Industry News News

Advanced Robotics Manufacturing: ARM Hub announced

The Palaszczuk Government will invest $7.71 million over four years to establish the nation’s first robotics manufacturing hub to create and support more jobs.

Leanne Linard MP, Professor Mark Harvey, Cameron Dick MP and Matt Tobin, MD Urban Arts Projects. Photo Credit: QUT Media.


Government media release:

Australia’s first robotics hub to drive advanced manufacturing jobs

QUT Media:

Australia’s first robotics hub to drive advanced manufacturing jobs

Knowledge Sharing News

On robots seeing, thinking and doing at the IMCRC conference

Teaching robots to see, developing robotic vision systems for design-led manufacturing; one-of-a-kind automated production systems; and, unlocking manufacturing potential. 

Photo Credit: Cian Sanders

Four members of the Design Robotics group presented at the recent 2019 Innovative Manufacturing Cooperative Research Centre IMCRC Conference in Melbourne. PhD candidates Alan Burden and Baris Balci presented their PhD ‘pitch’, along with featured speakers Dr Glenda Caldwell and Dr Jared Donovan. UAP Founder and Managing Director, Matthew Tobin, was a panellist in the discussion on Industry-Research Collaboration: Unlocking Manufacturing Potential in Australia. 
Bringing together thought leaders, industry experts, researchers and students exploring advanced and digital technologies, the IMCRC conference progresses discussion about innovative leaps in manufacturing. The event seeks to project the future possibilities for disrupting and transforming Australian manufacturing through industry-led research, accelerating projects and inspiring new ideas.


Teaching robots to see was the subject of the featured talk by Dr Glenda Caldwell and Dr Jared Donovan. The audience was invited to imagine the potential of robotic vision in creating beautiful art objects, leading to more jobs in manufacturing. Robotic vision capability enables robots to see what they are working on and unlock the potential of robotic manufacturing for Australian small-to-medium enterprises specialising in bespoke manufacturing. The presentation highlighted the need for design-led manufacturing processes as well as open innovation networks. “Dare to experiment” was the message, to realise collaborative and creative projects. 

Jared Donovan and Glenda Caldwell. Photo Credit: IMCRC

[small-quote name=”Glenda Caldwell” title=””]”When people are inspired they will engage. When academics and industry partners share common values, then finding the sweet spot of research is possible.”[/small-quote]


Alan Burden talked about his PhD research on developing new ways to use robots & vision systems for design-led manufacturing. Framing the potential of Design Robotics with a quote from the McKinsey Global Institute, “Every country is going to feel the impact of automation by 2030” the presentation highlighted the how automation will affect industry. The creative opportunities robots afford us through assisted manufacturing processes can be seen in projects such as Richard Sweeney’s piece, Reflection.

Alan Burden. Photo Credit: IMCRC


Baris Balci presented on the development of an automated robotic polishing system for one-of-a-kind production. It was fascinating to see what can be achieved when the industry and the universities work closely”. Baris observed, “These type of collaborations create opportunities to address the untouched problems in different domains of engineering”.

Baris Balci Photo Credit: IMCRC

Baris’s presentation highlighted the value of custom one-of-a-kind robotic manufacturing alongside mass manufacturing in industry. Specifically, the potential value in robotic polishing operations and the ability to remove bottleneck issues in manufacturing processes were explained by first seeing, planning, and then developing novel ways of doing
Before the IMCRC conference, Alan and Baris attended National Manufacturing Week 2019, participating at the IMCRC booth on the trade floor. “We were given plenty of time to see the newest technology in additive and subtractive manufacturing”, Alan explained, “as well as scanning and robotics from all the big industry companies”.
Alan Burden was awarded the IMCRC PhD Student Pitch Award. Each student was given five minutes to explain his research in a way that is understandable to a general audience. “It was a surprise and an honour”, Alan said, “it was good to see the other IMCRC scholarship holders and meet them in person”. 

Photo Credit: IMCRC

The event provided many highlights, including hearing about current PhD and other academic research exploring innovative manufacturing techniques. Critically, it was the opportunity to observe direct links between this research and industry that held value for the Design Robotics team. As highlighted in Glenda and Jared’s talk, the opportunity to support design-led and creative approaches to research applies to all disciplines and all questions across industries.


Pausefest: Making Art and Architecture with Robots

Heralded as the world’s “leading creativity-infused business event”, Pausefest has been described as “a catalyst for change, a uniter of all industries, and a platform for the future.”

