UAP and Design Robotics attended and presented at the evening event Digital Gateways, in February – a gathering of digital visionaries showcasing and experiencing some of the latest advances in digital engineering technology.
Global engineering and infrastructure advisory company, Aurecon, hosted the event. The presentations and displays focused on the integration of design and engineering with current digital tools and methodologies. Aurecon showcased their digital capabilities to clients along with SightLab, Unsigned Studio and external exhibitors Quartile One and Design Robotics/UAP.
Lewis Humphries from UAP and Dr Jared Donovan from Design Robotics presented about the digital tools employed by UAP and Design Robotics to enhance design methodologies. They described how cutting-edge digital design practices of architects and artists are pushing the limits of traditional fabrication techniques. Dr Donovan introduced the Design Robotics project as one that is exploring and developing ways to address the challenges inherent in modern-day manufacturing. The potential of incorporating robotic vision technologies was discussed, as well as human-centred design into the development of robotics systems for mass-customisation manufacturing.
Held at Aurecon’s new 25 King Street office in Brisbane, attendees included Transport and Main Roads (TMR), Transurban, Lend Lease, Government representatives, BHP, and Rio Tinto among others. Topics included Virtual Reality, real-time visualisation platforms, Augmented Reality applications such as topographic contour line sandboxes and GIS/mapping, advanced data analytics and machine learning, and digitised estates.
[small-quote name=”UAP” title=””]Not long ago industrial robots were the focus of science fiction. Today, they are found on every manufacturing factory floor around the world. Believing that industrial robotics is the next frontier for many industries, Alan Burden joined UAP’s Design Robotics team.[/small-quote]
Photo Credit: IMCRC
Recently Alan Burden was interviewed by the IMCRC about the pathway taken to his current PhD in Design Robotics, and his experiences in industry-led research.
Read the interview here: https://www.imcrc.org/2019/03/18/uap_alan_burden/
The world of advanced manufacturing and design robotics was brought to a group of Brisbane architects in February. UAP hosted its first Continuing Professional Development (CPD) Standards Workshop Tour designed to help architects understand different design techniques, from traditional processes to advanced manufacturing.
A Code of Professional Conduct binds architects, requiring that members dedicate themselves to the advancement of architecture, and ultimately the quality of our environment and people’s lives.
[small-quote name=”RAIA Code of Professional Conduct” title=””]The profession of architecture is a unique discipline, combining elements of art, science, commerce and law.[/small-quote]
Participants were able to earn accreditation points through this formal CPD activity. First, the group were given a presentation by Samuel Mayze, UAP Project Director and New Projects Manager, they heard about UAP’s ongoing collaborations with emerging and established artists, architects and designers around the world.
Dr Glenda Caldwell of the Design Robotics team delivered a presentation on the potential of Robotics and Advanced Manufacturing techniques in design and construction.
Participants were invited to tour the UAP workshop, observing the dynamic creative environment characterised by the integration of art, architecture, design, innovation and advanced manufacturing.
During the tour, participants observed how UAP is using Virtual Reality headsets and software to visualise the scale and context of artworks in development.
Furthering learning about design is one of the four units of competency for Continuing Professional Development (CPD) of registered architects in Australia. Workshops will run bi-monthly, linking in with the Architects Accreditation Council of Australia (AACA) National Competency Standards in Architecture.
Future CPD event dates are:
- Fri 26th April
- Fri 21st June
- Fri 23rd August
- Fri 25th October
Woodford is an annual folk festival held in Queensland, Australia. Known for its vibrant and eclectic culture, it is the largest gathering of musicians, artists and speakers in Australia. Every December over 130,000 people travel from all around, pitch their tents, and settle in to enjoy six days and nights of music and art.
At the recent 34th Woodford Festival, one of the 438 acts was a presentation by Dr Glenda Caldwell from Design Robotics. Dr Caldwell brought art and robotics to the festival, discussing new transdisciplinary approaches to design through architecture, interaction design, human-computer interaction and robotics.
During the presentation, Glenda Caldwell said that the ability to see is critical to the advancement of design robotics. An idea not only described in terms of the capabilities of robots assisting us in creative processes but the vision we hold for the future of humanity. This vision is safeguarded by learning from the past and acknowledging the present, as the natural world and digital world entwine, Dr Caldwell stated.
