The automobiles of the future are becoming the automobiles of the present, as autonomous vehicles begin to take to the streets and manufacturers display 3D printed cars. Now a new partnership is bringing futuristic technologies into automotive repairs as well. Swinburne University of Technology is partnering with the Innovative Manufacturing Cooperative Research Centre (IMCRC) and Tradiebot Industries for a project called Repair Bot, which will utilize 3D printing, robotics and advanced materials to develop an automated repair service for plastic car parts.
Material wastage is a problem for the automotive industry at present, as are a limited availability of skilled labor and complex design elements that limit repair capabilities. The goal of the Repair Bot project is for robots to be able to repair those complex elements rather than waste money and material on costly replacement parts. Using 3D scanning and 3D printing, the service will repair cars on the same day that they are brought in. If you’ve ever had to spend weeks without your car while waiting for a replacement part, that’s a dream come true.
“The ability to repair previously non-repairable parts using world-first technology will reduce overall repair times and repair costs,” said Tradiebot Industries Founder Mario Dimovski. “It will also create real and significant export opportunities and has flow-on benefits for the environment by reducing land-fill. Tradiebot will also deliver new future skills to the industry as more processes become automated.”
The Repair Bot project, according to the participants, will go a long way towards advancing Industry 4.0 and advanced manufacturing technologies, particularly digital manufacturing technologies such as 3D printing and robotics.
“Industry 4.0 is all about ways of using digital technologies and connectivity to integrate the value stream,” said Dr. Mats Isaksson, senior research fellow from Swinburne University’s Faculty of Science, Engineering and Technology. “In the case of this project, knowledge can be captured regarding design information, supply and logistics, as well as distributed manufacturing capacity.”
Novel polymer materials will be used in conjunction with 3D printing for the project. The service is expected to be not only fast but low cost, and will focus on plastic trim and assembly components. Swinburne University will play a large role in research and development for the project.
IMCRC CEO and Managing Director David Chuter believes that the Repair Bot project has large implications for the future of manufacturing as a whole.
“We will rely heavily on the Swinburne team to research, develop, document and problem-solve,” said Dimovski. “This will be vital as we invent various aspects of this world-first automated system that will revolutionise repairs of plastic components.”
“We (IMCRC) are excited about the collaboration between Tradiebot, Swinburne University and IMCRC,” he said. “This is a unique partnership that explores and invests in advanced manufacturing technologies. It is a great example of how research-led innovation ensures that the Australian automotive repairs industry can meet the challenges and opportunities of the global economy.”
The Repair Bot project has already gathered more than $1.2 million in funding, and research will take place through 2018 and 2019.
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