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CLOUD AFFECTS | WITH PHILIP SAMARTZIS & ROLAND SNOOKS


Cloud Affects, insitu, Shenzhen Biennale. Photo: RMIT University

Cloud Affects is a large-scale architectural installation by Associate Professor Roland Snooks, Chief Investigator, Design Robotics, and Associate Professor Philip Samartzis, sound artist. Crafted using algorithmic generative design and robot-assisted additive manufacturing, this work explores the impact of cloud computing. Often thought of as immaterial and benign, the cloud is, in fact, a vast ecosystem of over 40 billion devices, powered by a network of energy-hungry data centres, which will consume as much as twenty percent of the earth’s energy generation by 2025. This novel research outcome operated as an agent for meaningful public engagement, as well as an exemplar of the structural potential of 3D printed assemblages.

Roland_Snooks_3D_Assemblage
Robotic-assisted 3D Assemblage, Urban Art Projects, Brisbane
agentBody Algorithms & Topological Complexity

Snooks and Laura Harper, Roland Snooks Studio, explain in their paper, “Printed Assemblages: A Co-Evolution of Composite Techtonics and Additive Manufacturing Techniques” (FABRICATE 2020), how Cloud Affect was designed using an agentBody algorithm. This behavioural formation process combined form, structure and ornament into topologically-complex lattices and surfaces. These architectural behaviours establish local relationships between material elements. Such interaction is driven by direct criteria, like structural or programmatic requirements, or more esoteric concerns relating to the generation of form or pattern.
Snooks and Harper explain the evolution of this process:
“This methodology, which has been in development since 2002, draws on the logic of swarm intelligence and operates through multi-agent algorithms (Snooks, 2020). Swarm intelligence describes the collective behaviour of decentralised systems, in which the non-linear interaction of its constituent parts self-organise to generate emergent behaviour (Bonabeau et al., 1999). Repositioning this logic as an architectural design process involves encoding architectural design intention within computational agents. It is the interaction of these agents that leads to a self-organisation of design intention and the generation of emergent architectural forms and organisational patterns.” (2020, p.204).

Installing Cloud Affect. Photo: RMIT University
Advanced Manufacturing Cloud Affects

Snooks and his team manifested their emergent form using carbon fibre and large-scale robot-assisted 3D-printing. Essentially, the internal lattice became a structural skeleton, containing a series of hollow formworks, enclosed in a second translucent skin. In addition, the inner and outer geometries were periodically laminated to ensure structural rigidity. Each joint was resolved by casting laser-cut steel plates into the carbon fibre. Certainly, the use of this technology increased quality, reduced risk, and resulted in more efficient workflows.
Cloud Affects demonstrates that structure is not subservient to the geometry of the skin (such as taping to inflatable or printed surfaces) or the convergence to physically efficient forms (such as minimal surfaces), but instead, structure and skin negotiate a nuanced interrelationship with the capacity to generate complex and intricate form. Given the limitations of the printing bed, the final work was designed a series of pre-fabricated components with the capacity to be disassembled. Snooks discusses this process in detail in Inside the Learning Factory: Architectural Robotics.
The final outcome draws complex data design and manufacturing processes into focus, questioning how viewers might feel about the most sophisticated technologies – software, AI, and algorithms – all powered by polluting carbon-based systems that contribute to Climate change. In contrast, the 3D printing process resulted in a form of digital craft akin to coiling in pottery or basketry, creating a tactile surface capable of refracting light and drawing viewers to the piece. This juxtaposition between tangible and intangible materials, technology and making, old and new processes, creates a powerful pause for thought.

Cloud Affects Assembly in process. Photo: RMIT University
Design Robotics & Futuremaking

This project attempted to reify a structure from the nebulous via a process of futuremaking: to materialise and express intangible algorithms and make real the energy required to prop up the virtual cloud. In manifesting the tangible, it sought to offer a new architectural geometric expression, one that can only emerge from the use of advanced computation within both the design and robotic fabrication processes.
Future cities will increasingly rely on advanced cloud computing, from simple algorithmic procedures to artificial intelligence, for their design, construction and infrastructural logistics. These cloud-based algorithms become the unseen structural framework behind the evolution of urbanism and architecture. Using technology to assess impact and evolve material outcomes inevitably evokes conversations beyond the realms of art, architecture and design.



This article is adapted from:
Samartzis, Philip “Cloud Affects” Bogong Sound, Bogong Centre for Sound, 30 March 2020, http://bogongsound.com.au/projects/cloud-affects. Accessed 20 Oct. 2020.
Snooks, Roland, and Laura Harper. “Printed Assemblages: A Co-Evolution of Composite Techtonics and Additive Manufacturing Techniques.” FABRICATE 2020: Making Resilient Architecture, by Jane Burry et al., UCL Press, London, 2020, pp. 202–209. JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctv13xpsvw.31. Accessed 19 Oct. 2020.

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A LIFETIME OF SUMMERS | WITH NIKE SAVVAS & UAP

A Lifetime of Endless Summers from below

There is a dusting of jolly confetti falling gracefully from the ceiling of The Exchange, Sydney, the spiralling, light-filled hive, commissioned by Lendlease Australia, and designed by Kengo Kuma & Associates. A Lifetime of Endless Summers by renowned artist Nike Savvas, cascades in shades of yellow, orange, pink, green, and blue, capturing the wind, coaxing the harbour breeze indoors. In order to deliver this piece, in collaboration with Savvas, Urban Art Projects (UAP) experimented with interaction design using Augmented Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR) technology.