[small-quote name=”Glenda Caldwell” title=””]This discussion and these considerations need to be continued beyond now, beyond this festival and into our classrooms, our research, and much farther. [/small-quote]
A panel discussion was also held on Designing the future with artificial intelligence joined by Dr Glenda Caldwell, Professor Janet Wiles and Dr Erica Mealy.
The connecting thread throughout the discussion was an essential human component to robotic technologies, where robots learn from people and assist them rather than replace them. Glenda explained that the ultimate goal of Design Robotics and UAP’s work is achieving the artist, designer or architect’s intent.
The potential of robotic manufacturing technology lies in its versatility, and its ability to accommodate different levels of engagement and integration with the technology throughout the creative process. “How we incorporate robotic technology that responds to the end user is really critical in what we’re doing,” Glenda explained, “we want the interface to be usable for as many people as possible in the manufacturing environment”.
The discussion was later aired as a Big Ideas episode on ABC Radio National.
In a fast-paced world where the entrepreneur is king, collaborative innovation is frequently hindered by issues of intellectual property and restrictions around knowledge-use. Open innovation is countering this closed model of knowledge-production, seeking to bring openness to research and facilitate opportunities for impact and value creation for cross-sectoral stakeholders.
The QUT Institute for Future Environments (IFE) Transforming Innovation Systems Platform hosted a business breakfast and research workshop last week exploring current ideas and future opportunities of open innovation. Both events were supported by the QUT Design Lab, QUT Business School and IMCRC Design Robotics Open Innovation Network. The events sought to connect research and industry, sparking opportunities for collaborative research partnerships.
Visiting Professor Marcel Bogers of the University of Copenhagen enriched both events with his insights about the design, organisation and management of technology, innovation and entrepreneurship.
[small-quote name=”Bogers et al. (2018)” title=]”Open innovation has become a new paradigm for organizing innovation … Open innovation assumes that firms can and should use external ideas as well as internal ideas, and internal as well as external paths to market, as they look to advance their innovations.”[/small-quote]
Research into Open Innovation is emerging mainly from the business sphere, but it presents exciting possibilities when it comes to collaboration between industry and design researchers. This benefit is mutual, with design able to enrich innovative business models as an inherently user-centric form of practice.
During the “From Open Innovation to Open Research” workshop, over 20 researchers came together, including Dr Prithika Randhawa from the University of Technology Sydney, Business School who assisted in facilitating the event.
Participants discussed the detrimental impact of “silo thinking” as a barrier to Open Innovation, as opposed to models that embrace a diverse range of disciplinary knowledge and skills. “It was great to see different researchers brought together from disciplines such as business and design,” Glenda Caldwell of the Design Robotics team said, “we found common ground through this concept of Open Innovation, and were quickly able to overcome any disciplinary boundaries.”
[small-quote name=”Marcel Bogers”]We are looking inside out and also outside in when it comes to openness and participation between organisations[/small-quote]
Participants also grappled with the complexities of engaging multiple stakeholders with diverse interests, as well as the impact of institutional aspects of policy-making and participatory governance. Open Innovation was frequently described as a form of ecosystem in which the key to success is in striking a balance between value creation and empowerment for each of the stakeholders.
The Open Innovation Breakfast was hosted on 15 February at QUT by the IFE Transforming Innovation Systems Platform, bringing together over 80 industry, government and academic representatives.
Opened by the Honourable Kate Jones, Minister for Innovation and Tourism Industry Development, and attended by QUT Vice-Chancellor Margaret Sheil the event linked research, practice and policy. Speakers included Dr Ian Dover, CEO of METS Ignited, Lisa Cavallaro, Industry Development Manager of Brisbane Marketing, David Chuter, CEO Managing Director, Innovative Manufacturing CRC, and Professor Marcel Bogers provided a fresh outlook on the current challenges and future opportunities for Open Innovation.
Reference: Bogers, M., Chesbrough, H., Moedas, C. (2018). Open Innovation: Research, Practices, and Policies. California Management Review, 60(2), 5-16.