Image Credit: Pause Fest

Now into its 9th year, the event welcomes approximately 15,000 ‘digital natives’ who gather to network, share ideas, and ultimately shape the future of digital evolution. The objective of Pausefest is to counteract the disconnect observed across the digital networks and foster connectivity and collaborative partnerships. Design Robotics shares this objective in its pursuit of research that is enabled through Open Innovation
Held in Melbourne’s Fed Square, Pausefest 2019 attracted over 30 international and 200 local speakers. Design Robotics’ Dr Jared Donovan participated as moderator of one of the 18 design panel events, ‘Making Art and Architecture with Robots’. Panellists included Dr Roland Snooks from RMIT, Matthew Tobin Founder and Managing Director of UAP, and Emily Floyd, a renowned Australian contemporary artist.  
”This technology is poised to shape multiple industries, including art, architecture, design, medicine and construction.” – Jared Donovan.

Dr Jared Donovan. Photo Credit: Cian Sanders

The panel discussed the need for robotic vision to make ambitious art and architecture – a key message also emphasised by Dr Glenda Caldwell at the 2018 Woodford FestivalPanellists spoke on Australia’s ongoing mission to develop robotic vision systems and user interfaces to reduce the interaction time between design and custom manufacturing.

Knowledge Sharing News

Distinguished Professor Mike Xie, Member of the Order of Australia

The Design Robotics team is delighted to announce that Distinguished Professor Mike Xie has been recognised in the Queen’s Birthday 2019 Honours List. Mike has been recognised as a Member of the Order of Australia (AM) in the General Division for “significant service to higher education and to civil engineering.”
Mike is internationally recognised for his development of innovative software tools that are used to optimise structural design. The tools he has developed are used globally for the design of buildings, bridges and other large civil infrastructure, combining architectural design qualities with both structural performance and weight efficiency.

Distinguished Professor Mike Xie. Photo Credit: RMIT

Professor Xie was awarded the title of “RMIT Distinguished Professor” in 2016 and is the Director of RMIT’s Centre for Innovative Structures and Materials. He was elected Fellow of the Australian Academy of Technological Sciences and Engineering (ASTE) in 2011, and has collaborated with companies including Arup, Boeing and Smith & Nephew. In addition to his academic and consulting work at RMIT, Professor Xie has established a successful engineering practice in China known as XIE Archi-Structure Design (Shanghai) Co., Ltd.
The Design Robotics team extend our heartfelt congratulations to Professor Xie on his recent recognition as a Member of the Order of Australia; one of a series of awards which include the 2017 Clunies Ross Innovation Award, and the 2017 AGM Michell Medal.

Knowledge Sharing News

Putting the "A" in STEAM: Robotic art at the World Science Festival

Image Credit: T.J. Thomson

Advances in digital technology are occurring at dizzying speeds, giving rise to the challenge of sustainable resource and energy consumption. Increasingly, the need for creative applications of scientific knowledge is becoming recognised as necessary in solving complex problems.
There is an acknowledged need to integrate arts within areas of Science Technology Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) in tackling complex problems. The result is growing advocacy for “STEAM” as a conceptual foundation for education. Gonski 2.0 reinforces this trend as a cross-curricular approach to education launched by the Australian federal government.

[small-quote name=”Bronwen Wade-Leeuwen, Jessica Vovers and Melissa Silk” title=””]STEM represents science, technology, engineering and maths. “STEAM” represents STEM plus the arts – humanities, language arts, dance, drama, music, visual arts, design and new media.[/small-quote]

The World Science Festival seeks to inspire visitors to wonder about the world around us. It educates children and adults alike about the value of science, and importantly, encourages consideration of the future ramifications of scientific developments.
The 2019 Asia-Pacific World Science Festival attracted over 200,000 people from Brisbane and beyond to explore the wonders of science. Here, Design Robotics showcased one of our latest project developments – a robot artist able to draw your portrait.

Amelia Luu, Dr Jared Donovan and Alan Burden (Image Credit: Cori Stewart)

Led by Dr Jared Donovan, with Mechatronics Engineer Amelia Luu and PhD student Alan Burden, along with a UR5, the robot produced almost 200 individual portraits for festival attendees. Human-computer interaction enabled the art-making, with users able to adjust a desired image via the software interface, changing the look of the sketches. Once happy with their portrait, the information was then sent to the robot to draw.  
[small-quote name=”Alan Burden” title=””]“The robot is able to make a very rough sketch in under 60 seconds, but the best results take around two to three minutes.”[/small-quote]

How does it work?

Complete with a 3D printed end-effector designed specifically for the task, the UR5 robotic arm was up to the task – now able to hold the three pens required to draw the portraits.

Image Credit: T.J. Thomson

With software able to run on a standard computer, an image of the subject is captured using a webcam. This image file is passed through filters within the program that use a series of algorithms to determine a final abstract version of the image. These abstract ‘sketches’ represent three variations – or layers – of lines that are combined to make up the final portrait drawing. The robot is then programmed to draw those layers onto the canvas using a Grasshopper plugin for Rhinoceros 3D. The three drawings are overlaid to create the portrait.

