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National Geotechnical Centrifuge Facility


Centrifuges spin reduced-scale geotechnical models to high acceleration levels to replicate the same profile of stress with depth in the spinning soil sample as in the field, hence achieving similitude between model and field conditions.


As geotechnical behaviour is strongly stress dependent, this is an important condition to get correct, so meaningful observations and measurements can be made on the centrifuge model. Scaling laws are then used to interpret the centrifuge model results at field scale, so the centrifuge results can be used as an input in geotechnical design or to demonstrate geotechnical behaviour and mechanisms that can then be reflected in analytical or numerical approaches.

The centrifuge facility at the NGCF is supported by a team of operators and software, electronic and mechanic engineers, with each centrifuge spinning 24/7 on average 270 days a year.


  • C72 beam centrifuge
    The Actidyn C72 beam centrifuge is a large 10m diameter beam centrifuge commissioned in 2016.


    • a 240 g-tonne centrifuge
    • capable of spinning 2400kg at 100g
    • accommodates soil samples up to 1m long, 1m wide and 1m deep
    • features in-flight automatic balancing
    • state-of-the art optic fibre transmission for data and video
    • on-board four-dimensional robotic system enabling linear motion along the x, y, and z axis, and rotation about the z axis
    • in-flight tool changing mechanism
  • C61 beam centrifuge

    The 3.6m diameter beam centrifuge was manufactured by Actidyn in France and commissioned in 1989.


    • 40 g-tonne centrifuge
    • capable of spinning 200kg at 200g
    • accommodates soil samples up to 1300mm long, 390mm wide and 325mm deep
    • accommodates the NGCF’s robotic actuators that can impose motion along x, y, and z axis, and rotation about the z axis

  • Drum centrifuge

    The 1.2m diameter Broadbent drum centrifuge was commissioned in 1997.


    • capable of spinning at up to 350g
    • accommodates soil samples within a channel that is 300mm high and 200mm deep, with an available testing length of 2.5 m
    • an independent tool table allowing for 360-degree access to the sample
    • a two-dimensional actuator, effectively providing motion along all three spatial axes
    • a three-dimensional actuator allowing combinations of vertical, horizontal and moment loading to be imposed on model foundations

Motion control and data acquisition

  • Robotic Actuators

    The NGCF’s actuators allow motion in both load and displacement control and can replicate complex and realistic environmental loading.


    • DC servo-motors coupled with harmonic gearboxes drive leadscrews to sub-micron resolution 
    • up to four degree-of-freedom motion along two horizontal axes and along and about the vertical axis
    • velocities in the range 1 micron per second to 100mm per second
    • provides up to 10kN of axial thrust
    • scalable to suit particular centrifuge, laboratory or field requirements
    • allows complex motion patterns to be applied to the geotechnical model using the NGCF’s motion control system, PACS
  • Package Actuator Control System

    The PACS was developed at the NGCF specifically to meet the complex demands of motion control during centrifuge model testing. It provides the user with the flexibility of connecting most industry standard actuators, servo controlled devices and analogue feedback devices. 


    • runs on a National Instruments 9030 CompactRIO controller
    • provides the user with four PID Controller channels that can be configured individually in either displacement or force control, and synchronised using a built in waveform and sequence generator 
    • channels can be linked using event limits providing a powerful tool for automating and customising tests
  • DigiDAQ

    The NGCF-developed DigiDAQ is a complete compact data acquisition system designed to meet the needs of today’s centrifuge testing. It is versatile and robust, making it suitable for use on centrifuges, in the laboratory or in the field. 


    • real-time data acquisition on up to 64 channels
    • available in either a rack-mounted or miniaturised configuration
    • performs the full sequence of amplification, conditioning, digitisation and storage on a single circuit board via an independent micro-controller allocated toeach pair of instrumented channels
    • high-speed simultaneous capture at up to 1 million samples per secon
    • a Graphical User Interface which provides data logging from sensors connected to the DigiDAQ unit as well as PACS and the Centrifuge Control System
  • Model scale penetrometers

    The NGCF designs and manufactures its own soil characterisation tools, including T-bar, cone, ball, piezocone and piezoball penetrometers. This provides researchers with greater flexibility when designing specific centrifuge model tests and better control of the parameters being measured. Over the last few years, the NGCF has developed variations on these penetrometers and additional soil characterisation tools such as hemiball and torroid penetrometers, piezofootings and miniature ball penetrometers to answer specific modelling challenges and to provide additional engineering properties.

Have a question?
Get in touch with us

(+61 8) 6488 1142
8.30am–5.00pm (AWST), Monday to Friday


Ocean Marine Research Centre,
Building 453 (Corner of Fairway and
Fairway Entrance 4)

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