The view from inside the HoloLens
Interaction Design (Wind)

The freedom to explore and experiment consistently drove this project forward, into new and unexpected territory, not least because this was a complex and varied piece. The artwork covers a 12-metre diametre and comprises 9,200 aluminium tabs finished in numerous fluorescent paint finishes. Each component was suspended via a system of 715 ultra-fine wire cables that fixed directly into the ceiling.
Once Savvas and Lendlease reached a consensus regarding the immersive experience, wind testing was employed at the UAP’s Brisbane foundry.  In fabrication, the team determined the precise spacing requirements. This involved regulating clear gaps to prevent individual wire drops from getting knotted and twisted. This kind of optimised precision enabled each wire drop to gently oscillate, delivering a range of sensations via an interplay between gentle breezes and the kinetic field of colour.
In production, the aluminium components were carefully designed and mounted to sway at random angles between an approximate range of 0-45 degrees. Each wire was placed at a minimum midpoint of 300 millimetres, with an extra 600-gram weight appended at the end to ensure just the right amount of gravity and sway.

AR & VR Solutions

The piece was successfully delivered using AR HoloLens headsets and Fologram VR mixed-reality software to manage the complexities of the installation on-site; a process that flawlessly encapsulates Savvas’ sense of playful ingenuity, and UAP’s commitment to delivering cutting-edge solutions built on a combination of value-added processes and technological innovation.
UAP also employed these tried and tested AR and VR technologies during the documentation and installation stage. This allowed the installation team to move freely, whilst skillfully navigating and visualizing each focal point via a direct overlay of digital elements amidst what already existed in the physical world.
Using Hologram and Fologram allowed UAP’s craft makers to execute the exact placement of the drill holes. The same holes were then carefully matched with the suspended wire drops and ceiling trays, which sat over-and-above a circular ceiling between the market hall and mezzanine restaurant. All those involved across the process remain extremely positive and enthusiastic about their experience and its impact on the outcome. Seamlessly combining AR and VR construction not only made for a safer work environment but saved days of time, opening up opportunities to integrate human creativity and intuition into the process.
Advanced manufacturing systems and technologies helped reduce the occurrence of human errors, which reduced the risks and costs traditionally involved in bespoke design and construction. As such, the use of Fologram and HoloLens delivered continuous engagement, and the opportunity to expand the scope of vision systems in design-led manufacturing.

Detail, confetti components
Delivering Bespoke Outcomes

As in many industries, technological advances and human artistry in manufacturing and design are converging. Whilst some fear that automation will kill jobs, Design Robotics and UAP recognise the important role technological advances play in supporting skilled workers. Human/robot interaction not only assists in the completion of tedious and repetitive tasks but also reduces risk. In this context, human partners are free to explore creative tasks, which has a direct impact on productivity and wellbeing.
Via the support of the Innovative Manufacturing Cooperative Research Centre (IMCRC), Design Robotics and UAP have partnered to present a range of new possibilities. The goal is simple – to design for human intelligence and optimize the relationship between people and machines. Watch this space as Design Robotics and UAP are committed to operating at the forefront of novel solutions, meshing technology with human creativity to explore a myriad of new possibilities.
A Lifetime of Summers launches a long-term commitment to robotic vision systems and software user-interfaces that enhance and support skilled workers. Associate Professor Dr. Glenda Caldwell, Cheif Investigator, Design Robotics described the process as “…the opportunity to work collaboratively with robotic technologies to decrease human risk in manufacturing and increase innovation and creativity”.
Reimagining the design process and pushing boundaries in industrial robotic capabilities empowers people to navigate increasing workplace complexity. At its heart, this work identifies what robots and machines do best – problem-solving, and matches it with what humans do best – social intelligence and contextual understanding. This symbiosis creates resilient outcomes, and enhanced processes, firmly placing Australia at the forefront of innovation and enterprise.
https://www.facebook.com/uapco/videos/2906429592742845/

Entering the artwork
The Concept of Freedom

Thanks to collaborative partnerships, like Design Robotics and UAP, embracing technology ensures value-added mass customization. With an eye on addressing logistical complexities, solving engineering challenges, and meeting tight deadlines. In this context, artists, like Savvas, can focus their attention on creative potential. This not only informs the work of the Design Robotics team but fosters a culture of cross-germination and skills acquisition, which impacts UAP’s crafts makers and the manufacturing sector Australia-wide, and internationally.
On one hand, A Lifetime of Summers is playful, teasing the vibrant kinesis between form, wind, and colour. Equally, it is profound in the pursuit of meaning. By simply standing beneath it, viewers are transported into a hypnotic trance, revelling and reflecting whilst charmed by a sense of freedom and the optimism of endless summers. Yet, few will appreciate the cutting-edge approaches that were applied in its making – that’s our little secret.

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BOY WALKING | WITH RONNIE VAN HOUT & UAP

Artist Interview: Ronnie van Hout from UAP Company on Vimeo.

Captured in mid-motion, lost in thought, is a giant figure dubbed, Boy Walking by artist Ronnie van Hout. This towering landmark situated in a civic parkland along the Dominion Road edge of Balmoral’s Potters Park in Auckland, New Zealand, was commissioned by Auckland Council and manufactured by Urban Art Projects (UAP) over the course of 18 months. Fabricated using a relatively new process including robotic milling and 3D technology, this work tells the story of van Hout’s commitment to experimentation.

The human scale at work
Why so Big?

The mammoth cast aluminum sculpture stands tall at 5.6 metres, with a horizontal dimension of 2.9 metres by 1.75 metres. Van Hout’s intention was to deliver a sense of scale and proportion with respect to human form and the surrounding landscape. As we grow, our relative scale in relation to objects shifts. In this sense, the sculpture is only large in relation to other human bodies. Van Hout jovially describes it as, “…kind of a child-made giant”.

