Swinburne's innovative Smart Structures Laboratory forms part of the Centre for Smart Infrastructure and Digital Construction and conducts research over a broad range of infrastructure-related areas, including large-scale testing of new engineering materials and components.

The laboratory's director, Professor Riadh Al-Mahaidi, is an international leader in the field of bridge engineering, structural systems and structural retrofitting using fibre-reinforced polymer composites. He is joined by several academic staff in the School of Engineering that use the SSL for research and teaching activities.

The only one of its kind in Australia, the $15 million laboratory is located at Hawthorn campus in the architecturally striking Advanced Technologies Centre and features transparent walls, allowing passers-by to watch researchers and scientists at work. The testing facility is available to other Australian universities and to government and industry bodies.

The laboratory's research outcomes are expected to lead to the development of more efficient infrastructure systems and safer buildings, bridges, offshore structures and mining structures. Economic and social benefits should come from more resilient, robust and efficient infrastructure constructed with innovative materials designed to lower costs, improve energy efficiency, and reduce environmental impacts generally.

All this has the potential to lift the international competitiveness of Australian construction and manufacturing industries.

Smart Structures Laboratory brochure

Smart Structures Laboratory brochure

Swinburne University of Technology is undergoing rapid growth, particularly in the area of engineering education and research. Read more about the work, equipment and projects undertaken by the Smart Structures Laboratory.
Looking from the outside in

Looking from the outside in

Swinburne's new Advanced Technology Centre brings research that is normally conducted behind closed doors, out to the street. The new glass-walled, street-level, Strong Structures Lab provides a revolutionary space for researchers to test the strength of building materials.

Take a virtual tour of the lab

Our projects

Our areas of research

The Smart Structures Laboratory is involved in an ongoing series of large-scale research and consulting projects. Our advanced equipment and instrumentation allow for a broad range of projects to be undertaken.

Our projects include:

• large-scale 6-DOF hybrid simulation of structures under extreme events

• large-scale 6-DOF quasi-static and cyclic tests of structural components such as beams, wall panels, connections, and underground mine supports

• large-scale pendulum impact testing

• large-scale High-Cycle Fatigue (HCF) testing

• material testing including concrete, steel, timber and composites

• fire testing of panels, cylinders and short columns.

  • “It [the laboratory's hybrid testing facility] minimises error because we are able to test the full-scale component, like a support column, which is far more realistic than a small-scale mode. Of course, this system is not just about earthquakes, but wind loads on buildings, heavy traffic on a bridge, blasts, impacts, ocean waves, materials fatigue… any source of pressure or stress on a structure."

    Professor Riadh Al-Mahaidi , Professor of Structural Engineering and Director, Smart Structures Laboratory

Our state-of-the-art equipment

The Smart Structures Laboratory provides equipment for large-scale, quasi-static and cyclic testing of material and structural components, which include: 

Multi-Axis Substructure Testing (MAST) system

The laboratory houses Australia's first hybrid testing facility – the Multi-Axis Substructure Testing (MAST) system – cutting-edge technology used to test the integrity of new materials and structures.

The MAST system allows researchers to stress-test structural components and materials to determine a structure or material's capacity to withstand extreme forces (a bridge's capacity to withstand an earthquake, for example).

Read more and watch workshop recordings about our MAST system, combined with the 6-DOF MAST system and others in North America.

MAST hybrid simulation testing

MAST hybrid simulation testing a multi-storey concrete structure

MAST three-dimensional movement

MAST three-dimensional movement
MAST System Designer’s Guide

An outline of the MAST system and its technical specifications.

Download the MAST System Designer’s Guide [PDF, 1MB].

MAST System Resources

The first issue of Up the MAST showcases Swinburne's achievements with the Multi-Axis Substructure Testing facility.

Up the MAST [PDF, 1.7MB]

More equipment and facilities

  • 5,000 kN Compression static force capacity

  • 3,500 kN Tension static force capacity

  • Four-column, high-stiffness, and load frame chamber volume 0 m x 0.6 m x 2.65 m

  • Hydraulic lift and locks of upper crosshead 

  • Actuator in upper crosshead

  • Dynacell load cell features compensation for inertial loads caused by heavy fixtures

  • Long horizontal three- or four-point bending tests can be reached through structural floor

Instron 5MN Four-Column Static Testing Machine
MTS 1MN Hydraulic Universal Testing Machine
  • Static Force Rating: ±1,000 kN

  • Dynamic Force Rating: ±750 kN

  • Test volume inside four column load frame: 1.0 m x 0.6 m x 3.5 m

  • Integrated Data Acquisition 16 channels 

  • MTS Test Suite for conducting these tests:

Low/High-cycle fatigue

Fatigue crack growth and fracture toughness

Crack propagation 

Component strength and durability

Dynamic characterization damping

Tension, Compression, Bending, Shear

Long Bending tests reacted through floor.

  • Up to ±250 kN static force capacity

  • Up to ±200 kN dynamic force capacity

  • Twin-column, high-stiffness, and precision-aligned load frame

  • Hydraulic Lift and Locks of upper crosshead 

  • Dual servo valve system providing high speed single shot or lower speed conventional static and cyclic testing

  • Hydraulic grips, fixtures, and accessories

  • MTS Basic Testware, Multipurpose TestWare and MPE Test Suite software

  • Integrated Data Acquisition including up to eight strain and eight voltage based; displacement, load or strain transducers. 

