Data61 launches Robotics Innovation Centre in Queensland

CSIRO’s Data61 has announced the opening of its new Robotics Innovation Centre in Queensland, a purpose-built research facility for robotics and autonomous systems, an industry set to be worth $23 billion by 2025.

CSIRO’s Data61 is one of the global leaders in the field, with capabilities ranging from legged robots and 3D mapping through to unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) and unmanned ground vehicles (UGVs).
Fred Pauling, Robotics and Autonomous Systems group leader at CSIRO’s Data61 said the 600-square-metre facility would enhance the group’s world-class research capabilities.
“The new centre expands our research infrastructure to develop highly autonomous robotics systems that can interact safely and seamlessly with humans and other dynamic agents, in challenging indoor and outdoor environments,” Fred said.
“Our robots are already being used to safely inspect and create 3D maps of underground mines, monitor biodiversity in the Amazon Rainforest and navigate difficult terrain in emergency situations.”
One project being spearheaded by the centre is the testing of technology to rapidly map, navigate, and search underground environments as part of a three-year Subterranean Challenge funded by the US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA).
The centre houses the biggest motion capture system in the Southern Hemisphere, used to validate data collected by robotics systems. It also features a 13x5m pool for testing aquatic robots, a significant number of field-deployable UAVs and UGVs, legged robots, high-accuracy robot manipulators as well as sensors and telemetry systems.
Adrian Turner, CEO at CSIRO’s Data61, said the centre is a national asset that combines internationally recognised robotics and machine learning research with deep domain expertise from CSIRO providing unique collaboration opportunities for industry, government and academia.
“Robotics and autonomous systems technologies, underpinned by machine learning and artificial intelligence, will unlock new value in all manner of sectors including manufacturing, agriculture, healthcare and mining,” Mr Turner said.
“By creating a cohesive approach to robotics R&D through closer collaboration, supported by world-class facilities like the Robotics Innovation Centre, we can ensure Australia is well placed to benefit from Industry 4.0 and help to protect and accelerate our nation’s ongoing economic success.”
Data61 led the formation of the Sixth Wave Alliance last year, a network which seeks to integrate key robotics research organisations and industry partners in Australia to enable a higher level of R&D collaboration. Dr Sue Keay was recently appointed to lead Data61’s cyber-physical systems research program, drawing on her experience in developing Australia’s first Robotics Roadmap while at QUT’s Australian Centre for Robotic Vision.
Data61’s robotics infrastructure is open for industry use and collaborative projects. This includes dedicated mechanical and electronics engineering laboratories, several high-end rapid prototyping machines, large sheds for indoors systems testing, an open-air UAV flying area and outdoor testing areas including a forest and creek.

Manufacturing: 1/3 to be automated within 3 years

A third of manufacturing is expected to be automated within the next three years, according to a report investigating the rise of technology and the impact of Industry 4.0.
The report from SSG Insight reveals one in eight (12%) of manufacturers are going further with their technological evolution, by preparing to automate up to 50% of their business in the same time frame.
Artificial Intelligence (AI) is predicted to help automate internal areas within manufacturing businesses, primarily aligned to the production and manufacturing process including the decision making required to optimise operational performance. AI will also be applied to predict and manage maintenance issues and address quality deviations. External business areas such as sales and marketing, distribution and customer service are less likely to be automated.
Nearly all manufacturers (93%) are utilising live data and automation technology already in some capacity, most commonly to help optimise products and ensure quality consistency. The second most popular way to utilise the technology today is to facilitate a better understanding of the end customer, leading to the development of supporting services as a change to the traditional manufacturing business model.
Improvements in speed, whether developing new products to bring to market, the pace of production, reducing downtime and enabling better decision making are all being driven by automation technology. Furthermore, live data is helping manufacturing businesses to be more accountable, including providing a better understanding of the workforce to create happy and safe working environments, as well as improving traceability of materials and lowering the cost of production.
Manufacturers identify the areas of technology they predict will play a greater role in their business in the next three years:

  1. Analytics of big data including customer insight (28%).
  2. AI and machine learning (26%).
  3. Automation, robotics and cobots (25%).
  4. Internet of Things (24%).
  5. App-based, mobile reporting software for seamless management (22%).
  6. 3D printing and material science (18%).

This latest industry snapshot draws on extensive research among leading manufacturing executives. The report, Harnessing Technology and Insight: Manufacturers maintaining a competitive edge in an age of uncertainty & opportunity, is co-authored by industrial automation and control engineering expert Dr Hongwei Zhang and Professor Sameh Saad from Sheffield Hallam University and Jon Moody of SSG Insight.
Principal lecturer at Sheffield Hallam University Dr Zhang said: “Industry 4.0 is here, and the opportunity is now for manufacturers to embrace the potential of the technology currently available, as well as prepare for future advancements in order to retain a competitive edge. It’s vital that manufacturers seek to futureproof their business as far as possible, utilising live data and advanced analytics to unlock the potential for greater automation and AI within production plants.”
Chief product officer at SSG Insight Jon Moody said: “The rapid acceleration of technology is seen as the biggest challenge disrupting the manufacturing industry today, but it also presents the greatest opportunity. The adoption of technologies such as AI, robotics, automation and 3D printing, as well as innovative data management, will ensure manufacturers can reap the benefits of Industry 4.0 and become more globally competitive. It’s encouraging therefore to see manufacturers committing to investment in technology.”