In a 2016 report by the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) the projected growth of Virtual Reality in the manufacturing industry was valued at 162 billion dollars by 2020. In comparison, the report suggests that 3D Printing will grow by 35 billion dollars, and Artificial Intelligence by 5 billion dollars. When I read this, I was surprised that VR is predicted to have such a significant impact on the future of manufacturing. So, it’s a good thing that UAP’s Luke Harris is keeping up to date with the latest advancements in VR technology.
The Future of Immersive Starts Here
Luke recently attended the VRS conference, The Future of Immersive Starts Here, in San Francisco. I sat down with Luke to hear about what he discovered at this conference. Luke told me that attending the conference was a very worthwhile exercise because “It was good to get perspective on the industry and I felt excited about where the technology might take us in the future.”
Conference attendees came from diverse backgrounds and industries including; people who were developing tech start-ups, education and training (especially), people from major software companies, tech influencers, the entertainment industry, and architects.
Educational applications of Virtual and Augmented Reality has become a significant growth area. Luke noted that “The thing that surprised me was the focus on investment in using VR for education and training, from surgeons to crane drivers.”
The conference brought forward a number of new terms around this technology for discussion as well. Broadly, the focus of the conference was Cross Reality (XR), which Luke defined as “pretty much an umbrella term for augmented reality, virtual reality, mixed reality, and cinematic reality.” Which brought up another new term, Mixed Reality (MR), and Luke defined that as’ a mix of virtual and augmented reality.” Another new term was Extended Reality, and with this term, Luke found that “Some of the speakers are trying to popularise extended reality, which is looking into the future where we will move beyond augmented and virtual reality.”
Advances in Technology
There were a few advances that Luke thought would be really promising to advanced manufacturing and UAP’s fabrication processes. One was the use of ‘light fields’ which facilitated headset free holograms. You can read more about this technology on the Light Field Lab website
However, Luke found that the most significant advances were those that enhanced cross-disciplinary and locational collaboration. “The most impressive technologies were MR facilitated collaborative problem solving, where one person might be wearing a headset and working on a manufacturing floor and be guided by someone in another city or country on what to do. This involves using AR and VR for conferencing, and working together.”
Other technologies that Luke suggested would be big catalysts for change included cloud processing. “One of the exciting developments for Mixed Reality that was presented at the conference was cloud processing, where lightweight, inexpensive devices can have their processing capabilities boosted by processing performed in the cloud.” Luke also felt that streamlining VR processes with a centralized platform and advances with compatible hardware would really drive VR and AR forward.
Luke left the conference feeling optimistic about the role of AR and VR will play in advancing manufacturing. “I definitely got excited about the future of AR. Over the next five years, it’s going to explode. The technology is almost moving faster than the hardware. I don’t know whether it’s going to be with headsets or mobile phones.”
Overall, Luke said the conference gave him a much-needed confidence about boost about how prepared UAP are when it comes to implementing AR and VR into their processes. “[the conference] gave me a perspective of what’s happening in the industry, which was gratifying, because the work I’ve been doing the last year, I felt like I was always playing catch up to the technology. But just looking at what people are doing, even with copious amounts of money, I felt like we’re in a good position. We know the limitations of the hardware and we’re able to push it in the right direction for our processes.”
Clocked Out is a collective founded by Vanessa Tomlinson and Erik Griswold who create and produce innovative music, interarts, and intercultural events. Their work extends on experimental traditions in engaging and thought provoking ways. The Listening Museum, organised by Clocked-out, was hosted by UAP and took place in their workshop areas. Musicians, sound and performance artists, got together to explore the affordances of a factory setting provides in relation to unique sonic experiences. By registering to this mysterious, surprising and unexpected event, the audience found themselves in a curious sonic environment. Each audience member was free to explore, interact and experience the non-linear mashup of sonic ideas in their own ways.
For this event, the Design Robotics team contributed to Erik Griswold’s piano composition for Marvin (KUKA Industrial Robotic Arm in UAP) by programming the robot. The collaboration with the artist, resulted in a unique performance of the giant robotic arm, playing a classic wall-type piano. For the performance, a special end effector was designed to imitate the flexible movement of a fingertip. The gentle touch of the end effector on each piano key was programmed by using Rhino and its plug-ins for parametric design Grasshopper and KUKAprc. The midi file of the piano composition was converted into a text file by an open source software called Anvil Studio. The text file was then disassembled into respective parts such as notes, notes on/off, duration. The piano was then modelled into Rhino, with the exact dimensions and its location in relation to the robotic arm. In Rhino, the end effector of the robot arm, was aligned with the central points of each piano key, using KUKAIprc.