Fabricating the head
Robots, AR, & VR

To bring Boy Walking to life, van Hout had his son digitally scanned in a striding pose, then scaled up to full size using a 3D modeling software. The fabrication of the sculpture involved a time-consuming and exacting process, including efficiency in grinding, filing, sanding, painting, and cleaning. Design Robotics worked closely with UAP’s craft makers to enhance existing knowledge in robotic fabrication.
From material selection, to design documentation, and advanced manufacturing efficiencies were built into the workflows. Virtual Reality (VR), via the use of Fologram mixed reality software, assisted patternmakers in evaluating and refining the 3-D digital model. This resulted in a segmented approach, whereby the form was cut into smaller, manageable sections in preparation for robotic milling.
A robotic arm was used for pattern milling, which at the time of fabrication was a relatively new process for UAP’s Brisbane foundry. Each pattern was cast individually in aluminium, and welded together to create the complete sculpture. In the painting process, Augmented Reality (AR) HoloLens headsets with Fologram were used to further extend human ingenuity by producing a vision of stripes and blocked colors over the actual work. This enabled the painters to clearly visualize and mask out specific sections, increasing the efficiency and accuracy of the painting process.

Matt at work, perfecting the stripes
Happy Painters Craft Perfect Stripes

According to UAP’s expert painter, Matt, the marking process took approximately one hour, where normally it would have taken him up to three hours. Van Hout remains captivated by the quality and accuracy of the painted stripe pattern Boy Walking’s shirt: “The overall finish is amazing! The paint finish turned out so much better than I would have expected.” To achieve such fine results, UAP experimented with a proprietary Grasshopper tool, which allowed them to reposition and refine the 3D model multiple times in virtual space. The outcome was then recalibrated in AR prior to the painting process.
AR also allowed van Hout and UAP’s team to visualize the size of the sculpture in relation to the site. This technology helped in assessing the overall aesthetic of the work, informing design changes and improvements throughout the production process. For those involved in the craft making process, incorporating advanced manufacturing technologies was like having an extension of the hand.  For van Hout, the process assisted him in maintaining the conceptual integrity of his vision. When asked about his thoughts on the process, without hesitation he jumped at the chance: “It would be great to experiment with this [again] in the future and see what is possible.”

Boy Walking insitu, Auckland, New Zealand
Design Robotics, UAP, & IMCRC

Through the Innovative Manufacturing Cooperative Research Centre (IMCRC), Design Robotics is collaborating with UAP to explore the use of robotic vision systems and smart software user-interfaces to streamline the process between design and custom manufacturing. Enhancing UAP’s ability to manufacture high-value products while reducing the time and cost of manufacturing, the project is an industry-leading initiative that provides not just a competitive advantage to UAP, but benefits manufacturers across Australia.

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THE CANOPY | CRAFTING COMPLEX CURVES WITH AR & VR

Luke Harris | One Melbourne Quarter from UAP Company on Vimeo.

Leading architecture studio, Woods Bagot, has delivered a striking homage to fishing in the foyer of their new mixed-use development, One Melbourne Quarter. Fishing nets are a powerful cultural motif in Australia, particularly for First Nations people. The Canopy references indigenous net making and acknowledges an important connection to the traditional owners of the Yarra River – the Bunurong Boon Wurrung and Wurundjeri Woi Wurrung peoples of the Eastern Kulin Nation. The result, a striking stainless-steel installation, delivered by Urban Art Projects (UAP) using Augmented Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR).

The Canopy insitu at One Melbourne Quarter
The Canopy Design

The Canopy is a graceful sculpture composed of two floating elements: a sizeable piece made of steel poised atop the main vestibule of the busy commercial tower; and, a sleek, smaller form, placed above the building’s indoor café and bar. Award-winning property developers Lendlease Australia invited UAP to operate as manufacturing partners, working closely with Woods Bagot in decrypting this complex architectural vision and fabrication workflow.

UAP team member marking the exact position of the rods with HoloLens
AR & VR Solutions

To the untrained eye, the sleek design of The Canopy appears to be a simple and clean ring of steel. However, Woods Bagot’s design was beautifully complex, incorporating an array of compound curves. This challenge was addressed by a team of craft makers, designers, and roboticists from across Design Robotics and UAP. This was the first project in which the team employed the use of AR and VR, specifically HoloLens headsets, and Fologram mixed reality software.
Ordinarily, documentation and fabrication processes are exacting and time-consuming – requiring high-levels of accuracy and efficiency, alongside many drawings. In contrast, HoloLens and Fologram governed the exact placement of each piece, including the drill holes. Fologram is unique in that it allows users to directly engage with making across the physical/digital divide. This technology enabled the team to move freely, whilst skillfully navigating and visualizing each point exactly, via a direct overlay of digital elements.

New Ways of Seeing

For Design Robotics, UAP, and Woods Bagot the entire process proved to be an exciting exploration into new ways of seeing. The application of AR and VR transported the time-consuming documentation process off the paper and onto the workshop floor. According to UAP’s experienced technical designer, Luke:
Traditionally we’d measure and mark these points using a series of workshop drawings. The advantage of this headset is we don’t need to create this time-consuming document. The headset does away with this process entirely. The ability to see virtually what you are making has huge benefits, and this technology will only get better and easier to use.
Luke also explained how it took roughly 6 hours to identify and directly mark out each connection point for the 450 rods. Normally, without the benefit of Fologram and HoloLens, this would have involved a lengthy back-and-forth process, taking approximately 3 days to complete. This left time for the same technology to be used in assessing aesthetic quality, which involved an organized system of iterative design changes and improvements throughout fabrication.

The view from inside the HoloLens

All those involved in the project were positive about their user experience and the outcome. For those directly involved in fabrication, incorporating advanced manufacturing technologies offered greater control and resulted in a heightened-level of calibrated precision.

