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VIC - 2017 - Gifkins Lecture

Gifkins Lecture 2017 & AGM

By: Paul Plater 

Photographs: Paul Plater and Gary Bunn

The Victorian and Tasmania Branch held the annual Gifkins Lecture and branch annual general meeting (AGM) at RMIT’s Advanced Manufacturing Precinct. This year’s lecture was presented by RMIT’s Associate Dean (Manufacturing, Materials and Mechatronics), Professor Mark Easton.

The evening kicked off with the branch AGM chaired by Branch President, Yvonne Durandet. Yvonne reported on what was a busy 2016 for the Vic/Tas Branch. Yvonne went onto acknowledge and thank the Councillors leaving the branch council, Nolene Byrne and Bijoy Thomas. Yvonne also marked the loss of committee member Ryan Cottam, whom passed away suddenly earlier this year; Rest In Peace Ryan. The Vic/Tas Branch was then honoured to welcome new committee members, Sebastian Thomas, Muhammad Mussaddique Ali Rafique, Ping Ping Chung, Ma Qian, and Zohreh Keshavarz.

The next order of business was to award the Ian Polmear Materials Award for the top marks / best second year student in materials engineering in 2016. This was awarded to Ms Olivia Joan Kendall, of Monash University. Olivia and her family were on hand to receive the award from Yvonne. The second award for the evening was the IMEA Award for best final year materials project in 2016. This was awarded to Qinying Gu, who was not able to attend to accept her award.

This year’s Gifkins Lecture was titled “Development of Alloys and Processing Technology: Pixie dust, witches, brews, type writing monkeys, and scientific design.” Professor Mark Easton went onto to entertain and inform the 30 attendees with the various considerations made when developing new casting alloys and process, drawing heavily on his time at the CAST CRC, Comalco Research Centre, and Monash and RMIT Universities.

Mark described the many aspects of the work of the witches (materials scientists), their brews (cast melts), and pixie dust (minor alloying and inclusion elements) in coming up with a castable alloy that meets the required mechanical, physical and corrosion properties. Mark also described the many iterations and combinations of any one brew it takes to come up with an alloy, much akin to the infinite monkey theorem; where a monkey hitting keys at random on a typewriter keyboard for an infinite amount of time will almost surely type a given text, such as the complete works of William Shakespeare. Much like the monkeys, however, the witches are not random generators; they’re far more complex than that.

In amongst the witches, pixie dust and monkeys, the assembled members and guests learnt about the various means for predicting and ranking hot tearing susceptibility, understanding solidification and the effects of rare earth elements and grain refiners. The lecture was concluded with a summary of the bearing that a lot of the casting issues discussed earlier have on the development of additive manufacturing technology. This was a poignant end, with RMIT kindly hosting the Materials Australia 1st Asia Pacific International Conference on Additive Manufacturing (APICAM) in December this year.

The night was nicely top off with a tour of the advanced manufacturing precinct along with light refreshments.

Olivia Joan Kendall with her family, and Vic/Tas Branch President Yvonne Durandet (right)

Professor Mark Easton taking questions on the price, and availability of pixie dust.

Introducing the VIC/TAS Branch newest committee members (L toR): Sebastian Thomas, Ping Ping Chung, Zohreh Keshavarz, and Ma Qian.


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