Leigh Sutherland

Creation of Experimental Facilities

£1.5 million TSRL Laboratory

I was one of the two principal architects of the £1.5 million (in 2000) Transport Systems Research Laboratory – ‘TSRL’ (now the ‘Testing and Structures Research Laboratory‘) at Southampton University, and my role in this was publicly acknowledged by the Vice-Chancellor. Equipment included mechanical test machines for material coupon through to large structural components (in both ambient and accelerated ageing conditions), a composites fabrication and processing facility (including RTM, VARTM, vacuum bag and hand lay-up, laminate cutting, fume extraction, etc.), as well as NDE and stress monitoring systems. I was also solely responsible for the technical design, construction and commissioning of the composites fabrication facility.

ITEC Composites Laboratory

In 1998 I designed, constructed, commissioned and ran a composites production facility in ITEC (Industrial Technology for the European Community), with facilities for hand and vacuum layup, laminate curing (in an oven I designed and fabricated), and specimen cutting. ITEC was an EU funded Institution to promote the cooperation between universities and industry in the field of technology, located in the National Institute of Engineering, Technology and Innovation (INETI), Lisbon.

Servo-Hydraulic Test Machine

I designed, built, commissioned and continue to developed the CENTEC servo-hydraulic machine for coupon-scale material tests through to component-scale structural testing. The project included hydraulics, electronics, DAQ and control system, structural design and MATLAB ‘SIMULINK’ programming. A modular design enables both a wide range of test configurations and allows expansion for larger scale, higher load and/or fatigue cyclic testing. The machine’s three main components are described below:

Steel Reaction Frame
  • ‘Bolt-on’ supports and jigs allow virtually any test configuration.
  • Moveable cross beam for different test scales.
  • 25t maximum safe working load.
  • ‘Fuse’ failure at cross beam bolts.
  • Maximum 0.05 mm deflection.
  • Self-designed power pack, various actuator and G761 MOOG servo-hydraulic control valve.
  • Fatigue testing capacity.
  • Oil cooling system.
  • Selectable 6 and 12 lpm pumps.
  • High level fluid filtering.
Control & Data Acquisition System
  • Custom written MATLAB SIMULINK based software.
  • Range of load cells (500kg to 24t)
  • Displacement sensors.
  • 8 strain gauge / sensor channels.
  • Software-tuneable PID control on displacement signal.
  • Time vs Load / Displacement / Sensors output to spreadsheet.
  • Post-processing signal filtering.
  • Custom National Instruments based DAQ system.
  • Custom ‘Control Box’:
    • 5 & 9V regulated power supplies,
    • Load cell amplifier,
    • Load and Position filters,
    • MOOG valve ‘buffer’ circuit.
  • Multi-level safety systems:
    • Hydraulic pump cut-out and pressure dump,
    • Emergency stop buttons,
    • Software & hardware position limit stops,
    • Software & hardware safe-start systems.
  • Extremely accurate load, displacement and strain gauge calibration procedures.