Packaging seminar envisions smart factory of the future

At the ‘Smart Factory Solutions with IoT Technology’ food and packaging seminar, held by automation company Omron in Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane last week, technology experts discussed the key features of smart factories of the future, nothing that an estimated 13.5 billion devices will be connected by 2020 worldwide.
“It’s all about collecting and analysing data to improve efficiency,” said Chris Probst, Automation Technology Product Manager, Omron.
“The amount of data doesn’t matter – it’s what you do with the data that counts,” he said.
Probst said many Australian companies are now talking about the Internet of Things (IoT) technical revolution, but not many are prepared for it.
“Companies that embrace new technologies will be better positioned to adapt to changing marketing conditions and customer needs.
“This is the next generation of manufacturing where people and machines work together.”
Hal Varian, professor of information sciences, business, and economics at the University of California at Berkeley and Google’s Chief Economist agreed.
“The ability to take data – to be able to understand it, to process it, to extract value from it, to visualise it, to communicate it – that’s going to be a hugely important skill in the next decade,” he said.
Wei-Jian Ong, product manager for Omron’s Sysmac controllers based in Singapore, said data collection and analysis can help manufacturers streamline their operations.
“The collection of data is now vital for industry,” said Ong. “The Internet of Things (IoT) is basically a network of devices with network connectivity for the collection and exchange of data.
“With IoT you can monitor, analyse and act – you can coordinate and monitor your production line. All machines work together to perform at optimum level.”
“Smart factories need to be more efficient and fully connected to their supply chains,” said Probst. “AIVs (Autonomous Intelligent Vehicles) not only save on labour costs, they can increase operational efficiency.
“Mobile robots are easy to deploy, with no facility modifications required. They work safely around people and can operate 24/7.”
Probst said smart factories were also helping to significantly improve workplace safety.
“The Smart Factory of the future will improve workplace safety, improve yield and traceability, drive down production costs and eliminate errors,” he said. “This will enable a ‘flexible’ manufacturing revolution.”

Backplane releases sun-proof Aplex panel PCs

Backplane Systems Technology is pleased to release Aplex Technology’s new series of IP66 Sunlight Readable seven- and eight-inch panel PCs, the APC-3072 and APC-3082.
The PCs are both powered by the Intel Atom Processor E3845 that delivers excellent performance, with minimal power consumption, supporting 6-36VDC power input with optional ignition control.
The panel PCs also support optional GPS and 3G/4G network function for real-time GPS tracking and asset management. With integrated Bluetooth and Wi-Fi connectivity, the devices can connect to local devices for updating real-time location status and route information, plus exchange data with the control centre 24/7.
The two PCs both feature a rugged design with their IP66 rated panel and a wide selection of I/O ports, multiple peripherals and M12 I/O connectors. In addition, the PCs can withstand a operating temperature range of -20°C to +60°C.
The LCD panels are optically bonded and feature anti-reflection technology, making them suitable for use in sunlight or applications where bright light can affect a screen’s readability. The 1,000 nits high brightness screen has been designed for environments where harsh daylight is an issue.
Both PCs have been developed to meet the needs of a range of industries requiring a reliable solution in rugged environments. These include food and beverage, manufacturing, factory automation, communications and in-vehicle computing applications.
Key features:

  • 7″–8″-high brightness LED backlight LCD
  • Fully IP66-certified fanless panel PC
  • Intel Atom Processor E3845
  • 4G DDR3L memory
  • Rugged engineering plastics enclosure and fanless design
  • 6~36V DC wide-ranging power input

Jungheinrich unveils totally new combi stacker

Two-shift operation is market launching a new narrow-aisle forklift –its EKX 514-516 electric order picker and trilateral forklift –in short, a “combi” (combination) stacker.

With a payload capacity of 1,600 kilograms and a lift height of 17.5 metres, the new model will be officially unveiled before a global trade audience at the LogiMAT 2016 exhibition in Stuttgart.

The truck is equipped with state-of-the-art control technology, completely new motor technology and an efficient energy management system. Its intelligent lightweight design makes use of high-strength steels, resulting in a weight reduction of 150 kilograms.

According to Dr Klaus-Dieter Rosenbach, Jungheinrich Board of Management member in charge of Logistics Systems Business, “This means we can guarantee the efficient economical operation of the stacker over two shifts with a single battery charge.”

For two-shift operations this eliminates not only the need for extra batteries, but also for charging stations and other expensive equipment, while at the same time reducing manpower requirements.

“This is not a mere promise of two-shift operation without changing the battery –we also back up this claim vis-à-vis the customer.” In other words, if a battery fails to hold a charge for two full shifts, Jungheinrich will replace it free of charge.

Economical Motors: 93 Percent of energy converted into Output

Completely new motor technology developed by Jungheinrich is at the core of the EKX 514-516. This consists of a synchronous reluctance motor which has been used for the first time in this vehicle –a motor which combines the high performance and energy efficiency of synchronous motors with the cost advantages and low maintenance requirements of three-phase AC asynchronous motors.