UAP's team refining The Canopy
The Future of Manufacturing

This project heralds a long-term commitment to the use of AR and VR in the design and fabrication workflows. Through the Innovative Manufacturing Cooperative Research Centre (IMCRC), Design Robotics and UAP are collaborating to present a range of new possibilities. The goal is simple – to design for human intelligence and optimize the relationship between people and machines.
Making headway in the design process and pushing the boundaries in industrial robotics is a move to empower people. Navigating the increasing complexity of manufacturing inevitably supports human experience and enhances skills acquisition. At its heart, this approach celebrates the best of what robots and machines can achieve – problem-solving, and the best of what humans can do – social intelligence and contextual understanding.
It is important to both Design Robotics and UAP that every artist is an integral partner in technological experimentation, in order to inform creative concepts, design thinking, and enhanced workflows. In turn, this enables UAP’s craft makers to fulfill their creative potential resulting in dedicated skills acquisition. Ultimately, AR and VR are not used to initiate a race between robots and humans, but instead, they foster a relay in which the baton is passed from one to the other until the finish line is in sight.
 
 
 

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FLOURISH | WITH KATRINA TYLER & UAP

Child at play amidst Flourish

Katrina Tyler’s artwork Flourish is a richly symbolic sculpture for Newport Waterside Park, a state-of-the-art recreational park in the Moreton Bay Region, Queensland. The interactive piece uses material, process, and form to explore the activity and diversity of those coral species that inhabit areas of the Bay. Design Robotics and Urban Art Projects (UAP) employed Augmented Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR) to streamline the workflow. Comprising five pier-like vertical elements, each created from a cluster of hand-beaten discs, this work is a shining example of the unity between physical and digital making.

UAP team members fabricating Flourish using HoloLens & Fologram
Experimenting with AR & VR

The five totems that makeup Flourish are between 2,500 millimeters and 3,000 millimeters high. Each vertical element was carefully crafted from a cluster of hand-beaten discs that were individually heated and power-hammered before being welded and finished by hand.
No two discs were alike, as such, scaling, sorting, and placing each component was potentially a costly and time-consuming process. Following a period of sketching and modelling in 3D, each of the 5 elements were color-coded, after which fabrication began. During the welding process, AR HoloLens headsets with VR Fologram mixed-reality software were adopted to aid in the construction process. This technology assisted in determining the orientation and placement of each of the 316 stainless-steel discs. The same process was then used to assess the aesthetic quality of the work, resulting in a well-organized system for iterative design improvements.
Tyler spoke enthusiastically about the use of AR and VR in the fabrication stage:
I was really excited and intrigued at how this new technology was going to be employed, and curious about the specifics of how it will be operatedthe finished work has surpassed my expectations!  It’s amazing how the use of highly intricate and advanced technology was key in executing a harmonious and organic finish for the work.  The way the texture of the hammered stainless-steel catches and reflects light enhances the sense of movement and activity I was aiming to capture.

UAP team members placing the discs using HoloLens & Fologram
The Future of Manufacturing

This project heralds a long-term commitment to the use of AR and VR in the design and fabrication workflows. Through the Innovative Manufacturing Cooperative Research Centre (IMCRC), Design Robotics and UAP are collaborating to present a range of new possibilities. The goal is simple – to design for human intelligence and optimize the relationship between people and machines.
Making headway in the design process and pushing the boundaries in industrial robotic capabilities is a move to empower people. Navigating the increasing complexity of manufacturing inevitably supports human experience and enhances skills acquisition. At its heart, this approach celebrates the best of what robots and machines can achieve – problem-solving, and the best of what humans can do – social intelligence and contextual understanding.
It is important to both Design Robotics and UAP that every artist is an integral partner in technological experimentation, in order to inform creative concepts, design thinking, and enhanced workflows. In turn, this enables UAP’s craft makers to fulfill their creative potential resulting in dedicated skills acquisition. Ultimately, AR and Vision Systems are not used to initiate a race between robots and humans, but instead, they foster a relay in which the baton is passed from one to the other until the finish line is in sight.
 
 

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WOMEN IN STEM | ROBOTIC FUTURES

For International Women’s Day in early March 2020, members of QUT’s Design Robotics team, Dr Muge Belek Fialho Teixeira, Amelia Luu and Dr Cori Stewart, participated in panel discussions focusing on women’s careers. The following reflections on their career journeys and interest in Design Robotics were inspired by the conversations at these events.

Dr Muge Belek Fialho Teixeira

Dr Muge Belek Fialho Teixeira is a Senior Lecturer in QUT Interior Architecture. At the same time, she is a creative maker and transdisciplinary designer with specialisations in advanced manufacturing, digital fabrication, and parametric design. She is also one of the Chief Investigators of QUT’s Design Robotics project and ARM Hub. 

First job

My first job was volunteering at a music festival in Istanbul. I am originally from Istanbul, and the Istanbul Music Festival was one of the most inspiring music events in the city. My first professional job was working in an architectural office as an intern. I remember spending all the summer going through their material library, sorting and updating the dusty shelves full of various architectural materials and catalogues. There wasn’t Material ConneXion at the time, so the only way to find out about materials was to give the companies a call and ask for a postal delivery.

Career moments

I had several pivotal points in my career. The first one was my move to London and studying at the Architectural Association (AA) Design Research Laboratory. It changed my life in many ways: one, I got to meet my partner in life and work; and the other, I got to work with one of the most influential women in the history of architecture, Zaha Hadid.
The second pivotal point in my career was my move to Santa Barbara to UCSB, where I got to work in a very transdisciplinary environment. During my PhD, I spent two years in Translab researching immersive environments and acoustics, under the supervision of Markus Novak at UCSB Media Arts and Technology program. I had the opportunity to work with inspiring people such as Yutaka Makino, Haru Hyunkyung Ji, Graham Wakefield and Mark-David Hosale.
My last pivotal point is the move to Brisbane and beginning to work with the QUT Design Robotics Project.

