Machine Shop and Electronics Assembly Shop
The resources of the Department of Physics and Astronomy's machine shop and electronics assembly shop are not only used by the Department, but also available to other departments and colleges on campus as well as the surrounding community.
The machine shop is managed by Brian Busch. Brian has extensive experience in teaching, machining, fabricating, welding, design and taking precise measurements of mechanical parts and assemblies.
We have 5 CNC milling machines, 1 CNC lathe, 1 electrical discharge machine, 4 manual lathes, drill presses, saws, welding equipment, and sheet metal fabrication equipment. We have 3 different CAD programs to use in designing parts, assemblies, making mechanical drawings, and creating programs to control our CNC machines. With these CAD programs we can also view most part models or drawings that were made in a different CAD program. We have machined parts out of many different metals, plastics, and garolite materials. Some of our measuring tools are calibrated yearly by standards traceable to NIST per the guidelines specified in the latest revisions of ANSI/NCSL Z540-1 and ISO/IEC 17025.
Our primary focus over the years has been in space physics, high energy physics, plasma physics, and astronomy. We have done work for several researchers from many departments across campus and have collaborated with several Universities on projects also.
The machine shop is also involved in a new prototyping program at the University called UI ProtoLabs. UI ProtoLabs brings together the resources of the University’s Engineering Machine Shop, Physics and Astronomy Machine Shop, and M.C. Ginsberg Advanced Design and Manufacturing, and in partnership with the Office of the Vice President for Research and Economic Development and the John Pappajohn Entrepreneurial Center, assists Iowans to more easily create prototypes and advance their research or business. The program is available to faculty, students, staff, existing businesses and the general public.
Working in conjunction with our machine shop is Michael Miller, who has expertise in electrical engineering. His main areas of work are electronic design, optical and electro-optical design, mechanical design and vacuum technology. Typical projects involve circuit design, computer simulation, component layout, circuit construction, and final packaging of the device. Computer simulation uses MultiSim, LTSpice or Utliboard for circuit design and layout and AutoCad for mechanical layout. Designs include photomultipliers, photodiodes, avalanche diodes, lasers, LED’s, lock-in amplifiers, power meters, lenses, filters, and gratings. Other projects include design of cooling systems for high power magnets that falls under the category of HVAC. For these systems we use Flopro Designer for simulation. Mike has also been involved in selecting water pumps, heat exchangers, circuit setters, air separators, filters, valves and other plumbing components.
In addition to Mike Miller, our department also employs Tracy Behrens who specializes in electronic assembly. The Dept. of Physics & Astronomy Electronics Assembly Shop (EAS) contains equipment and expertise needed for high reliability electronics assembly and has been building space-qualified electronics for over 40 years, beginning with spaceflight hardware build for Dr. James Van Allen. The EAS also provides support to other project needs within the Physics Department including assembly of electronics for CERN as well as sounding rocket instrumentation.
The capabilities of the EAS are vast and include detailed hand soldering of standard through-hole components as well very fine pitch leaded components with lead pitch down to 0.010" and passive components down to 0603 case size. Another unique capability is the inclusion of a hot air rework station for installation and removal of surface mount components including ball grid array packages, which cannot be hand soldered. The EAS also provides expertise in construction of complex electrical harnesses and has a wide variety of crimp tools supporting a number of different connector types.
The EAS facility is located in a key card secured room with a custom designed climate control environment providing electrostatic and contamination control and includes 4 soldering stations with independent fume hoods with microscopes and conductive flooring. This facility has been inspected and certified by NASA for the construction of spaceflight hardware, where reliability is crucial. The EAS staff supervisor is a NASA certified soldering instructor, as well as being NASA certified in inspection and harness assembly, and is available to provide training to staff and students.