The University of Wollongong’s (UOW) Industry 4.0 Hub, located in the Shoalhaven, is not only a makerspace and technology centre, but an educational facility that works with businesses to research adoption of modern technology in their workplace.
Commissioned equipment under the Industry 4.0 umbrella and housed in the Hub includes Virtual Reality/Augmented Reality (VR/AR) devices, 3D printers, Collaborative Robots (Cobots) and Internet of Things (IoT) devices, to name a few.
The Hub’s research engineers work closely with companies and industry to see how Industry 4.0 related technology could be utilised and integrated with their existing processes.
Smith’s BBQs, located in Temora, regional NSW, is one such business that contacted the Hub to explore the feasibility of using a Collaborative Robot to automate areas within their processes in the design and manufacture of portable BBQs. Increasing popularity of portable BBQs meant that this needed to ramp up production to keep up with demand.
The manufacturing process of the BBQ’s outer stainless-steel skin was laborious, and owner John Smith wanted to explore the use of cobots to reduce manual load. These tasks include machine tending; the cobot feeding flat sheets of metal into a press brake to form the outer shell of the BBQ and attaching a laser at the end of the cobot to weld parts together. Before purchasing an outright solution, John wasn’t sure if this technology was suited to his application so he sought the assistance of the Industry 4.0 Hub for further information.
Part of the de-risking phase offered by the Hub is to collaborate closely with companies to workshop ideas around their existing process. The Industry 4.0 Hub invited John and his colleague to its full day Cobot workshop to introduce them to the robotic arm and explore how this technology could be incorporated into John’s application. Topics covered during the day included basic programming, safety, installation and integration and gave John and his team awareness of what the technology could offer. This ‘try before you buy’ workshop reduced John’s risk when purchasing an outright solution as it allowed him to become familiar with the technology to determine if it was a suitable fit.
As a result of the workshop, John gained confidence to purchase a Cobot from a distributor and looks to integrate the robot arm into his workflow and automate some of his processes. This will allow him to ramp up production, scale up to international markets and expand his workforce.
“UOW’s Industry 4.0 Hub in Nowra has been a vital source of information, training and help with the introduction of robotics into my business. We at Smith’s BBQs will be using Collaborative Robots to help fold the metal BBQ parts and to weld.”
Automation has become very relevant in modern manufacturing and leveraging off this technology can rapidly scale up a company or product to new heights.
If you're a business owner and are interested to see the technologies you can implement in your business, get in touch with the Industry 4.0 team.