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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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REVIEW | ARCHITECTURAL ROBOTICS

Over the past 15 years, researchers in architecture and construction have been exploring the possibilities of employing industrial robotic arms (IRA) to help create new kinds of architectural forms. There is now a wealth of research in this area that manufacturers can draw upon to inform advanced manufacturing processes, due to the power that they entail in the direct path from digital design to fabrication. For architects, designers and construction managers, this research also points the way to new design possibilities.
In the scope of this training material, examples from current architectural and design research are explored. Recent publications from ROBArchCuminCAD and prominent universities were analysed to identify key design methodologies. The key findings of the literature review show that there is a need for a paradigm shift in the way fabrication is thought, as the design methods used in the early exploratory stages directly correlates with the way the industrial robots function and manufacture.
Carving and 3D Printing IRA's, image courtesy of UAP.
With the use of IRAs in architecture, designers have the possibility to fabricate their designs directly from the parametric digital design tools that they use. This direct connection between design and fabrication creates a fundamental shift in the way we perceive design, as architects. Suddenly, we are in control of the whole process of making; from material behaviour to structural rigidity, from material optimization to cost effectiveness, from sustainability to innovative techniques. Similar to the idea of sketching, the making process becomes more iterative, fluid and directly connected to our minds. It is also more playful and unique to our personal experiences (erlebnis).
Some of the design methodologies that arise from the exploration of IRA’s usage in architectural fabrications can be named as drawing, folding, 3D printing, deforming, stacking, weaving and carving. One might understand that each one of these methodologies are related to words of action, as they entail making in their existence. Most of the examples that are discussed in this section are pioneering exemplars that open up novel ways of making. Still at their early stages of exploration, these exemplars will change the way of architectural fabrication.

3D Printing

3D Printing technologies have been available to architects since the early 90’s, however, they are confined with the dimensions, the limitations and the available materials of the 3D Printers. With the use of IRAs, the possibilities of printing bigger and customised solutions became possible. Depending on the material used for printing, the outcomes could be real-time constructed structures without curing / assembling times. Also explorations into customised materials with sustainability considerations can be tested. Materials like recycled plastics, acrylic, nylon, resin, wood metal, rubber, salt, cement, sand, etc… can be used for 3D printing possibilities.
In the work of “Aggregation” by ICD, the concept of 3D printing is explored through a different kind of material compared to current 3D printing material. Instead of using a filament, this project uses a 3D elemental piece to be poured by an IRA. Through gravitational force, the material entangles to one another through a natural flow and compresses naturally. This process creates new ways of constructing through an aggregation process. There are no binders, no curing times. Allowing structure to emerge instantaneously through the process of pouring.
In the work of “Robotic Welding the Bridge” by MX3D, IRAs demonstrate the ability to 3D print in stainless steel. 3D printing is achieved by welding IREs. Welded forms have a lot of flexibility in relation to creating complex geometries and force distribution. More explorations with fluid materials that are more similar to 3D printers as we know it are the works of Roland SnooksEmerging Objects and AI Build.

Deforming

Deforming a rigid material using material’s physical properties creates novel uses of that material. In architecture, deforming through vacuum forming has been used for creating repetitive elements through metal and plastic sheets moulds in many design projects. However, the idea of mass-customisation through parametric design suggests novel techniques for fabrication with this technique. As, custom designed panels require custom moulds, cost and precision becomes the main concerns for manufacturers. In order for custom moulds to be sustainable and economically feasible, manufacturing speed, recycling and accuracy should be taken into consideration. With their speed and precision, IRAs can apply adequate force to create exact deformations in metal sheets to achieve high quality results. [Kalo, A. & Newsum, M. J. (2014)]

Folding

The folding techniques used in architecture are mainly influenced by the folding techniques from Japanese Origami art. In the Origami technique, a planar paper surface is folded into 3dimensional geometries without losing material. The folds create rigidity in the material in a way that it is possible to resist gravitational forces as well as lateral forces. Similar ideas of Origami are tested and prototyped in the manufacturing process of Robofold. In the explorations of Robofold, laser cut aluminium plates that have scores of folding as well as joint holes, which are folded by three IREs applying equal forces.