According to Rosenbach the motor’s efficiency factor of IE31 is the highest achievable in forklift operations. The new motor technology converts around 93 percent of the energy consumed into actual output, cutting energy losses by half.

“This means that energy consumption has been reduced by a further 15 per cent compared to the previous model,” Rosenbach said.

Reaching Great Heights Smoothly and Safely, Thanks to Vibration Damping

For the first time Jugheinrich is also equipping this model series with a patented vibration damping system. This optional Floor Pro module reduces lateral oscillations of the mast and driver’s cab which are caused by uneven floors or other floor types not designed for narrow-aisle forklifts.

“This system provides the user with the opportunity to travel more smoothly and up to 30 per cent faster on substandard surfaces” Rosenbach said.

In addition the system is easy on loads and vehicle and helps reduce the level of maintenance. The goal is to allow narrow-aisle trucks to work safely and efficiently even on floors that were originally designed solely for reach trucks –even at lift heights of 10 metres.

The new EKX 514-516 is fitted with a number of different modules for process integration, including RFID technology, redundant height and distance measurement and the Jungheinrich Logistics Interface.

If the optional Jungheinrich warehouse navigation system with semi-automatic target approach is added, throughput can be enhanced by up to 25 per cent.

“By combining intelligent assistance systems with high-performance synchronous reluctance motors, Jungheinrich has made great strides in further optimising energy efficiency –putting us in great shape to meet the future challenges of Intralogistics 4.0”

Getting the right flexibility in conveyors

Being able to change production processes to deliver products faster, and at a cheaper and consistently high standard, not only for local customers, but also for growing export markets is the ultimate aim for manufacturers and companies operating within Australia's food and beverage industries.

The key to achieving this flexibility is production equipment, in particular well-designed conveyor systems which allow smooth processing and prevent bottlenecking. Customised or 'turn-key' solutions are becoming increasingly popular, and are often integrated into a plant's automation or robotics system to allow for greater control. 

Flexibility in demand 

Anthony Gustafson, Australis Engineering engineering manager, says flexibility of design, and development time and cost are factors companies should consider when choosing a conveyor system.

"Australia's small market means most production lines run multiple products so machinery has to cater for multiple sizes, shapes, speeds and be able to handle these differences with the shortest changeover time possible," Gustafson said. 

The Sydney-based Australis Engineering provides a range of conveyor systems for fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG) production, including slat chain, modular belt, roller and pallet conveyors, and also bucket elevators. 

One manufacturer that utilises a number of flexible conveyor systems in its production line of canned fruits, fruit juices and cordials is Golden Circle. 

The company's Northgate, Queensland cannery produces over 180,000 tonnes per year of product to cater for consumer demands. 

Craig Kent, Golden Circle Northgate project engineer, agrees that conveyor flexibility is the key to delivery. "Modular conveyor systems must have short lead times, and spare parts must be easily sourced and readily available," he said.

Kent's facility relies on a combination of slat chain conveyors with Rexnord-branded stainless steel chains, modular belt conveyors with Intralox-branded chains, belt conveyors with rubber belting, and low back pressure carton roller conveyors. "These were all manufactured by site contractors to site specification for cleaning and the surrounding environment," he said. 

Conveyors for food and beverage

Though conveyor systems for manufacturing facilities come in all shapes and sizes, those engineered for the food and beverage sector must be made of hygienic materials allow for easy cleaning, and prevent cross-contamination between products and operators. 

Robert Marguccio, Heat and Control business manager, packaging and inspection systems Australia, says it is essential in the food business that processing equipment is hygienic. 

"High levels of hygiene, easy-to-clean with a quick cleaning turn-around, and reduction in product breakage are important to food manufacturers," he said.

Marguccio recommends looking at sanitation, operator safety, cross-contamination, sustainability and product quality control when purchasing a new conveyor or upgrading an existing system. System layout, feed modulation and methods to divert product are also important.

Golden Circle's Kent agrees. "Conveyors must be cleanable to maintain a hygienic standard in the factory," he said. 

"Where possible inner surfaces should be visible and cleanable. Some products even require the use of food grade cleaning agents that run continuously on the conveyor during production.

"Safety is always important. Conveyor systems must be easily accessible and maintained. Construction methods must not leave sharp edges or produce nip points with moving parts."

Meeting Standards

There are a number of Australian standards food manufacturers must adhere to in order to sell their products both locally and overseas, including standards relating to production equipment.

Equipment that can be cleaned easily and quickly, and offers safety features for the operator can help companies avoid potentially-severe health hazards; not only for the purpose of passing export quality control checks, but also to meet local food safety standards, like those governed by FSANZ, and machine safety standards like those from the Safety Institute of Australia (SIA). 

"Easy cleaning is always on the top of the agenda when we speak with our food production clients. It is very important especially where AQIS requirements are involved," said Gustafson. 

"Equipment is normally in Stainless Steel and particular attention is paid during the design phase to ensure cleaning can be easily performed."

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