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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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Knowledge Sharing News Webinar

WEBINAR | INSIDE THE LEARNING FACTORY

In September 2020, Design Robotics hosted a webinar aimed at sharing outcomes and facilitating collaboration across the Australian manufacturing sector. Each of the four sessions focused on projects that integrate design and custom manufacturing, resulting in unique, value-added outcomes.

Session 1: Vision Systems, covered vision sensing, which enables robots to adapt to different environments and manufacturing tasks. In this context, robots are able to locate a workpiece in space and automatically calculate each objects’ true dimensions to assist with path planning.

Session 2: Architectural Robotics, explored Additive Manufacturing (AM, or “3D-printing”). This technology promises to reduce part-costs by lowering material wastage and time to market. Design freedom is also increased, supporting the development of complex assemblies formerly made of many subcomponents.

Session 3: Human Centred Design, focused on designing human/robot interactions. Investigating a range of human perspectives, physical work practices, and technical possibilities is integral to this work. As such, traditional artisans are valuable partners in determining best practice approaches.


Session 4: Open Innovation, explored practices that unite diverse partners such as research institutes, industry, and government. In this context, facilitating creativity, increasing speed, and reducing risk, empowers SMEs to be competitive innovators.

With the support of the Innovative Manufacturing Cooperative Research Centre (IMCRC), the Design Robotics team is committed to knowledge sharing and open innovation Australia-wide. Such collaborative arrangements enhance R&D across all tiers of industry and enterprise, resulting in a fertile cross-pollination culture that delivers training and skills, increased commercial value, and high impact outcomes.

If you would like to collaborate with us through the Design Robotics Open Innovation Network feel free to get in touch.

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ALEXANDER WALZER | DIGITAL FABRICATION & ROBOTICS

Alex (Alexander) Nikolas Walzer
Research Fellow, Design Robotics

Favourite quote “The process of industrial mutation that incessantly revolutionises the economic structure from within, incessantly destroying the old one, incessantly creating a new one.”  Austrian Economist Joseph Schumpeter.
Favourite Podcast ConTechCrew focuses on digital construction technologies
Why robots? Robots are versatile machines enabling the execution of a variety of tasks, which makes them ideal for prototyping and beyond. They are precise, strong, and can be fast or very patient and outfitted with almost any tool to suit most processes.
What is your background? How did you end up in Design Robotics?
I am trained as an architect in Europe and Australia and stumbled into Digital Fabrication several years ago. I was mostly inspired by the idea of being able to learn about and make (almost!) anything. For that reason, I spent some time in Milan and Barcelona and was an exchange student at RMIT, where I was part of the team designing the new mace which was 3D-printed from Titanium. 
[youtube-video id=”eRjgB73QqKg”]RMIT’s 3D printed mace[/youtube-video]
Subsequently, I took on a few roles bridging computational design and digital fabrication at ETH Zurich and the NCCR Digital Fabrication. At ETH, I supervised Nizar Taha and Jetana Ruangjun’ Master thesis Robotic Aerocrete which was a really interesting and fulfilling experience. It involved the use of mobile robotic set-up for creating geometrically complex thin-shell textile-reinforced concrete structures. 
[video-embed id=”292811603″]Robotic AeroCrete[/video-embed]
At NCCR Digital Fabrication, we developed a digitized construction system called Mesh Mould. 
[youtube-video id=”ZeLEeY8yK2Y”]In situ Fabricator & Mesh Mould: Complete construction[/youtube-video]
The daily work included design thinking, agile project management and delivering experimental results on time, I worked within larger industry collaborations and always in interdisciplinary teams. Besides that, I continued to engage in Makerspaces / FabLabs and have consulted Start-Ups and companies of various scales on identifying and exploiting potentials of Digitalization / Industry 4.0 within the AEC, Design and manufacturing sector in Europe and the US. As of 2020, I am very happy to be back at RMIT in Melbourne and work with partners old and new alike on the robotic application and design implication of novel 3D metal-printing tech! 
Tell us a bit about your role in the Design Robotics project
Design Robotics is a collaboration of Urban Art Projects (UAP), QUT, RMIT and the IMCRC. UAP is manufacturing bespoke public art and architectural pieces worldwide, QUT is teaching industrial robots to perceive their workpiece and environment and we at RMIT provide the bespoke computational design–to–robotic fabrication workflow including industrial welding. Together, this allows us to benchmark the technology against existing workflows or procedures. 
Digital fabrication involves aspects of computational design and coding and applying it into processes of production. And now, we are exploring what robots can do in this process. I’m in between these two worlds of physical materiality with virtual processes and technologies. My workflow involves flexibly fusing novel design technologies to create a product. In my role, this framework spans the entire project pipeline, from idea or first sketch to final, delivered prototype. A crucial part is the integration of fabrication data into the 3D design environment. 
Tell us a little more about the problem you are solving in Design Robotics
3D-printing at scale comes with certain limitations but the use of Wire Arc Additive Manufacturing (or WAAM) yields big potential to save time and material in design and construction. The additive build-up of material generally has a better Buy-To-Fly ratio than standard processes such as casting or CNC milling. WAAM can be integrated onto a standard industrial robot which makes it a very competitive alternative to the before-mentioned strategies. Eventually, we will be enabled to investigate structural optimization, near-net shape fabrication and hybrid manufacturing.
What has been your biggest joy with the project so far?
I really enjoy daily work with talented people of so many trades and exchange knowledge pro-actively. I also see that industrial and academic interests can eventually be very supplementary and help to accelerate the application of new technologies.
What is your next big goal with the project?
The Design Robotics team at RMIT at the moment is focussed on 3D printing of large scale objects. As our process becomes more robust and ready for higher throughputs, I am happy to disseminate the work in the months to come: Through mutual prototyping with engineers and co-creation with artists, we can examine this technology from various perspectives and discuss it within the IMCRC and beyond. In line with the Open Innovation Network we can reach out to new partners in Industry and Academia and make a strong, realistic case for WAAM in the Australian AEC and manufacturing sector. 
And finally to end with, how have you and your team been coping with COVID-19?
The outbreak of COVID-19 just shortly after the Australian bushfires has had a big impact on both society and our work. Luckily enough, we have been prepared for remote work and can run most robotics-related experiments in simulation and study them in VR/AR/MR mode. Soon enough, we might be able to run the physical system fully automated from a remote location. Personally, I believe, the current crisis holds a lot of opportunities for those ready to digitize!
To connect with Alex and learn more about his work
Design Robotics | RMIT | LinkedIn | | Google Scholar