Image Credit: T.J. Thomson

[small-quote name=”Alan Burden” title=””]“Three different filters make the three variations of linework or sketches. When combined, the three sketches make the abstract image that the robot is programmed to draw on the canvas.”[/small-quote]
The exhibit was an enormous success, with visitors able to see how robots can act as co-creators through human-computer interaction, transforming digital images into collaborative art.
Reference to The Conversation Article: Explainer: what’s the difference between STEM and STEAM?

Industry News Knowledge Sharing News

Opening Gateways for Design Robotics

Photo Credit: UAP (Photography by Leah Desborough)

UAP and Design Robotics attended and presented at the evening event Digital Gateways, in February – a gathering of digital visionaries showcasing and experiencing some of the latest advances in digital engineering technology.
Global engineering and infrastructure advisory company, Aurecon, hosted the event. The presentations and displays focused on the integration of design and engineering with current digital tools and methodologies. Aurecon showcased their digital capabilities to clients along with SightLab, Unsigned Studio and external exhibitors Quartile One and Design Robotics/UAP.
Lewis Humphries from UAP and Dr Jared Donovan from Design Robotics presented about the digital tools employed by UAP and Design Robotics to enhance design methodologies. They described how cutting-edge digital design practices of architects and artists are pushing the limits of traditional fabrication techniques. Dr Donovan introduced the Design Robotics project as one that is exploring and developing ways to address the challenges inherent in modern-day manufacturing. The potential of incorporating robotic vision technologies was discussed, as well as human-centred design into the development of robotics systems for mass-customisation manufacturing.
Photo Credit: Aurecon (Photography by Leah Desborough)

Held at Aurecon’s new 25 King Street office in Brisbane, attendees included Transport and Main Roads (TMR), Transurban, Lend Lease, Government representatives, BHP, and Rio Tinto among others. Topics included Virtual Reality, real-time visualisation platforms, Augmented Reality applications such as topographic contour line sandboxes and GIS/mapping, advanced data analytics and machine learning, and digitised estates.

News Project

One-on-one with Alan Burden on his PhD with QUT and UAP

[small-quote name=”UAP” title=””]Not long ago industrial robots were the focus of science fiction. Today, they are found on every manufacturing factory floor around the world. Believing that industrial robotics is the next frontier for many industries, Alan Burden joined UAP’s Design Robotics team.[/small-quote]

Photo Credit: IMCRC

Recently Alan Burden was interviewed by the IMCRC about the pathway taken to his current PhD in Design Robotics, and his experiences in industry-led research.
Read the interview here:

Industry News News

Continuing Professional Development: Advanced Manufacturing Advancing Architecture

The world of advanced manufacturing and design robotics was brought to a group of Brisbane architects in February. UAP hosted its first Continuing Professional Development (CPD) Standards Workshop Tour designed to help architects understand different design techniques, from traditional processes to advanced manufacturing.
A Code of Professional Conduct binds architects, requiring that members dedicate themselves to the advancement of architecture, and ultimately the quality of our environment and people’s lives.  
[small-quote name=”RAIA Code of Professional Conduct” title=””]The profession of architecture is a unique discipline, combining elements of art, science, commerce and law.[/small-quote]

Photo Credit: UAP

Participants were able to earn accreditation points through this formal CPD activity. First, the group were given a presentation by Samuel Mayze, UAP Project Director and New Projects Manager, they heard about UAP’s ongoing collaborations with emerging and established artists, architects and designers around the world.
Dr Glenda Caldwell of the Design Robotics team delivered a presentation on the potential of Robotics and Advanced Manufacturing techniques in design and construction.
Participants were invited to tour the UAP workshop, observing the dynamic creative environment characterised by the integration of art, architecture, design, innovation and advanced manufacturing.
Photo Credit: UAP

During the tour, participants observed how UAP is using Virtual Reality headsets and software to visualise the scale and context of artworks in development.
Photo Credit: UAP

Furthering learning about design is one of the four units of competency for Continuing Professional Development (CPD) of registered architects in Australia. Workshops will run bi-monthly, linking in with the Architects Accreditation Council of Australia (AACA) National Competency Standards in Architecture.
Future CPD event dates are:

  • Fri 26th April
  • Fri 21st June
  • Fri 23rd August
  • Fri 25th October

For more information see:

Knowledge Sharing News

Design Robotics at the Woodford Festival

Image Source: Woodford Folk Festival

Woodford is an annual folk festival held in Queensland, Australia. Known for its vibrant and eclectic culture, it is the largest gathering of musicians, artists and speakers in Australia. Every December over 130,000 people travel from all around, pitch their tents, and settle in to enjoy six days and nights of music and art.
At the recent 34th Woodford Festival, one of the 438 acts was a presentation by Dr Glenda Caldwell from Design Robotics. Dr Caldwell brought art and robotics to the festival, discussing new transdisciplinary approaches to design through architecture, interaction design, human-computer interaction and robotics.