Marvin performed three times during the event, with a total of 100 spectators. The crowd was very engaged and entertained with the performance. It was a great exercise for us to work with Marvin in an artistic way, test some of the workflows and tackle some of the design issues in regards to programming a creative design work.
Dr Glenda Caldwell recently presented a paper at the University of Sydney’s Annual Design Research Conference. The paper was co written by Dr Muge Belek Fialho Teixeira, Dr Jared Donovan, Dr Glenda Caldwell and Kirsty Volz. Below is an excerpt from the paper that was presented.
Transgressions between making, craft, and technology for Architects and Artists
Art fabricators, sometimes called artist technicians, have had an increasingly substantial role in the production of artworks, pavilions, and bespoke street furniture. The uptake of commissioning art fabricators is due to a few, identifiable factors. One is a remarkably prosperous art market, especially in the last decade. The other is the “post-skill era,” which has meant the employment of a fabricator has become the acceptable norm and commonplace in the production of art.” Additionally, the changing scale of public art due to neo-liberal planning policies that have shifted the commissioning of public art to the private sector; where it appears, bigger is better.
The scale of these projects is only made possible by fabricators such as UAP. As such, their impact on the art, design and architecture world has been to fabricate what was previously unachievable. This expansion of scope in public art sculptures is changing the nature of creative production, from one solely possessed by single artists. It is, therefore, a reflexive position between artist and fabricator, where big art cannot exist without the other; the scale of contemporary public art sculptures is reliant on the supported, collaborated existence of both.
The current discussion about the role of art fabricators is concerned with whether artists should credit them, but this all depends on how you define art. Is it the idea or the physical outcome? This topic is not the basis for this paper. Instead, it focuses on how the craft, making, and fabrication processes are a form of research and can contribute to research on innovations in construction and fabrication approaches. Other than Patsy Craig’s documentation of Mike Smith’s art fabrication studio in London, published in the book Making Art Work (2003), little has been written about these studios that produce large scale public art, building facades, and pavilions. Craig describes Smith’s making as a process of ‘endeavour and enquiry.’ This paper aims to further Craig’s research through the work of UAP Company. Additionally, a study of these processes outlines how these fabricators are helping achieve bigger, more complex sculptures and structures, and how these innovations in fabrication might influence the construction of the built environment, more broadly.
UAP provides a case study from which to investigate the physical, social, cultural and economic impacts of innovations in fabrication processes. Their experimentations in fabricating processes are achieved in an environment where meeting deadlines, achieving commercial imperatives are also integral to their work. In this paper, we examine UAP’s work in the context of broader social, cultural and economic influences. This survey highlights that advances in architectural fabrication do not occur in isolation, but are informed by government investment, significant cultural events, and cultural policy.
We found in this research that UAP often borrows know-how, technologies and tools from different disciplines and manufacturing processes as well as informing new fabrication processes. Having all these motivations in hand, this paper focuses on UAP and its milestone projects. Example projects from UAP are used to describe the development of their approach to fabrication, in its current state and their position on future processes. The discussion of UAP’s work in this paper demonstrates the role of design-led manufacturing and that the creative industries are capable of driving change in advanced manufacturing and digital fabrication.
These projects represent specific milestones for UAP, beginning with their partnership with Lena Yarinkura on the Seven Dogs Project in Brisbane (2003 and 2010), then the King Abdullah University of Technology’s (KAUST) Art Project in Saudi Arabia (2009), and lastly the Gehry staircase at the University of Technology Sydney (2015). Investigation of these projects reveals transgressions between making, craft and technology as key instigators of UAP’s evolution and innovation. Moving from the mass produced to a mass customised, from a local to a global world, companies like UAP must continually find ways to cope with change and look toward the future to be competitive.