Challenges

Juggling the work/life balance is one of the greatest challenges in our field. As a woman, if you want to become a mother, you need to have career breaks. This has a huge impact on the progress of your career, or the people’s perception of what you can or can’t do. For me, my partner is the greatest supporter to help me navigate this. He is always there for me and supports me in achieving my goals. Also, here in Australia, there are special support programs and exemptions for female academics to progress with their careers. As women, we shouldn’t give up on our dreams and seek opportunities and mentors that support us in achieving them.

Wishlist for Design Robotics

More support for women through flexible work hours; professional development support through leadership courses, mentoring, and training; allowing younger generations to be exposed to the potentials of design robotics through STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Maths) workshops.

Inspirations

My biggest inspiration was Zaha Hadid. My background is in architecture, and as a profession, architecture is also a very male-dominant world. In fact, it has been affected by the #MeToo movement immensely. As an Iraqi woman, who had migrated to the UK in the early 70s, Zaha Hadid later became British and was appointed Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire (DBE). She was the first woman to win the Pritzker prize. She was an influential and inspiring woman and I was very lucky to work with her, right after graduating from the AA.

The importance of visibility

My current research takes place in the manufacturing industry, which as you might know is a very male-dominant industry. Therefore, it is important to represent women in this industry by being present at events such as “Women in Manufacturing Breakfasts”, Women in Technology platforms, etc…
As an academic, there are many ways women are supported, especially in QUT. QUT is part of an initiative called “The Athena SWAN Accreditation Framework”, which is part of SAGE (Science in Australia Gender Equity) and supports female researchers/ academics by providing special funding, organising Women in Stem workshops, writing retreats. Currently, I receive a grant from the QUT Women in Research Grant worth $10,000 for conducting research on Robotic Clay Cutting. I believe it is important to get stronger as a woman, so that we can mentor and support younger women to be more successful.

The change we need

I believe we should support each other and grow together. In the QUT Design Robotics research group, we have amazing women and men who mentor, guide and support one another. So far, it has been an amazing environment to work in. In general, women need to put aside negative competition and support each other more. We need to know that the more we share, the better we will all get from this collective sharing environment.

Advice to younger women

Ignore prejudices on what you can do. Focus on what you want to do and what you want to learn to be the best in your field. Surround yourself with people who are supportive and positive and keep yourself away from those who are negative and self-centred.
Believe in yourself! Women are strong and empowering! Step up with your dreams!

Amelia Luu

Amelia Luu is a mechatronics engineer within QUT’s Design Robotics project, where she works with industry partner UAP, a large-scale art manufacturing company, researching how to embed robotics into their workflow. I am currently developing an autonomous system to linish cast aluminium pieces.

First job

The first job I ever had was in high school working at a little juice bar in the city. I have a vivid memory of them letting 15-year old me use a machete to slice a watermelon. It was amazing fun and a great first introduction to a working environment!
My first STEM-related job was during my Mechatronic Engineering Bachelor’s degree. I worked with a research group in QUT named Biofabrication and Tissue Morphology, a lab run by Professor Mia Woodruff. They are researching advanced manufacturing in the context of fabricating patient-specific biomedical solutions. An example of this was my final year project where I designed a photogrammetry rig to help instantaneously capture a person’s face in order to 3D print custom moulds for transparent facial mask fabrication used in burn treatments. This is the kind of work that led me to custom manufacturing in Design Robotics.

Career moments

I was always interested in science, and biology in particular, and honestly chose engineering on a whim due to my general interest in STEM topics. At the end of my first year, I came across a TED talk that made all the difference: Hugh Herr’s work in bionics. He is an Associate Professor currently leading a Biomechatronics group at MIT. In this TED talk, he presented their work that helped a dancer who had lost her leg in the Boston bombings perform again. It was this TED talk and Herr’s passion that inspired me to pursue a career that could combine science, assistive technology and engineering together.

Challenges

There are definitely challenges with being a young Asian female in a white male-dominated industry, though I believe most of these challenges are a result of their unconscious bias. Rarely will people directly admit they have less regard for me because I am a woman. Instead, the challenges typically show up in more subtle or passive aggressive ways. For instance, despite being brought on a project as the only robotics expert, my advice was never trusted, always second guessed and was only taken seriously if another man agreed with me. Another example would be when I was in a discussion with a male colleague and a client. Even though I was the one leading the discussion and facilitating the meeting, the client always answered my questions to the male colleague and never directly faced or made eye contact with me. So, it always feels like there is a constant battle for a basic level of respect.
What has helped me navigate all of this is having a network of people to talk about it with. The Design Robotics team has been great for this, as everybody is incredibly supportive and open for these difficult discussions.

Wishlist for Design Robotics

I hope that we continue working towards getting better representation across the board, and for more women in senior leadership positions. I also aspire for this industry to continue being open towards multi-disciplinary collaborations as that’s where I believe the more meaningful and higher impact projects begin and flourish.

Inspirations

All the women involved with Design Robotics are inspiring as they are all doing amazing jobs and breaking glass ceilings in their respective fields, which is wonderful to see! Another local that comes to mind is Marita Cheng; I first came across her as the founder of Robogals. She won the Young Australian of the Year award in 2012, has been recognised on various influential lists, and has done a lot in the robotics industry.

The importance of visibility

The first thing I think of is representation. Growing up, Asians were stereotypically represented as the nerd with no friends in Western media. I rarely saw an Asian woman, let alone an Asian person climbing career ladders, being CEOs or living a life similar to what I currently have. However, this is definitely changing. With movies like Crazy Rich Asians and the general rise of Asian actors in Western media, there is now a push for representation of Asian people and women in all aspects of life. Representation is important because it positively impacts people to see various potential versions of yourself, and empowers them to pursue avenues that they may not have realised were available to them.

The change we need

I believe that workplaces should be working harder to foster an environment where everybody’s voice can be heard regardless of gender or position. Inclusivity and diversity are the pillars of innovation. Ultimately, the responsibility of supporting women does not only fall on women and I think that everybody – especially people in power – should also regularly check in on their unconscious bias when making decisions.

