The University of Wollongong (UOW) and BlueScope Limited (BSL) are currently working on a Steel Research hub project, which will focus on automation and digitalisation at Port Kembla Steel Works. BSL is a provider of innovative steel materials, products, systems, and technologies. They are one of the world’s leading manufacturers of painted and coated steel products, and with strong expertise in steel they provide vital components for houses, buildings, structures, automotive and more.
Sitting under our Steel Supply Chain Transformation program (Program 4), the scope of this project has been developed as part of the drive by BlueScope, to implement industry 4.0 principles and knowledge management in their steelmaking plants. As part of this initiative to integrate enabling technologies, the research team proposes to develop a tool using emerging digital technology to accelerate the early stages of robotic integration, to rapidly assess the feasibility and safety requirements of robotic automation in an existing site.
Integration of robotic automation is a costly exercise. A lot of time and effort is spent in the pre-work of establishing the feasibility of the robot implementation even before the project is formally approved. Integration of robotic solutions using external integrators, has also proven to be expensive and does not result in an economic solution to roll-out automation across the Port Kembla plant. It has been identified that it is far more economical and efficient to build up the in-house capability for robotic integration within BSL, to significantly take advantage of robotic automation. To successfully achieve this, a solution is required to significantly speed up the bottlenecks in the early stages of the project planning to bring the cost of investment to a realistic level.
The outcomes of this research could significantly speed up the time-consuming prework required to reach the feasibility stage of integrating a robotic solution in an existing environment. The challenge will be developing a tool that is robust and intuitive that provides useful information about potential robotic integration in a variety of environments.
The research team on this project consists of UOW project leader and Senior Research Fellow Philip Commins, as well as UOW Associate Professor Steven Van Duin and Research Fellow Joseph Polden. A PhD candidate will also be employed to conduct research. The research team from BSL includes Associate Researchers Jason Lukasiak, Andrew Jovanovski and Will Alexander.
The Steel Research Hub is excited about this innovative digitalisation project and can’t wait to hear about the advancements in this area.