Lena Yarinkura. Seven Dogs Project
Lena Yarinkura is a is a Kune-Rembarrnga woman. She is an artist working from the Maningrida Community in Arnhem Land in Northern Australia. Yarinkura initially collaborated with UAP, through an introduction from the Waanyi artist, Judy Watson in 1999. UAP presented metal-casting processes as part of a workshop held at the Maningrida Arts and Culture Centre. From this workshop, a long term relationship between Lena Yarinkura and UAP commenced. In a reciprocal exchange between artist and fabricator, Yarinkura worked with cast metal for the first time, and UAP developed new casting methods by working with the forms and surfaces created by Yarinkura’s woven sculptures. Initially, bronze cast sculptures such as the Camp Dog 2 were produced in 2003 (Figure 2). UAP’s partnership with Yarinkura continued, resulting in a major urban art project scheme, Seven Dogs, at Brisbane Airport’s Skygate, in 2010.
The design process of the metal cast objects started with hand-woven designs Yarinkura created. These were then sculpted in a material that can be sand moulded, such as polystyrene foam. The sand moulds were used to form the metal sculptures by pouring hot liquid metals such as bronze or aluminium into them. The metal casts were then taken out of the moulds once they cooled down. This exchange of craft process and metal casting is an example of the research, by knowledge exchange, which informs and can be an indirect outcome from the fabrication of public art.
KAUST Art Project
The second project to be discussed is the KAUST Art Project, located in Saudi Arabia. This project was a commission won through UAP’s Los Angeles Studio in 2006. Won via an international tender, HOK was chosen in collaboration with UAP to produce artwork commissions that celebrate KAUST as a global university. The primary focus of the project was to interpret and present interdisciplinary art and design that stimulates creativity and interaction. Therefore, UAP invited artists from all over the world to take part in this art project, such as Carsten Höller, Oliver van den Berg, Sopheap Pich, Iñigo Manglano-Ovalle, Subodh Kerkar, Donna Marcus, Dalziel & Scullion, Dennis Nona, Richard Deacon, Erwin Redl, Fiona Foley, Simeon Nelson, Nja Madhaoui, David Trubridge, and Jason Bruge. Each artist worked with an interdisciplinary team to provide a site-specific artwork for various locations in the KAUST site.
The scope of this project and the constrained construction timeline of only 30 months required UAP to develop innovative, efficient fabrication processes to meet their deadline. They also developed new ways of managing work in the Brisbane workshop and on-site; as KAUST had several artworks to be constructed at the same time. The explorations during the KAUST project resulted in experimentations with new materials such as white brass, and the use of new technologies both in the workshop and the design documentation departments of UAP. This required them to engage with new software to help streamline documentation processes, and given the manufacturing complexities of some of the produced artwork, UAP was awarded the Autodesk Inventor prize in July 2009 for their effort in documenting some of the artworks.
One of the major artworks of the project was the Al-Fanar/ Beacon designed by Daniel Tobin. It is a sixty metre high structure that is a contemporary interpretation of a light house (Figure 4). It has become the symbol of KAUST, defining the entry point to the harbour where the university is situated. Inspired by the marine life of the Red Sea, Al Fanar is constructed from Ancient Arabic Maritime traditions, in-region artworks and architectural detailing. Its highly complex structure is built from pre-cast concrete blocks that are in amorphous hexagonal sections. The interior space provides a gathering space with a play of light and shadows. It is also an example of a large scale sculptural and architectural work designed and fabricated by UAP.
Gehry Staircase. University of Technology Sydney
The third project discussed is the Gehry Staircase. Designed by Frank Gehry, the Dr Chau Chak Wing Building at UTS Sydney has a sculptural central staircase that works as a bridge bringing students together. UAP was commissioned to fabricate these stairs (Figure 5). Working with Gehry Partners, UAP explored fabrication methods for the sculptural staircase that required complex research and investigation into form, material, and structure to determine how best to construct this ambitious vision. The sculptural piece is built from hand beaten stainless steel metal plates that are welded together and then polished to achieve the smooth mirrored effect.
As with many of Gehry’s designs, the staircase was designed manually through an iterative process of cyclical testing. It was then digitally modelled for precision, representation, and manufacturing. However, due to the limitations of manufacturing processes especially in steel, it was difficult to achieve the complex forms of the staircase design by automatic manufacturing systems. The complex form of the staircase challenged UAP’s existing capabilities. The manufacturing of the staircase involved dividing it into modular pieces which were built one by one by metal casting artisans, welders and polishers. The modular pieces were then assembled in the factory using a mock-up model; then they were placed on site. Transgressing a digitally modelled staircase by manually making it was a painstaking process, leading UAP to explore advanced manufacturing possibilities for the manufacture of future projects.