Advice to younger women

Truly learn how to back yourself, as I think it’s ingrained in women from a young age to doubt ourselves. It’s important to remind yourself that it’s okay to ask for help and I have found that building a supportive network where you feel safe to share both the positive and uncomfortable feelings has been invaluable.

Dr Cori Stewart

Dr Cori Stewart is currently the CEO of ARM Hub, Associate Professor at QUT and a Chief Investigator on the Design Robotics project. The opportunity for Design Robotics was triggered from her relationship with UAP, which led to QUT developing the Design Robotics team.

First job

Like many of us in our group, I actually started out as a visual artist and did a lot of writing for newspapers about art as well. When I was about 25, I successfully applied to a Youth Arts Mentorship program. At the same time, I did an arts, culture and media policy degree. And then I went into the Brisbane City Council and became a Creative City policy officer. I was doing three things at once – just because I like to do it all.

Career moments

Getting into the Youth Arts mentorship program at the time was extraordinary as it was a paid mentorship for the better part of a year. We were teamed up with mentors and I got to understand how decisions on funding and policy settings were made and continue as a visual artist at the time.
Later I was appointed as the Creative City Policy Officer with the city council and it was just heaven for me: it was regular pay, and I got to work in arts and culture while cutting my teeth in managing politics and policy making. We wrote Brisbane’s Creative City Policy, which was a piece of work that remains important to me. I did my Masters degree on that and then a PhD. But in the Creative City policy officer role, I was in a terrific team, had the ability to learn, and could take the initiative to shape things. I had complete ownership of that job, which I lived and breathed for some time.
It’s also been great to watch the Design Robotics project flourish with a great number of people and diversity amongst us. It has become a touch point of what good collaboration looks like for many people, both in the project and outside it.

Challenges

I have mostly worked in industries where there were very few jobs at the top to aspire to. It has been a real challenge. It was never “Hey, this job’s for you” or “we’re thinking about you for this”. So, there is a lot of creating things from the ground up, like the ARM Hub. So, what might be a marker for me is when leaders of companies as well as research leaders bring opportunities to the ARM Hub, instead of me (and others) doing all that intense relationship development to make each opportunity happen. It would be especially significant and incredibly productive if more of our male leaders participated more in this way.

Wishlist for Design Robotics

ARM Hub grew out of the Design Robotics project, and Design Robotics forms a specialised group within ARM Hub. I hope that we continue to draw on our unique capabilities and generate a whole range of projects that transform industry and continue to collaborate in an exciting transdisciplinary manner. I also hope that we draw from the great diversity we have in the group: across genders and different cultural backgrounds. Even though we live the practice of collaboration every day, we forget sometimes that our ability to collaborate is our superpower. When we get to do interesting things in collaboration with other companies, they see it too.

Inspirations

I’m inspired by the many amazing women I get to spend my work and life with. In the cultural space, at the moment, I really, really admire the career and work of Margaret Atwood as well as Elizabeth Moss who features in Atwood’s Handmaid’s Tale. I do like Moss’s work beyond that too. I believe they’re really important icons for women.

The importance of visibility

In most of the environments I have worked there were and are a lot of women in leadership roles. But I have to say that dominantly female environments are as complicated as dominantly male environments. One reason is because as a whole, in the technology industries and in institutions including governments, women don’t often have the power networks and the financial networks. So, we were quite curtailed by that. But I did get to exist alongside a lot of women leaders.
It’s interesting that the opportunity for me to take leadership was only when I stepped outside arts and politics. Here I mean leadership where I’m running a company and have significant personal legal responsibilities. If you have a good idea, if you do the work … gosh! It’s been a lot of work. But if you just keep at it long enough and don’t crumble to that sense of imposter syndrome and learn to sit with the discomfort in all the new spaces you will enter, it is clear there is a critical role for boundary spanners who knit the whole picture together.
There was an article in the Courier Mail last week, with the headline “Tech won’t take your jobs”. It called me a tech expert and that made me very uncomfortable because I don’t see myself as a tech expert. I’m definitely a leader in the tech space but not a tech ‘expert’. While you can’t control what the media say, my first gut instinct was that the Courier Mail outed me. Of course, this is my conditioning to feel a kind of shame here, and it is the conditioning of a lot of women in their careers not to transgress boundaries and carefully manage such slippages. So, I think it is important to call out this conditioning and in response be the strong woman in unknown spaces because of what it will mean for future generations of women who will join such boundary spanning roles. I want them to know it is completely okay to sit in unknown and uncomfortable spaces, do the hard work and lead.

The change we need

I believe that anyone can look at Design Robotics as an example of watching women take on challenges with the support of a whole team. As a team we can provide diverse input that is valued across the different stakeholders and partners of the project. So, Design Robotics has become its own icon with its own value and merit. But beyond that, I still think that we women need to work together at the highest levels and demonstrate what it means to support women in the media and through political leadership. The reality is, how do we do it every day? How do we make sure that everyone has a voice given their position, gender and the knowledge they are bringing to the table? I have often not been in the position where I’ve been able to make decisions, but when I am able to influence decisions I like to check-in. When someone says, “Oh, you know she’s not ready for that opportunity”, I ask why?

Advice for younger women

Try to find those leadership opportunities and as soon as you can, take them. Be okay with big steps and not knowing everything. Leadership is about how you approach it, not what you know.
A shout out to the Design Robotics, ARM and UAP teams, and with special thanks to Dr Glenda Amayo Caldwell, Dr Claire Brophy, Dr Jing Peng, Peta Portelli, Amanda Bell, Emma Lane, and Amanda Harris.
The original article features on 12th June 2020 on Parlour. Edited by Susie Ashworth.

