Design and Development
The primary function of the section is to enable or enhance the research carried out in the department by designing and building novel electronic systems. Although there is much general purpose test equipment available to purchase, it is usually designed to cater for a large market and will be sub-optimum for any particular task. We may be able to design you a more optimised solution to your measurement problem, discuss your needs with Chris or Barry and we will see what we can do. We very much enjoy the challenges thrown at us; requests for designs are assessed for practicality and likelihood of success by our team before we embark on further work (and therefore expense). Just because you want to make a particular measurement does not mean that it is (yet?) possible, but be assured that if there is a fighting chance of success, we will do our best to meet your specifications.
To aid our work, we make considerable use of CAD/CAM packages. At present we have:
- Orcad Unison - Schematic capture/simulation (SPICE)
- Protel 99SE - Schematic capture/PCB
- IspLEVER - Schematic capture/Programmable logic design
- Mathcad - Data manipulation
- Corel DRAW - Mechanical drawings, etc.
Equipment Loan Pool
We have a small pool of general purpose test equipment for short term loan. Please note that this pool is not intended to instrument your experiment for its lifetime but to allow you to assess your requirements/purchasing decisions, etc. Some of our "mission critical" equipment is not normally available for loan but we are willing to consider all requests; such equipment will come with a minder and will only be for very short periods (< 1 day).
Advice and Consultancy
The department quite rightly encourages students to do their own electronics where appropriate (but they MUST do so safely). Discussing with us what you are planning could save you many hours of frustration.
Electronic equipment does fail occasionally. If you have an item that has failed, either out of warranty commercial equipment of items built by us, please contact us and arrange for us to attempt to repair it. Much commercial equipment cannot be repaired without very complex test jigs but we are willing to take a "first look" to see if is something we can handle. Also, repairs are usually only possible if we have a manual with circuit diagrams. If this needs to be purchased, it will be at your cost.
The head of the section also sits on the departmental safety committee representing electrical safety. In this role he is responsible for advising the department on electrical safety (non-plant) matters. He also acts as policeman, judge, jury and where necessary, executioner, around the department on electrical safety matters. It is occasionally necessary for him to wield wire cutters where transgressor have failed to act promptly! You have been warned! Please see separate web page about departmental safety.
At present you are not charged directly for our time but your group will be expected to pay for all parts used in the work we do for you. Generally, we agree a limit on costs before work begins that must be approved by the PI responsible.
We are a small section with limited resources and are almost always very busy. This means that you may have a long wait for your job to be completed and as the department grows in size, this can only get worse. You can help us (and yourself) by discussing your requirements with us as early as possible. We operate a sort of waiting list so the earlier you get on the list the more "points" you accrue. When allocating work to section members, we attempt to give as fair a proportion of our time to all research groups, measured over the long term. You may be lucky and it is your group's "turn" next. Because of the nature of our work in optimising electronics systems, it is often difficult for us to give you a delivery date with any precision. Please be assured we are doing our best; you are welcome to make occasional inquires about progress but anything that approaches hassle is likely to have the opposite effect to that which you desire!
If you borrow equipment from us, please treat it with respect. If you fail to return it to us at the agreed date, it wastes our time attempting to retrieve it and denies others the use of the item. Persistent offenders are blacklisted.
Repairs are accepted on a best effort basis. We do not guarantee that we will be successful but we will attempt to repair an item. We are unable to carry out calibration (at least, not to any traceable standard) but can recommend and external contractor who will do this for you. When purchasing equipment, that is the time to extract a service manual from the supplier/manufacturer. Once you have paid the bill, they suddenly become less co-operative. No manual means we probably can't repair the item.