MISG 1995

Kerry Landman and Andrew Watson

The Department of Mathematics at the University of Melbourne has sponsored and organised its second MISG. Over 135 delegates worked on nine industry projects covering a wide range of interests. The outcomes of MISG 1995 are described.


The MISG (Mathematics-in-Industry Study Group) brings together mathematicians from universities and government laboratories to work on real-life industry problems. Besides generating solutions to specific problems, the MISG serves to showcase to industry the problem-solving power of mathematics, and exposes academic mathematicians to some of the challenges facing industry as well as providing new ideas and fresh areas of research.

The MISG was initiated in 1984 by CSIRO as a forum for bringing mathematics to industry and gauging industry's mathematical requirements. The Department of Mathematics at the University of Melbourne took on the responsibility of sponsoring and organising the MISG from March 1993 for a period of `three to five years' and appointed Dr Kerry Landman as Director.

The climax of the MISG's activities is an annual five-day workshop. On the Monday the industry representatives set the workshop in motion when they outline their projects. For the next three days the mathematicians work collaboratively in lively brainstorming sessions with the industrial presenters and on the final day the mathematicians summarise their progress. Despite the short time frame a great deal can be achieved, with participants working on which ever project or projects take their fancy. MISG Summaries containing short equation-free reports, as well as detailed technical reports, are published.

MISG 1995

MISG 1995 was held at the University of Melbourne from 30 January to 3 February 1995. A record number of delegates, over 135, attended the meeting: this number included nearly 40 postgraduate students and several overseas delegates.

Industry response to marketing and publicity of the MISG continues to be high with many more than nine projects being identified. Advice and contacts were given to the companies with projects not brought to the MISG week.

The Problems

The following nine topics were considered at the meeting.

Project 1. Analysis of ultrasonic sensing systems (Amcor, Melbourne): This project follows on from the analysis of ultrasonic wave propagation at MISG 1994 and focuses on the best way to measure elastic properties of paper as on-line measurements to improve quality control. The MISG decided which wave modes in paper would give the required elastic constants and how to excite these waves; it went on to design a potential transducer able to transmit or receive ultrasonic waves of the correct type. Amcor have used this design as an extension of an existing patent application and they plan to build and test such a device in their Melbourne labs.

Project 2. Mechanical characteristics of carbon fibre yacht masts (Carbon Design, Brisbane): Carbon fibre has exceptional specific strength and stiffness properties desirable in yacht masts. How much carbon fibre material must be wrapped round a carbon fibre mast in order to reinforce that mast? In normal operation the carbon fibre mast, made with fibres running vertically, can fail under compression when the fibres pop-out of the resin that binds them together. To prevent this failure due to hoop stress, additional fibre is wrapped round the mast. The MISG deduced some mathematical results for the hoop stress of a mast, made up of layers of material, under compression. Finite element analysis gave indications of the percentage fraction of carbon fibre that must be used to match hoop stress. A literature search revealed that stress concentrations are reduced if the fibres are laid at an angle of 55 degrees 44 minutes. This will be tried out by Carbon Design.

Project 3. Moisture movement in bulk stockpiles (CRA, Melbourne/Perth): Both iron ore and coal products are stockpiled during processing. Excess moisture is undesirable, as customers want to pay for product not water. In addition excess moisture creates handling difficulties as material tends to clump rather than flow. CRA required a model of the moisture movement to allow them to better manage stockpiles and to reduce moisture content. The MISG found that additional drainage would not take place and that evaporation from a stockpile is too slow to give the improvement the company wants. Additional calculations support some stockpile management strategies: (i) create stockpiles that are longer and lower than at present, and pour the material onto them more quickly,(ii) pass air up through the stockpile to enhance drying, (iii) drop material from the stacker onto the stockpile from as great a height as possible.