MTS 250 kN Dynamic UTM Model 819 High Rate Test Machine
Instron 8801 100 kN Dynamic Testing Machine With Temperature Chamber
  • Up to ±100 kN Static Axial force capacity

  • Up to ±70 kN Dynamic Axial force capacity

  • Dynacell load cell features compensation for inertial loads caused by grips and fixtures

  • Maximum Specimen length ~560 mm Compression of ~400 mm Tension 

  • Wide range of grips, fixtures, and accessories

  • Temperature Controlled chamber capable of holding or cycling between -80 and + 600 Degrees Celsius

  • Video Extensometer for high precision measurement in Temperature Chamber.

  • 60 kN Maximum

  • 25 MPS Max Velocity

  • Test volume in chamber: 750 mm x 750 mm x 1000 mm

  • Data acquisition: High speed acquisition of force and displacement data 

  • Standard tests: Quasi-static compression, tension, bending, etc.

Instron Very High-Speed Testing Machine (Model VHS)
MTS Electro Magnetic Machine (Model 43) 50kN Static
  • Load frame configuration: 2-column, Table top (integrated), Electromechanical ±50 kN Static

  • Data Acquisition: 2 Axis video extensometer 2 Clip-on extensometers

  • Typical specimens: small components, reinforced plastics, metals, wire, composites, elastomers, wood products, textiles, biomaterials, paper products, adhesives, foam, consumer products.

  • High torque actuator

  • 5 Environmental chambers with various sizes and capabilities including Co2

  • Floor shaker, controller, high sensitivity accelerometers and modal analysis software for vibration studies

  • VSTARS photogrammetry systems including VSTARS-D system capable of measuring at 10Hz n VIC 3D Correlated Solution 

  • Video extensometers

  • MTS Laser extensometer

  • 1000 Degrees Celsius six zone furnaces

  • Large number of load cells with various static and dynamic capabilities 

  • Precision LVDTs, LDTs and laser displacement transducers ranging from 2.5mm to 200mm

  • Multiple National Instruments PXI data acquisitions systems with more than 200 channels

  • Data Physics data acquisition system for dynamic measurements

  • Concrete lab 

  • Non-destructive equipment.

Our research impact and engagement

The Smart Structures Laboratory is significantly contributing to Swinburne’s 2025 strategic plan on achieving research with an emphasis on impact, future-ready learning and innovative enterprises. The lab provides a wide range of internal and external services with more than 60 research and development engineering consulting projects completed in recent years.

A selection of our collaboration partners across various industries (such as construction, automotive, mining and energy) are listed below.

Our partners

Why partner with us

AEEA High Commendation recipients

For Innovation, Research and Development1

WH Warren Medal recipients

For best paper in the discipline of civil engineering2

Open day exposure

Attract significant attention at Swinburne's Open Day and Student Competition each year3

250+ students

Using the Smart Structures Laboratory across multiple courses4

65+ PhD students

Using the Smart Structures Laboratory for research5

11 ARC-funded experimental programs

Collaborated on since our commissioning in mid-20156

Our people

Michael Culton

Senior Technical Officer
+61 3 9214 8639
mculton@swinburne.edu.au

Graeme Burnett

Senior Test Engineer
+61 3 9214 8780
gburnett@swinburne.edu.au

Dr Armin Nassirnia

Senior Structural Test Engineer
+61 3 9214 3692
anassirnia@swinburne.edu.au

Professor John Wilson

PVC - Academic Strategy Implementation
jwilson@swinburne.edu.au
+61 4 1458 8568

Associate Professor Hing-Ho Tsang

Postgraduate Programme Coordinator (Structural Engineering)
htsang@swinburne.edu.au
+61 3 9214 5009

Dr Robin Kalfat

Senior Lecturer in Civil and Construction Engineering, HDR Advisor
rkalfat@swinburne.edu.au
+61 3 9214 4945

Professor Jay Sanjayan

Director, Swinburne’s Centre for Sustainable Infrastructure; Professor of Concrete Structures.
jsanjayan@swinburne.edu.au
+61 3 9214 8034

Explore our news

1 Innovation, Research and Development (High Commendation) for the development of the “Multi-Axis Substructure Testing (MAST) System” by Engineers Australia at the Australian Engineering Excellence Awards (AEEA), (2016)

WH Warren Medal by the Board of the College of Civil Engineers of Engineers Australia for the best paper in the discipline of civil engineering “Development and validation of multi-axis substructure testing system for full-scale experiments” (M. J. Hashemi, R. Al-Mahaidi, R. Kalfat,  G. Burnett), (2017)

3The SSL also attracts significant attention during the Open Day and Student Competition every year, with live demonstrations using state-of-the-art structural testing equipment.

4250+ undergraduate and post-graduate students at Swinburne use the SSL for demonstrations in several units and courses. 

550+ PhD (25+ completed, 25+ current) students at Swinburne use the SSL for research and 15+ PhD students from other organisations.

6 Our research services and engagement since commissioning in mid-2015:

  • Five ARC-funded experimental programs for Swinburne University of Technology
  • Three ARC-funded experimental programs for Melbourne University
  • Two ARC-funded experimental programs for Monash University
  • One collaborative experimental program with Auckland University

Contact the Smart Structures Laboratory

If you’re a PhD student, media professional, or an organisation looking to access our facility or partner with us, please get in touch by emailing ss-lab@swinburne.edu.au or call +61 3 9214 8639

Contact us