Stacking

Stacking materials is a repetitive and tiring process that requires optimisation, attention, precision and equal force distribution. The significance in the process of stacking is in the overall algorithm that defines the rules of stacking in relation to each piece with one another, that requires real-time feedback loops, using vision sensors. In architectural fabrication, stacking materials by using pick and place functions in IRAs is commonly used. Pioneering research group, Gramazio Kohler explore the potential of such technologies through onsite robotic construction.

Mobile Robotic Brickwork from robotsinarchitecture on Vimeo
Weaving

Inherent in our nomadic existence, weaving has been an integral part of architectural fabrication. Roof structures, partition elements have been woven using various materials since centuries. However, today with the use of IRAs in digital design to fabrication, architects realized a new potential in this way of fabrication. In the works of ICD, New materials such as carbon fibre have initiated unforeseen potentials in the making of spaces, using biomimetic approaches to design. Parasitic structures as well as self-standing
lightweight structures enable fast and clean on-site fabrication of lightweight structures. Either constructed as elemental units, or parasitical structures that are weaved into localities, weaved elements create their own structural integrity, allowing adequate weight distribution and optimised material use. Some weaved structures allow human-robot collaboration by humans assembling infrastructures for robots to weave, or humans assembling robotically weaved elements into whole structures.

 ICD ITKE Research Pavilion 2013-14 from itke on Vimeo
Carving

Carving has entered the world of architectural fabrication with 3 axis CNC’s. The flexibility of having a 6 axis IRA, allows multiple directional carving into materials. With the use of IRAs, using different end effectors, architects carve into materials with hotwire cutters as well as various milling tools. Using a hotwire cutter, QUT Design Robotics team has collaborated with UQ School of Architecture to create ROBOBLOX; a web to fabrication design process to cut custom designed patterns into sculptural friezes. Manufacturing company UAP uses robotic milling in creating custom mould patterns for bronze casting of bespoke artworks.

ROBOBLOX, Design Robotics & UQ School of Architecture
The Future of Manufacturing

With support from the Innovative Manufacturing Cooperative Research Centre (IMCRC), Design Robotics is collaborating to present a range of new fabrication and vision systems solutions. The goal is simple – to design for human intelligence and optimize the relationship between people and machines.
Pushing the limits of 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.

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REVIEW | ROBOT CALIBRATION

UR10 Robot with burnishing tool

Robotic arms are a series of joints linked together in a kinematic chain

Calibration is critical in the field of robotics as it allows for enhancement of a robot’s accuracy through software rather than changing mechanical components. This article will go over some basic concepts involved in end effector calibration otherwise known as adding a new tool centre point on a robotic arm. Most industrial manipulators have six degrees of freedom or six joints (see Figures 1 & 2). The starting link always begins where the robot is physically mounted. These joints can be described as having a parent-child relationship. The hierarchy of these joints is important as the child joint is always defined in reference to, and therefore dependent on, the parent joint. The last link on the kinematic chain is typically referred to as the end effector which has a tool centre point (TCP). It is this TCP point that the user will manipulate in 3D-space, if in cartesian control. To make robotic arms useful, various end effectors (i.e. grippers, 3D sensors, rotating tools) can be attached in order to complete various operations. As a result, defining a new TCP is necessary to utilise the mounted tools.