Project 4. Modelling and optimal control of plate evaporators (CSR, Ingham QLD): Sugar mills use multiple evaporator vessels (4-6 in series) to concentrate sugar juice from around 15 crystallisation. CSR is currently introducing plate evaporators - these are similar to a plate heat exchange except boiling is also taking place. These plate units are installed inside vessels. Steam, or vapour from a previous vessel is applied to one side of the plates, liquid is applied to the bottom of the other side of the plates. Using heat and mass transfer and thermodynamics, the MISG was able to produce a simple system of equations that indicates a way to control a evaporator set. The key recommendation was to control the system by monitoring steam and sugar solution flow into the first evaporator, and keep these levels constant. This is in contrast to current practice with conventional evaporators, which is to keep the liquid level in a particular evaporator at a constant level; this current practice ensures that the individual evaporator in question operates efficiently, but does not give the best result for the entire system.

Project 5. PVC autoclave model (ICI Engineering, Melbourne): ICI PVC (poly vinyl chloride) is manufactured in 40m3 reactors called autoclaves. ICI wanted a model to understand the key stages in the process of PVC manufacture, allowing better control of the process and increase throughput. The MISG team identified the key forces involved at the crucial stage of the PVC reaction. Capillary forces balance the strength of the PVC network gradually building up in droplets in the reaction vessel, and this stage is a turning point in the reaction that ultimately determines features of the finished product. The MISG created a simple working model for the force balance involved, as well as suggestions for data collection and improvements that would allow the company to develop the model further.

Project 6. Microwave heating of a flowing slurry (Kodak, Melbourne): Researchers at Kodak's Coburg plant have devised a new technique that will drastically reduce the time in current manufacturing process. The idea is to pass a thick chemical paste through a microwave chamber that heats the mix in seconds, thereby dissolving crystals in the paste. The result is a runny liquid used to give the colour forming layers for photographic films and papers. Kodak need to understand the process better before considering a scaled up version suitable for production, as well as identifying the sources of some observed difficulties with the laboratory version, where the chemical paste closest to the walls of the pipe carrying the material through the microwave chamber is seen to burn, yet crystals do not always dissolve. The MISG identified the movement of dissolved material away from dissolving crystals as a key step, and from this estimated a upper limit on the crystal size. The MISG demonstrated that the layer of paste near the pipe walls moves more slowly than the bulk material, and therefore is in the microwave region longer and so inevitably is heated more. A second recommendation is to cool the walls of the pipe externally. A model for the temperature distribution was developed, which incorporates the rapidly decreasing viscosity of the paste - it decreases 5 orders of magnitude as the crystals dissolve.

Project 7. Scheduling in the manufacture of evaporative air conditioners (Seeley International, Adelaide): Seeley International manufacture evaporative air coolers. In hot summers the demand for their products skyrockets, and the challenge is to meet that demand in an organised and cost-effective way. The range of models produced vary in size, colour, motor size etc. Seeley's ability to respond to schedule changes is currently restricted by speed of machinery and tool changeovers in the component manufacturing department, and the lead times on availability of several raw materials. The MISG developed three models that will help Seeley improve their manufacturing scheduling. In particular they were able to demonstrate support for the company's idea that controlling the manufacturing schedule in terms of components such as motors and cabinets rather than as completed units would be an improvement of existing methods of control.

Project 8. Modelling barriers for coal dust suppression (Warkworth Mines, Singleton NSW): Coal is dumped from large trucks into a 500 tonne ground hopper at Warkworth's mine site in NSW. Coal dust is a problem especially on windy days (winds up to 100 km/hr), and ways of preventing or at least reducing the dust fallout are being considered. Water spray systems are not totally effective. The company wanted to investigate a dust control-catchment barrier or `fence'. Panels used in Japan appear to be numerously perforated by circular holes in a spatial pattern, thus allowing for wind-air passage through the structure. The MISG considered several layouts for fences and modelled, using a CFD package, the changes in airflow due to these barriers, coming up with some useful guidelines on design criteria for the fence.