Categories
_ Industry News Knowledge Sharing

INDUSTRY 4.0 | THE FUTURE OF WORK


As we gear-up for digital disruption, the future of how we will live and work in Australia is uncertain. Artificial Intelligence and developments around robotic and autonomous systems of Industry 4.0 offer opportunities to rethink human/robot interaction. Design Robotics brought together academia, industry and government to this IFE Future of Working And Living Breakfast to have a connected and dynamic discussion about the development of skills, training and the question of how to shape future technologies. Hosted by QUT’s Institute for Future Environments and the Design Lab, the session began with the Hon. Cameron Dick, Minister for State Development, Infrastructure and Planning, began by reiterating the Palaszczuk Government’s vision of the advanced manufacturing sector to be an international leader by 2026 as evident by the ARM Hub partnership.

Future of Working and Living

The session began with Dr Sean Gallagher discussing how key exponential digital technology, digital hyperconnectivity and digital ecosystems is changing the face of work. He went on to discuss how digital technologies are going to take on routine and predictable tasks but the current mindset is unable to envision that future work will focus on creativity and innovation. This was illustrated through various examples such as UAP’s work with robots, remote mowing systems and a telecom company that has a specialised ‘disruption ready’ workgroup. He ended his talk with 10 ways to Reimagine Work, which included having agile flat-structured working groups, a risk-taking and resilient mindset and most importantly, that ‘ideas’ are going to be the most valuable feature of future work.

Labour in the digital economy: A looming crisis of (in)decent work? 


Prof Paula McDonald discussed the precariousness of decent work with the rise of gig work in the digital age. While the talk covered the dichotomy of technology i.e. where the price of being connected is the loss of privacy, she documented ways that workers were resisting being monitored and surveilled.  She concluded her talk by recognizing that as future work gets diverse and individualised, it is important to ensure standards of decent work and job security. 

Design Robotics: UAP’s Collaboration between IMCRC, QUT, RMIT


This talk showcased UAP’s collaboration with the IMRC, QUT, RMIT on the Design Robotics for Mass Customisation Manufacturing project (2017-2022), to use innovative robotic vision systems and software user-interfaces to reduce the integration time between design and custom manufacturing. Matthew Tobin championed the use of cross-reality technologies such as Virtual Reality (VR) and Augmented Reality (AR) in manufacturing to reduce waste, empower creative design and support shorter delivery times. 

Q&A
  • Why and how are companies in Australia using design and technologies to drive the Future of Working and Living?
  • How can Australian universities and industry work together to develop design and technologies for the Future of Working and Living?
  • How can Australian universities and industry work together to foster skill development to address how we will live and work in the future?
  • How does policy impact and inform the Future of Working and Living?
IFE FUTURE OF WORKING AND LIVING BREAKFAST

Website | Eventbrite
Date: Wed 2nd October 2019 
Time: 7am-9am
Venue: QUT Design Lab, Gardens Point.

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_ Knowledge Sharing News

JING PENG | BETTER ROBOT GRINDING

Jing Peng
Postdoctoral Research Fellow 

 
Favourite quote: “Self-discipline and Social Commitment” Tsinghua University’s motto 
Favourite Robot: Baymax, the soft inflatable robotic healthcare assistant.
Why robots?
Robots can improve the lives of people by making human work safer and more precise. For example, surgical robots can offer less pain and a faster recovery to patients.
Tell us a bit more about your background. How did you end up in Design Robotics?
My expertise is in developing ultra-precision low-damage polishing tools and machinery for chemical-mechanical polishing. I completed my BEng in Measurement, Control Technology and Instruments and my PhD in Mechanical Engineering at Tsinghua University. There I co-invented (with Prof. Xinchun Lu and Dewen Zhao) a conditioner for conditioning the polishing pad and we got a granted patent for that. The patent is cited by global market leaders, e.g. Siltronic AG, Fujikoshi Machinery.
My PhD thesis was on ultra-precision low-damage polishing and its mechanism for polishing KDP crystals. KDP crystals are soft, brittle and deliquescent. To achieve high performance as frequency convertors in high power laser systems, they need to have a super-smooth surface. To further investigate the crystals’ mechanical properties, I joined Prof. Liangchi Zhang’s group at UNSW and carried out nanoindentation tests with a conical diamond indenter. We discovered the elastic-plastic deformation of KDP crystals under nanoindentation. Then I returned to Tsinghua and built the theoretical model for polishing and through lots of polishing tests achieved surface roughness of 0.62 nm* for KDP by optimizing various machining conditions and slurry formulation. 
After graduation, I worked as a Postdoctoral Fellow in Surgical Robotics and Soft Robotics at the University of Hong Kong. While leading the surgical robot project, I co-invented (with Prof. Zheng Wang, Prof. Zhiqiang Chen and Prof. James Lam) arm units and surgery robot systems and we received a granted patent for that. The project team built generations of surgical robot prototypes with 6mm diameter robot arm. These are tiny enough to go through natural orifices with a dexterity of 7 DOF and large output force to perform surgery. I also designed and fabricated soft actuators for a soft robotic manipulator project.
All of these varied experiences set the stage for me to work with robots for advanced manufacturing in Design Robotics.
*nm= a nanometer, which is 1/1,000,000,000 of a meter; 0.62 nm surface variation is a surface variation of less than 1/100000th of the thickness of a human hair.
Tell us a little more about the problem you are solving in Design Robotics.
I am adding pneumatic-controlled soft actuation into Design Robotics and integrating precisely controlled pneumatic soft actuation with industrial robots and advanced computer vision to realize automated high-quality sanding, grinding and polishing of UAP sculptures. I am also doing mechanical design for the linishing tests.
What has been your biggest joy with the project so far?
I have been part of Design Robotics since October 2019, so I am still new to the team. I get to work with great design and engineering professionals which is a wonderful experience for me. But mostly, getting to work with Prof. Jonathan Roberts, my supervisor and robotics researcher with experience in both academia and industry, has been my highlight so far. 
 