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Knowledge Sharing

BRINGING THE JOY | WORLD OPEN INNOVATION CONFERENCE

Dr Claire Brophy
Design Robotics Research Fellow

Dr Brophy presented a research paper on how design methods were employed to map the ARM Hub ecosystem at the World Open Innovation Congress (WOIC) in Rome in December 2019. Open Innovation is a way of thinking about and managing innovation where firms purposely manage their approach to innovation by bringing in innovations from outside their business and also allowing innovations from inside their business to be developed further by others. 
Tell us about what WOIC is about. What were you doing out there?
Claire: This was the 6th annual World Open Innovation Conference. It’s an annual event that brings together representatives from industry and academia to focus on the emerging field of open innovation. The attendees were predominantly from Business and Management backgrounds. My presentation was about the ARM Hub – (the Advanced Robotics for Manufacturing Hub) and a design workshop we conducted to visualise what the ARM Hub could be, and who it would represent. The workshop used participatory design approaches, so really tangible, creative ways to explore the abstract concept of open innovation. At the conference, it was perhaps the only one that took this kind of approach to the concept of open innovation. 

The paper about the Design Robotics Workshop on Open Innovation was presented at WOIC. It featured design approaches such as the Tangible Mapping Method.

 
Given that you presented design approaches, how do you think it was received in this business-academic setting?
Claire: I was nervous about presenting to an entirely new field,  but it was actually really well received. One of the conference chairs thanked me later for “bringing the joy” to our session. It  felt great to bring design in approaches and invigorate the conversation around open innovation. After the session, a lot of the attendees agreed that taking this tangible approach levelled the playing field and was a creative, engaging way to approach unfamiliar concepts. Educators in particular, shared their own experiences about how they are trying to incorporate engaging methods like this into their teaching.
 
Do you have any favourite sessions?
Claire: Yes, so many good ones. The one by Francesco Starace, CEO of Enel, the Italian utilities provider He spoke at length about the way he introduced open innovation approaches in this massive, traditional Italian company and the challenges that he had around that. They tried out different creative approaches such as encouraging staff to share their failures in order to change the culture around “don’t come to me with problems only come to me with solutions”.  And he also talked about the way they are finding transformative and innovative ways to adapt and retrofit advanced technologies to old machines. He talked about “listening to the machines” which struck a chord with me within regards to my work in Design Robotics. He explained how traditionally technicians would be able to “hear” that the machines are having problems; that there is a language in the sounds of the machines. His story was really interesting around that kind of successful approach to innovation.
Another one was from notable Professor Anita McGahan of University of Toronto. The broader theme around the conference was around how to address the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. She gave this impassioned call-to-action at the end of her keynote. That we cannot possibly carry on the way that we are carrying on and we need widespread dramatic changes of perspective. Her talk resonated with me for quite some time after the conference. 
Professor Henry Chesbrough (he coined “open innovation”) had an interesting wrap-up. He spoke wanting to open up the conversation between industry and academia to better facilitate this flow of knowledge from academia into industry. He shared that the main feedback that had received over the conference was that this relationship between academia and industry is underdeveloped. It is important to bridge this gap. I feel that design – and the work the Design Robotics team is doing in our partnership between academia (QUT/RMIT) and industry (UAP) is a great example of this.
 
Do you plan to head to WOIC in 2020? What do you think you would do?
Claire: Yes, it would be great to go back. It was a really nice opportunity to present our work to a global audience and introduce the creative open innovation approach we are taking. I think for next time, it would be good to run our work as a workshop at the conference. I’ll be bringing joy back!
 
Conference Name: World Open Innovation Conference 2019
Date: 12-13 December 2019
Location: Luiss University, Rome, Italy
Program: Link
 
Related work
Advanced Robotics Manufacturing: Arm Hub Announced

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_ 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.

Categories
_ 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