Project 9. Plasma bevel cutting project (Farley Cutting Systems, Melbourne) MISG 1995 initiated an industrial project targeted towards students. It was sponsored by a local Melbourne company Farley Cutting Systems. Over twenty students visited the company in the morning and listened to a company presentation on a geometric problem of arc intersection and smoothing relating to control of cutting machinery. The students divided into two teams to work on the problem for the afternoon and made some useful progress.


The Steering Committee for the meeting included representatives from the Departments of Mathematics at two universities, CSIRO dms and CRA.

The Department of Industry, Science and Technology under the Science and Technology Awareness Program sponsored a small Brisbane company Carbon Design to present a project on carbon fibre yacht masts. Carbon Design's Rob Denney embraced the MISG concept enthusiastically and hopes to be invited again next year!

Generous financial support in the form of travel grants was provided by CSIRO under the DMS Applied and Industrial Mathematics Program, and the Department of Industry, Science and Technology under the Science and Technology Awareness Program. ANZIAM also provided financial support.

DEC in Melbourne kindly loaned four alpha workstations for the week - these were used intensively on the Warkworth Mining project. Access to Cray computers at CSIRO and Ormond Supercomputing Facilities were generously provided.

Support Activities

The week produced a large amount of excellent work by all the groups, and follow-up work continues. Summaries have been prepared, and full technical reports will appear as Proceedings, edited by the University of South Australia. (MISG 1994 Proceedings are now available for $10 - contact Kerry Landman.)

In association with the MISG, a Student Essay Competition was held on innovative applications of mathematics to industry. The competition attracted ten entries and a total sponsorship of $750 from ICI Engineering, Operations Research Group, and The Preston Group. The winning entry was by Ms Olga Axenenko (Victoria University of Technology, Department of Civil and Building Engineering) entitled Structural Failure of Plasterboard Assemblies in Fires . She gave an informative presentation on this topic at the MISG. The essay is published in this issue of the Gazette .

Two seminars were given during the week. On Tuesday Dr Graham Mills (CSIRO dms, Adelaide) spoke on Operations research applications in Australian industry and Wednesday Professor John Perram (Odense University, Denmark) spoke on Autonomous multiple robot operation in structured environments - a case study between industry and academe . An introduction to the PDE package Fastflo was also scheduled.

Useful publicity for the mathematics profession was generated by the MISG. Articles appeared in The Age (11/1/95) and The Australian newspaper (24/1/95, 1/2/95), as well as in over 15 trade journals, and radio interviews were given. The ABC TV program Quantum is preparing a segment on the Kodak project. The publicity helps community awareness of the skills and resources provided by mathematicians.


The MISG plays an important role in the Australian industrial and academic environment and helps to foster valuable and long-term links.

In eleven annual workshops, the MISG has tackled 80 projects from 51 industries and businesses covering the mining, automobile, railway, metal processing, gas and oil, high technology, general manufacturing and service sectors.

The MISG continues to build on its success and the Department of Mathematics at the University of Melbourne is pleased to sponsor this forum.

The next MISG will be held 29 January to 2 February 1996 at the University of Melbourne. We hope to see you there!

Department of Mathematics
The University of Melbourne
Parkville 3052

MISG Essay Competition

The MISG student essay competition was won by Ms Olga Axenenko: her prize winning essay is published on another page.

Olga Axenenko was born in Moscow (Russia) in 1965. She was awarded Degree with Distinction by the Moscow Institute of Electronic Machine Construction (MIEMC) in 1989, having attended 6 years of full-time study specializing in applied mathematics, solid and structural mechanics. During 1989-1993 she worked at MIEMC as Research Associate. Her research interests include the creep analysis, modal analysis of thin-walled constructions and application of the hybrid finite element method to the analysis of incompressible hyperelastic bodies. Olga is now a research (Ph.D.) student at the Victoria University of Technology under the supervision of Associate Professor Graham Thorpe.

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