To connect with Jing and learn more about her work:
Design RoboticsQUT Profile  | LinkedIn | Google Scholar 

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_ Industry News Knowledge Sharing

Design Robotics at ADR 2019

Dr Muge Belek Fialho Teixeira presented the paper “From Open Innovation to Design-led Manufacturing: Cases of Australian Art and Architecture” at the Annual Design Research Conference 2019, Monash University in early October 2019. The paper was co-written by Dr Glenda Caldwell, Dr Jared Donovan, Dr Muge Belek Fialho Teixeira and Liz Brogden. Below is a summary based on the paper that was presented.
From Open Innovation to Design-led Manufacturing: Cases of Australian Art and Architecture
Design Robotics places design at the forefront of robotic research to enable design-led manufacturing. UAP, a global manufacturer of urban artworks and architectural facades, is finding ways to adopt robotics into its manufacturing. The QUT Design Robotics research group and RMIT are collaborating with UAP on an Innovative Manufacturing Cooperative Research Centre (IMCRC) funded project (2017-2022). 
‘Open Innovation’ describes how an organisation can purposively manage inward flows of external knowledge and outward flows of internal knowledge to increase its ability to innovate in line with its business model (West & Bogers, 2014). In this research, we wanted to find out how open innovation can be employed as a strategy for architectural innovation within a design-led manufacturing organization, such as UAP.
 

Open Innovation Case study: Artist Emily Floyd with Poll the Parrot.
Photo Credits: UAP Company.

 
We examined two projects from UAP’s commercial work that employed an open innovation strategy to explore the potential of advanced manufacturing technologies in collaboration with external partners. These built works demonstrate novel approaches to integrating robotic systems and virtual reality into the ideation, communication, design development, and manufacture required to deliver each project. We worked with our industry partner to collect on-site observations and findings, which show that it takes internal know-how and decision-making processes required to integrate advanced manufacturing technologies into workflows. 
Read the full paper here.
Conference Name: The 2nd Annual Design Research Conference
Date: 3-4 October 2019
Location: Monash University, Caulfield, Australia
Related work
UAP (Urban Art Projects): Transgressions between making, craft, and technology for architects and artists
Reference:
West, J., & Bogers, M. (2014). Leveraging External Sources of Innovation: A Review of Research on Open Innovation. Journal of Product Innovation Management, 31(4), 814–831.

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_ Knowledge Sharing

Connecting Users and Robots | At Claire Brophy’s desk


Name: Claire Brophy
Design Robotics Role: Post-Doc Research Fellow 
Favourite quote: “There is no subject so old that something new cannot be said about it.” Fyodor Dostoevsky
Favourite Robot Podcasts: Well, not a podcast, but a lecture. And not just about robots, but close enough. 2017 Boyer Lectures: Fast, Smart and Connected: What is it to be Human, and Australian, in a Digital World.
 
Why robots?
Well, for me as a researcher, it’s the challenge of doing something that I know little about – robotics. It’s also about the cutting edge technology of Design Robotics that is part of the next major transformation in manufacturing. I am interested in how we balance the use of these advanced technologies and address the concerns of the people working with them every day.
 
What is your background? How did you end up in Design Robotics?
My background is pretty eclectic: I have worked in journalism and hospitality management. I, then, pursued an education in industrial design. My PhD looked at how older people interact with communication technologies and how these technologies should be designed for older users. It was less about what buttons they press and in what order, and more about the reasons they are engaging with the technology. I was keen to find out what keeps them using tech, the social fabric that ties them to the tech and the people they communicate with. Interestingly, older users expect values such as respect to be embedded in the technology. This research challenged the stereotypes of ageing and definitions of what it means to be old. This body of work, other research projects and my relationships with my colleagues led me to be part of the Design Robotics project.
 
Tell us a bit about the Design Robotics project, and what you do within the project.
The Design Robotics project is a collaboration between Urban Art Projects (UAP), two universities – QUT and RMIT, and the IMCRC. UAP is a bespoke manufacturer of public art and architectural installations. The Design Robotics team are teaching robots to ‘see’ so that they can take over some of the traditionally toxic and often dangerous manufacturing tasks. My role in Design Robotics is to bring a human-centred perspective to the team, surrounded by very clever roboticists and engineers. So my focus is more on the socio-cultural aspects that influence how people might be able to interact, and expect to interact with robots. 
 
Tell us a little more about the problem you are solving in Design Robotics.
To understand how a robot can begin to take on tasks that have traditionally been done by hand,  it is important to understand all aspects of the task itself. To bridge that gap, we study the way a task is traditionally done to transfer this knowledge to the robot. For example, we have worked with an expert linisher at UAP (removing the excess material from a metal object to leave a polished finish). It is a highly-skilled, physically arduous and time-consuming work, and there are endless challenges in trying to transfer this skill to a robot – both in understanding the human perspective and the physical constraints of the work – and the technology perspective, which involves teaching the robot to be able to do it. So in the context of this study, we are trying to understand how workshop staff uses their tools and the decisions they make in using the tools.
 
What has been your biggest joy with the project so far?
It’s about the people, they are an excellent and inspiring group of people.
A pleasure to work with every day.
 
What is your next big goal with the project?
This December, I will be presenting at the World Open Innovation Conference in Rome. It will cover our work on exploring ‘open innovation’ from a design perspective within the context of the upcoming Advanced Robotics for Manufacturing (ARM) Hub in Queensland. And in parallel, I will be focussing on developing a workplace study on understanding the manufacturing work at UAP, so we can design for the best human-robot interaction possible.
 
To connect with Claire and learn more about her work:
Design Robotics | LinkedIn | QUT eprints