The Facility for Intelligent Fabrication connects with industry partners from SME's to larger businesses to educate them on the next generation of manufacturing and fabrication technologies.

The FIF demonstrates what is possible with Industry 4.0 technology available today to help bring Australian manufacturing businesses up to speed with a modern factory.

Read below about companies who have embarked on the Industry 4.0 journey

One-Stop Shop Solution

New People, Business Growth, New Materials

Leads to

Research, Prototype, Advice

Leads to

Objective

Leads to

Smarter ways

Leads to

Robots, Training, Installation and Integration, Contracts and Certification, Purchasing

Demonstration of welding robot Inside the workshop of FIF

Current projects

Problem: The competitiveness of the Australian fabrication industry is not keeping pace with international competitors

Solution: A one-stop-shop to improve competitiveness through the implementation of integrated solutions and training

$4 Million Boost to UOW-led Rail Automation Research Project

The FIF is the primary research partner on a federally funded CRC-Project led by Downer to investigate and develop automated technologies to decrease cost and increase installation time of Embedded Rail Track (ERT). The ERT technology will increase safety and utilisation of heavy-haul and high-speed rail infrastructure and has been awarded $1.5M through the CRC-P grants scheme.

The University of Wollongong has always had a close affiliation with industry. When Downer was seeking a technology partner the University’s automation technology and rail engineering prowess made it a natural choice. - Mark Mackay, Downer

The CRC-P scheme brings together researchers and industry with a focus on short-term projects that will have commercial uses. The project, High Output, Low Cost Automated Embedded Rail Track (ERT), will focus on developing automated solutions to reduce the installation time and cost of ERT. The project is led by Downer, and UOW is the lead research organisation. Other project partners are Antoun Civil, Embedded Rail Technology and the University of Technology Sydney ERT is a relatively new slab-track technology, which consists of a continuously laid bed of concrete with the rails embedded in the concrete in a unique way. Where ballast track has nearly 100 individual parts per metre – requiring regular inspection and maintenance – ERT uses only four components per metre, reducing maintenance costs and maintenance-related track closures.

While it offers a number of safety and usage improvements, the installation time and cost of current ERT are significantly higher than those for ballast track – issues that this research will address. Project leader Dr Philip Commins said ERT had many safety benefits, such as reduced track buckling and fewer derailments, but also increased track use by up to 30 per cent. “An ERT system provides greater safety, performance and availability, with lower maintenance and reduced whole life costs,” Dr Commins said. “As Australia’s plans are well advanced for many major rail infrastructure projects, the need for improved safety in heavy haul and high speed rail is a high priority. “This project is a key part of the chain to provide an economic alternative to traditional rail systems.” Dr Commins and his team from the Facility for Intelligent Fabrication (FIF) in UOW’s Faculty of Engineering and Information Sciences will focus their research on new construction techniques and will explore automation technologies to dramatically reduce the cost and improve the speed of installation to make ERT competitive with traditional ballasted track.

 

$2M Industry 4.0 Hub in Shoalhaven

The federal government has pledged $2 million for an industry hub managed by the University of Wollongong (UOW) in the Shoalhaven. The hub, equipped with cobots and industrial robots, will provide a collaborative environment for students, industry specialists and entrepreneurs. Cobots, also known as collaborative robots, are robots designed to work safely alongside humans, augmenting the human worker rather than replacing them. The hub, which will include a maker space, is set to position the Shoalhaven at the forefront of advanced manufacturing. Staff at the hub will be able to provide information, training and technology demonstrations to users.

Training

Training is provided using state-of-the-art training equipment, useful for up skilling both the beginner and the expert. Training on VR welding equipment as well as robotic welding equipment.

Certification

Certification is vital for companies needing to satisfy Australian Standards. With stringent quality control required for many welding applications, qualified welders are required to be certified. The collaboration with Weld Australia provides training and certification to Australian industry.

Augmented Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR) are an enabling technology to industry for training, asset management, process and quality control, and assisting with maintenance upkeep.

As factories move towards Industry 4.0 practices, AR and VR provide a very elegant way to display relevant and real-time data of machine processes and output. Visualizing a digital-twin of a factory is an effective way to manage and streamline processes and to provide training to personnel without machine downtime.

Soldamatic

Virtual Reality for welding training provided by TAFE and WA by giving students the ability to use and be trained in Virtual Reality welding units. The units provide a realistic welding simulation allowing the instructor to provide real-time feedback on welding technique and provide quantitative data from the simulated weld torch. It also saves on welded product and consumables.

Laserbond

A project collaborating with Laserbond and NSW TechVoucher to develop AR visualization of the robot motions to ensure the robot carries out the correct path for bespoke laser-clad parts.