As part of this strategy, and in response to an increasing demand of complex architectural designs, UAP has acquired an industrial robotic arm. To further develop its capabilities and examine the affordances of robotic vision systems, UAP is currently undertaking a research project funded by the Innovative Manufacturing Cooperative Research Centre (IMCRC), in collaboration with QUT and RMIT. The project is looking into research-led innovation to enable mass-customisation manufacturing of products, processes, and services for art and architectural fabrication in Australia.
Innovation in the Creative Industries
As the creative industries continue to flourish, influenced by neo-liberal planning and policies, the role of the art fabricator continues to grow in both scope and significance. While neo-liberal approaches to planning policy transferred investment in public art from the public to the private sector, its intention was as Michael Keniger wrote, to emphasise that building is ‘a cultural act as much as it is a physical one.’ Stuart Cunningham describes this economic shift where ‘creative production and cultural consumption are an integral part of the new economy.’ The role of the art fabricator is too often diminished by an emphasis on a sole author, perpetuated by a post-conceptual art world, that has yet to let go of 20th century practices in the creation of art. This paper has aimed to highlight the important contribution art fabrication has to make as a process that is informed by, and informs, research and innovation.
Through the analysis of UAP’s timeline, this paper presents two important findings. Firstly, that over time public art has progressed from an autonomous form applied to public architectural spaces, to architectural objects or sculptures that are seamlessly integrated into a project. This is exemplified through works such as Yarinkura Seven Dogs for Skygate (2010), Brisbane and Frank Gehry’s stairs (2015) in the UTS Dr Chau Chak Wing Building. Secondly, the complexity and scale of art works have compelled UAP to embrace innovations in fabrication technologies through works such as KAUST (King Abdullah University of Science and Technology).
UAP’s engagement with collaborative processes has come about from a reciprocal engagement between artist and maker. Artists’ and architects’ vision are pushing UAP to engage in experimental and cutting edge processes and technologies, while UAP has shared their processes and capabilities to push artists’ and architects’ material use and knowledge. This exchange of knowledge between visionary and maker demonstrates a clear transgression between craft, making, and technology. By documenting art fabrication processes, and analysing them further, there is the potential that the research and innovation by making, could be shared more broadly with construction and manufacturing industries involved with the built environment.
In an exciting development, UAP has invested in Advanced Manufacturing Technologies, but how do they decide when to use these technologies? We sat down with UAP’s General Manager Amanda Harris and asked her, ‘How do you decide which projects are best suited for using Advanced Manufacturing Technologies?’
UAP ready for Industry 4.0
One of the great things about the way UAP works is their capacity to accommodate such a variety of different ways to work and different tools to work with, as Amanda tells us, ‘We have all the different tools of the trade here and a wide, wide array of projects to employ them upon. In addition, we have a team of talented people with decades of experience. Our expertise ranges from people who are working in digital spaces to specialists working with more traditional tools.’
In our research, we have found that Advanced Manufacturing Technologies (AMT) are most easily taken up by large firms (defined by having 500+ employees), while small to medium enterprises experience more difficulty in transitioning to new technologies. However, the unique and agile way that UAP conducts business provides them with an advantageous position to adopt new ways of working. As Amanda explained to us, ‘Because we have a broad skillset and specialist team members, who’ve been working here for 10 years, 20 years, they are experts within their field, so that makes it easier for us to key in the next step. We have the advantage of being able to draw on knowledge of existing processes and techniques, and then understand where there might be gaps in them.’
It is also the case that UAP has strived to continually adapt to new ways of working, making a move to AMT a gradual one, rather than a huge leap. Amanda feels that UAP are in a good position to begin working with AMT, ‘Every project we have is unique, and our team is used to solving problems or approaching a process that we haven’t undertaken before. So while adapting to new technologies can be a steep learning curve and potentially intimidating, we’re practised at the unfamiliar. .’
Another important success indicator for the implementation of new technologies in existing firms was support from upper-level management. Amanda told us that at UAP, ‘we want to be the innovators.’
How are projects selected for Advanced Manufacturing Technology?
