Innovative Manufacturing CRC

November 18th, 2014

In Nov 2014, we submitted the IMCRC Proposal (Innovative Manufacturing).
We are proposing to lead Program 3, Automated and Assistive technologies:

The objective of this project is to develop information technologies that can assist Australian industrial workers to increase productivity and extend their participation in the workforce.  Facing increasing operational costs, skills shortages and comparatively low productivity growth, combined with external factors such as increasing competition from low-wage countries, manufacturers are in need of a broader range of affordable solutions that give them the flexibility and agility to respond to volatile market demand whilst also boosting their firm’s productivity.

Currently available industrial automation lacks such flexibility, is designed for high volume, low variation processes and hence is economically unviable for most small and medium-sized businesses.  Consultation with Australian firms has found the need for cost-efficient and agile manufacturing processes that are highly flexible and reconfigurable, but also the standardisation, regulation and compliance aspects to allow participation in global supply chains.

The development of such assistive and automated technology that improves workers’ performance requires innovations that span a number of research domains (i.e. social science, human factors, informatics, communications, sensing, robotics, engineering).  To coordinate this research, the program is split into four research projects:

  • Assistive – implement high-performance workplaces through the development of lightweight assistive robotics that provides real-time, reconfigurable, physical support to the workforce, with a focus on Navigation, Manipulation and Cooperation including optimisation of manufacturing/construction time (through off-site assistive technologies).
  • Awareness – implement high-performance workplaces through the development of enhanced situational awareness technologies that enable close cooperation between assistive technologies and the workforce, across the manufacturing process, with a focus on Monitoring, Modelling and Information Management.
  • Augmentation – implement high-performance workplaces through the development of distributed heterogeneous collaboration technologies that provide enhanced OHS, skill augmentation and continuous quality control and assessment, with a focus on Collaboration and User Interfaces.
  • Agility – implement high-performance workplaces through the development of information assisted methods and proxies for the development of processes, associated standards and codes of practices for new manufacturing processes, including scaling and quality control, and methods of testing and compliance of manufacturing components and systems (using agile manufacturing/ personalised production).

A diagram showing how the projects in this program interact are set out the Figure below.