Figure1: Simple drawing of a robotic arm and joints
Figure 1: Simple drawing of a robotic arm and joints

Figure 2: Example of joints on an industrial robotic arm

Figure 2: Example of joints on an industrial robotic arm

There are several ways to add a new TCP point on a robotic arm and most robotic arm manufacturers will provide their own methodology. Ultimately, all these methods involve measuring the pose of your new end effector in 3D-space, with respect to the last joint of the manipulator. The key feature to make note of when adding a new TCP, is the parent joint’s coordinate frame (see Figure 3).
Figure 3: Example of TCP point being defined from the last flange joint on a KUKA

Figure 3: Example of TCP point being defined from the last flange joint on a KUKA

To define a new TCP, the position and orientation is required to make up the pose. The position aspect can be gathered from physically measuring it out. It’s important to know the coordinate frame as this determines whether elements are positive or negative, and which axis to measure along. Depending on the complexity of the end effector, it can be quite difficult to measure the TCP point. If there is an accurate 3D model, the position information can be gathered from this, but ultimately the accuracy in robotic arm control is dependent on how close the most is representative in real life.
The orientation is crucial for cartesian control. The controller is given target poses and it is ultimately trying to match the robot’s end-effector coordinate frame to the target’s. If the orientation of the TCP is ill-defined, it can cause large sweeping motions. There are four key things to remember when defining a new orientation:

  1. Orientations are simply defining a new XYZ coordinate frame (see Figure 4A)
  2. All XYZ coordinate frames have to abide by a right-hand rule to be valid (see Figure 4B – this rule defines the order XYZ axes can exist, thumb is X, pointer is Y and middle is Z axis) and follow conventions to determine positive rotation (figure 4C)
  3. The order of rotations also impacts the ending result of a coordinate frame.
  4. All orientations, while maybe named or ordered differently, will be defined using either euler angles (x,y,z) or quaternions (x, y, z, w) with the units being either in degrees or radian.

Figure 4: (A) A 3D coordinate frame in cartesian space. (B) The right hand rule all frames will abide by. (C) The thumb represents the axis, and the curled fingers represent convention for positive rotation.

Figure 4A: (A) A 3D coordinate frame in cartesian space. (B) The right-hand rule all frames will abide by. (C) The thumb represents the axis, and the curled fingers represent convention for positive rotation.
Figure 4: Example of orientations defined in KUKA manipulators. ABC angles represent ZYX coordinate frames (note, reversed and named differently from conventional frames).
Figure 4B: Example of orientations defined in KUKA manipulators. ABC angles represent ZYX coordinate frames (note, reversed and named differently from conventional frames).

Figure 5: Coordinate frame showing the separated axis rotations

Figure 5: Coordinate frame showing the separated axis rotations

This article touched on the basic concepts involved in calibrating a new end effector on any kind of robotic arm. It is important to have an understanding of the underlying theory that underpins how robotic arms are structured, but the best resource to understand your robotic arm will be the manufacturer’s manual.

The Future of Manufacturing

With support from the Innovative Manufacturing Cooperative Research Centre (IMCRC), Design Robotics is collaborating to present a range of new fabrication and vision systems solutions. The goal is simple – to design for human intelligence and optimize the relationship between people and machines.
Pushing the limits of 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.

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AR & VR | SAFE, PRECISE, & ACCESSIBLE

Alongside 3D printing and robotics, Augmented and Virtual Reality (AR & VR) are emerging as key Industry 4.0 technologies. Thanks in part to cost reduction and advances in consumer-level equipment, AR & VR applications are becoming well-accepted in product development and manufacturing environments. The novel interaction techniques, including multimodal interfaces and gesture control devices, support traditional manufacturing processes by improving safety, flexibility and precision.
Modelling a facade element using virtual reality (image courtesy UAP)

Virtual Reality (VR) Solutions

Computer-generated 3D environments that respond in real-time to human gestures usually experienced through immersive head-mounted displays. Handheld controllers are used for hand and body tracking and may provide haptic feedback.
In industrial applications, VR can be used as a tool to visualise how different hardware and software can collaborate with human and robot systems, in programming, maintenance and error handling. This is beneficial for understanding spatial relationships in assembly processes, as well as aspects of ergonomics and “viewability” critical for certain processes of product assembly and repair.
VR can also facilitate interactive development and decision making within product design teams. Teams can review the product at scale in a collaborative environment, exploring any limitations in the design or assembly.