In explaining how she selected projects that were suitable for AMT, Amanda explained that ‘for me; it’s about making small progressive steps.’
Amanda emphasised that using technology was about developing their existing, internal processes. ‘I don’t mind what the technology is or what kind of innovation we’re looking at… if we can see there is a way that we can develop our Intellectual Property, and in doing so widen our delivery capabilities (or make existing tasks easier!), then that’s something we want to turn into an advantage. Ultimately, making commercial projects more successful is what drives us to attack anything new.’ She also highlighted that the application was more important than the technology by itself, reflecting on previous work completed by the firm that, ‘often here, if we try to innovate for innovation’s sake, we don’t see a lot of traction, and that’s because the commercial side of the business always wins. You have a pipe dream and a deadline. I think everyone can predict the winner when those two things are matched up. So what we’re doing now, is trying to chip away at the pipedream by using every deadline to our advantage. Sure, we might not develop and test an entirely new process start to finish on a project. But we achieve the first step of that new process on project one, the second step on project two and so on. And of course there are some failures in there, so we also work with a Plan B in mind, that is more traditional, just in case.. because, well the deadline is still looming.’
For that reason, Amanda always selects projects where using these technologies align with the commercial requirements; she told us, ‘to break that cycle is to find a commercial project that will benefit from that kind of innovation and then key that innovation in. It can’t just be a superficial inclusion that doesn’t help the process.’ The other factor that determines if a project is suited to the use of AMT is the availability of time within the programme to accommodate training and any setbacks with the technology, as Amanda explains, ‘The next checkpoint is the scenario where you have a little bit of programme or time within those projects, those are ideal. This isn’t always the case though, at the moment we’re using Augmented Reality to set out fabrication parts for a project that has an incredibly short timeline. In this case, we’re ahead of where we would be traditionally, even though we’re adapting to newer technology – the time savings are that great. This is only possible with the talent and engagement of our team, and their ability to collaborate. In this case, we have Steve Walsh, our Head of Fabrication, working with Luke Harris, our most tenured digital designer. Together they are bypassing the need parts of the traditional workshop drawing set, and making the assembly and fabrication occur at pace, to meet a very tight deadline.’
As with most of the research on the successful integration of AMT in firms, there needs to be a steady progression of technology used by staff, gradually leading up to the employment of AMT. Amanda reiterated the practical importance of this in the day to day operations and meeting client expectations. She told us that, ‘the way that we try to make these developments is to incorporate those steps so that we’re not trying to solve any problems that we can’t see any other way to resolve. The ideal scenario is not to take a commercial project and be in a position where the only way we can deliver it is with new technology. Instead, the intent is to find a commercial project, identify a way that I think we can improve a step within it, a small step, and then deliver within our existing delivery model.’
The delivery of good quality projects is always the priority
The most important consideration is that the project will be delivered – on time and fit for purpose. The technology has to be employed in such a way that it won’t hinder project deliverables, as Amanda tells us, ‘if a piece of equipment or tech failed, we just can’t be in a position to not deliver for the Client. So there’s a lot of steps in qualifying the tech.’ As such, it is always more about the process of delivering the project than it is about the technology itself.
Design Robotics recently presented their research at an informal gathering, called a Mudpit, to QUT’s Design Lab Research group.
The mission of the Design Lab Research group at QUT is to ‘Change by Design.’ That is, Design research at QUT aims to demonstrate how design can be applied to achieve solutions to broader social, cultural, economic, and environmental problems.
The Design Lab website explains that ‘Design is no longer just the pursuit of creating objects or artefacts. It is a method and a research approach able to drive Australia’s National Innovation agenda. Harnessing this potential, the QUT Design Lab was founded in 2016 to employ bold, fresh, and rigorous design-led research to tackle major societal challenges facing society, industry, community, and the environment. Acting as a hub and home for a diverse team of academics, research students, and industry professionals, the QUT Design Lab supports transdisciplinary collaborations that result in tangible impact and engagement, and which transfer knowledge and technology into beneficial applications for industry and society.’
At the presentation Al Burden, the Design Robotics PhD Candidate, gave a short demonstration with the UR10s at QUT.
The Mudpit is an informal way of sharing research between colleagues to share knowledge and develop opportunities for collaboration.