Vertex 1

Virtual Reality welding units give the ability to up-skill welders with state-of-the-art training equipment. The VR units give real-time feedback to the welder and a score based on weld quality and technique. The technology is designed to up-skill users faster than traditional methods with reduced cost and increased safety. This technology can provide learners with a wide diversity of skill levels to access multiple welding techniques and processes safely. TAFE NSW recently acquired two units and are part of their mobile training units rolling out in 2020.

Integrating smart sensor technology is a key enabling technology to allow the robot to make intelligent decisions on the process at hand.

Giving the robot “eyes” is key to enable the robot to make smarter decisions and carry out processes in a repeatable and robust way despite product variation or customisation.

Touch sensing

Touch sensing is a simple tactile feedback technique using the welding wire as a touch point. When the welding wire makes contact with the work-piece, a short circuit is detected so the robot knows where the work piece is.

Point Cloud sensing

Processing data from a point cloud scan can be used to reconstruct a complex geometry for robot welding or other processes such as repair build-up.

Laser Scanning

Detecting work-pieces with laser scanning technology can provide fast and accurate positioning information on a range of geometrical work-pieces.

Automated OffLine Programming (AOLP) is a technology developed by UOW to bring industrial robotics from mass production to mass customisation.
AOLP uses information from a CAD file to automatically generate collision free and optimal path planning for most welded products. This technology has been developed by UOW over the past decade to reduce the time consuming programming required for a custom part to be welded by a robot.

AOLP

Automated Off-Line Programming (AOLP) has been a major research focus for UOW FIF over the past decade. It was identified that traditional ways of programming welding robots were laborious and time-consuming for low batch numbers. AOLP has been developed to remove much of the human programming time by allowing the computer to generate robot code from a 3D CAD model. The robot code is error and collision-free.

TRT

TRT is an Australian and New Zealand family owned business manufacturing mobile cranes. The FIF at UOW collaborated with TRT to bring AOLP to life in their NZ factory, with their newly installed welding robotic cell.

Experts in welding processes and material characterization work closely with automation researchers to achieve the optimal outcome for welded structures.

Welding research is carried out using robots for accuracy and repeatability. A team of welding experts and material science experts collaborated closely to ensure the material and weld quality meet the Australian standards.

Ship building

Ship building is set to become a large industry in Australian manufacturing over the coming years. UOW was involved in carrying out welding trials and material characterisation for ship building steels. UOW has collaborated with Naval, a multinational company to carry out welding research.

DSI

UOW partnered with DSI to investigate welding rings onto pipe and use laser scanning technology to determine the correct welding settings.

Wire Arc Additive Manufacturing (WAAM) is a metal 3D printing technology to build near-net shape custom parts with a robot and welding torch.

The WAAM process starts with a 3D CAD drawing, which is processed by software running algorithms developed by UOW over the past decade. The 3D model is sliced into many layers and each layer is automatically filled with a crisscross pattern. The robot path is automatically generated and the part is built layer by layer with a standard MIG welding torch.

3D printing

Custom components have been built from specialist material such as Nickel-Aluminium-Bronze. Other materials include Aluminium and carbon steel.

Thin Wall

One challenge is to produce thin wall structures which requires an expert knowledge of the welding process and robot path planning. Our team or researchers are achieving thin wall profiles of a few millimetres thin.

With several material handing robots available in the FIF lab space, there is plenty of scope for developing novel and unique material handling concepts.

A robot with an 80kg payload attached to a 7m long linear track as well as a foundry level robot with a 205kg payload provide the resources to carry out significant material handing research. Novel end-effectors and smart robot cooperation allow conceptual material handing ideas to be tested and de-risked in a non-production lab environment.

Purlin Handling with Fielders

Partnering with Fielders, a national distributor of purlins and other broadsheet product, the Automated Roll-formed Unloading, Nesting and Stacking (ARUNS) project was founded. It investigated the use of robotics for handling roll-formed purlins or various sizes and profiles.

BlueScope TRU-SPEC® wrapping

Partnering with BlueScope Steel, the largest steel-making plant in Australia, the process of partially wrapping Stretched-Levelled TRU-SPEC® Flat Plate product using automation was initiated. It investigated how a robotic solution could wrap the protective paper in a neat and reliable manner for various stack dimensions.

Dematic

Dematic are a multinational company supplying warehouse shelving equipment. This project investigated conceptual designs to their material handling and robotic welding processes. Dematic have implemented the designs into their factory in Belrose, Sydney.

The FIF has a strong research interest in robotic welding, with over 20 years of active research in this field.

Robotic Welding

The FIF has a strong history and expertise in robotic welding. Industry can engage with UOW to carry out welding trials on their product to develop unique robotic welding solutions tailored for their product. With 4 welding robots available, UOW can work with you to ensure your product can be manufactured to your requirements and standards.

Welding Trials

Significant welding trials have been undertaken, utilising various welding techniques and developing welding procedures. Stress and buckling analysing have been carried out for ship building industry.