During the presentation, Glenda Caldwell said that the ability to see is critical to the advancement of design robotics. An idea not only described in terms of the capabilities of robots assisting us in creative processes but the vision we hold for the future of humanity. This vision is safeguarded by learning from the past and acknowledging the present, as the natural world and digital world entwine, Dr Caldwell stated.
[small-quote name=”Glenda Caldwell” title=””]This discussion and these considerations need to be continued beyond now, beyond this festival and into our classrooms, our research, and much farther. [/small-quote]

Panel Discussion

A panel discussion was also held on Designing the future with artificial intelligence joined by Dr Glenda Caldwell, Professor Janet Wiles and Dr Erica Mealy.

The connecting thread throughout the discussion was an essential human component to robotic technologies, where robots learn from people and assist them rather than replace them. Glenda explained that the ultimate goal of Design Robotics and UAP’s work is achieving the artist, designer or architect’s intent.
The potential of robotic manufacturing technology lies in its versatility, and its ability to accommodate different levels of engagement and integration with the technology throughout the creative process. “How we incorporate robotic technology that responds to the end user is really critical in what we’re doing,” Glenda explained,  “we want the interface to be usable for as many people as possible in the manufacturing environment”.
The discussion was later aired as a Big Ideas episode on ABC Radio National.

Industry News Knowledge Sharing News

Open Innovation: The future of creative collaboration

In a fast-paced world where the entrepreneur is king, collaborative innovation is frequently hindered by issues of intellectual property and restrictions around knowledge-use. Open innovation is countering this closed model of knowledge-production, seeking to bring openness to research and facilitate opportunities for impact and value creation for cross-sectoral stakeholders.
The QUT Institute for Future Environments (IFE) Transforming Innovation Systems Platform hosted a business breakfast and research workshop last week exploring current ideas and future opportunities of open innovation. Both events were supported by the QUT Design Lab, QUT Business School and IMCRC Design Robotics Open Innovation Network. The events sought to connect research and industry, sparking opportunities for collaborative research partnerships.

Left to right: Lisa Cavallaro, David Chuter, QUT Vice-Chancellor Margaret Sheil, the Hon. Kate Jones MP, Professor Marcel Bogers, and Dr Ian Dover.

Visiting Professor Marcel Bogers of the University of Copenhagen enriched both events with his insights about the design, organisation and management of technology, innovation and entrepreneurship.
[small-quote name=”Bogers et al. (2018)” title=]”Open innovation has become a new paradigm for organizing innovation … Open innovation assumes that firms can and should use external ideas as well as internal ideas, and internal as well as external paths to market, as they look to advance their innovations.”[/small-quote]

Research Workshop

Research into Open Innovation is emerging mainly from the business sphere, but it presents exciting possibilities when it comes to collaboration between industry and design researchers. This benefit is mutual, with design able to enrich innovative business models as an inherently user-centric form of practice.
During the “From Open Innovation to Open Research” workshop, over 20 researchers came together, including Dr Prithika Randhawa from the University of Technology Sydney, Business School who assisted in facilitating the event.
Participants discussed the detrimental impact of “silo thinking” as a barrier to Open Innovation, as opposed to models that embrace a diverse range of disciplinary knowledge and skills. “It was great to see different researchers brought together from disciplines such as business and design,” Glenda Caldwell of the Design Robotics team said, “we found common ground through this concept of Open Innovation, and were quickly able to overcome any disciplinary boundaries.”
[small-quote name=”Marcel Bogers”]We are looking inside out and also outside in when it comes to openness and participation between organisations[/small-quote]
Participants also grappled with the complexities of engaging multiple stakeholders with diverse interests, as well as the impact of institutional aspects of policy-making and participatory governance. Open Innovation was frequently described as a form of ecosystem in which the key to success is in striking a balance between value creation and empowerment for each of the stakeholders.

Business Breakfast

The Open Innovation Breakfast was hosted on 15 February at QUT by the IFE Transforming Innovation Systems Platform, bringing together over 80 industry, government and academic representatives.

The Hon. Kate Jones MP

Opened by the Honourable Kate Jones, Minister for Innovation and Tourism Industry Development, and attended by QUT Vice-Chancellor Margaret Sheil the event linked research, practice and policy. Speakers included Dr Ian Dover, CEO of METS Ignited, Lisa Cavallaro, Industry Development Manager of Brisbane Marketing, David Chuter, CEO Managing Director, Innovative Manufacturing CRC, and Professor Marcel Bogers provided a fresh outlook on the current challenges and future opportunities for Open Innovation.
Reference: Bogers, M., Chesbrough, H., Moedas, C. (2018). Open Innovation: Research, Practices, and Policies. California Management Review, 60(2), 5-16.