the FTIR. Every material that can either allow infra-red rays to pass through it or be bounced from its surface causes a distinctive pattern or fingerprint of absorption peaks and troughs that indicates which chemical groups make up the material. So far so good.
The really clever part of our new instrument is that in addition to the broad analytical ability that all such machines have, ours has a scanning microscope attached to it, which can view an area of about 600x1000micron with infra red light, and produce a picture of the scanned area on a computer screen.
The picture looks very much like a meteorology map, with different colours showing the amount of IR absorbed at any point. Now here comes the really clever part. The operator can use a joystick control to move a cursor to any point on the map and ask the machine for an analysis of just that point.
One of the first uses we made of the instrument was to examine a hickey on a printed sheet.
The instrument scanned the hickey and the surrounding print, drew a picture of the debris, and then analysed the highest point on the hickey.
To end all suspense, the hickey comprised dried ink, and confirmed the customer’s suspicion that ink was drying in pits in the inking rollers, and then coming out onto the print as the rollers warmed and softened during the print run.
In conclusion, as a final comment on the happenings at the Centre, we were particularly pleased to receive the award for the best-presented annual report of the CRC’s for 2002 from the chairman of the CRC Program at the CRC Association conference in Canberra last month. We were proud to have a great piece of design by our friends at Design 44 in Melbourne represent the research arm of the printing industry, and look forward to upping the ante even further this year.
Rod Urquhart works at Monash University where many aspects of the industry are being studied. He is based in Australia.
Contact Rod Urquhart via email: email@example.com