Augmented Reality (AR) Solutions

AR is an environment where computer-generated 3D objects, text or graphics are overlayed on the realworld view. In industrial prototyping these techniques can be used to augment a virtual robot or machine into a real-world space.
AR environments allow for safe and precise manipulation of tools in industrial applications– particularly where other methods are not feasible – and can provide context-awareness to increase levels of trust in systems. Recent work is exploring the possibilities of free-form modelling and flow-sculpting. The intent of these developments is to support more natural human gestures in conceptual design. The technology may sidestep the level of skill required to work with CAD technologies, as well as open up the possibility of cross-department workflows within organisations.

Challenges & Considerations

AR & VR systems can still be complex and expensive to set up. In some cases, the virtual environment may be time-consuming to create, increasing human labour and causing it to be an expensive alternative to traditional modelling and prototyping. Despite increased accessibility of commercially available equipment, the interface also has limitations – gesture recognition can be unreliable, the head-mounted hardware uncomfortable, and extended use has been known to cause simulator sickness. Interestingly though, successful simulation in VR is supported by a user’s real-world knowledge of the task. When used as a training tool, VR has had a positive impact in a number of industries, from manufacturing to medical surgery. VR/AR technologies have also been successful in reducing the risk of costs associated with training, particularly in environments that are complex, hazardous, or difficult to access.

Adding Value to Design & Engineering Outcomes

AR & VR can add value to design and engineering outcomes by:

  • Effectively communicating internally across departments, and externally with clients and contractors.
  • Providing more clarity of production requirements and processes for the manufacturing and construction team.
  • Drastically reducing or helping eliminate the amount of documentation which is required for assembly of structures.
  • Establishing more efficient iterative design changes, more effective collaboration across disciplines and departments, and faster design process.
  • AR can also help in Visualising the scale of a structure and its relationship to a site through the use of AR.
  • Assisting in assessing the aesthetic quality of the work.
  • Identifying errors earlier in the production.
  • Evaluating and assessing compliance of Australian standards.
AR & VR Workflow
  • Map out opportunities and potential use-cases with employees
  • Identify a project champion within your organisation to lead the projects
  • Audit current in-house workforce skills
  • Explore potential technology – including options for ongoing technical support and training, some examples:
  • Set aside a physical space (for AR)
  • And provide training and practice time! – See our brief on workforce considerations.
The Future of Manufacturing

With support from the Innovative Manufacturing Cooperative Research Centre (IMCRC), Design Robotics is collaborating to present a range of new fabrication and vision systems solutions. The goal is simple – to design for human intelligence and optimize the relationship between people and machines.
Pushing the limits of 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.

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REVIEW | ARCHITECTURAL ROBOTICS SOFTWARE

Over the past 15 years, researchers in architecture and construction have been exploring the possibilities of employing industrial robotic equipment to help create new kinds of architectural forms. There is now a wealth of research in this area around the most effective software, particularly with regard to maximising the direct path from digital design to fabrication. For architects, designers, and construction managers, this research also reveals new form-finding strategies.
Recent publications from ROBArch, CuminCAD, and prominent universities were analysed to identify premium software resources. The key findings of the literature review show that tailored software is necessary to correspond to the needs of manufacturing bespoke designs. The results of this research hints that there is a need for a paradigm shift in the way fabrication is thought, as the design methods used in the early exploratory stages directly correlates with the way the industrial robots function and manufacture.
Some available software for architectural robotics
There are various different software packages available for controlling IRAs. However, considering direct workflows from architectural digital design to fabrication, add-ons within the parametric design plugin called Rhinoceros/Grasshopper is the most common one. Many architectural institutions and schools use KUKA PRC and Robots. KUKA PRC also serves as a hub of knowledge through their conference, workshop, website and online forum. It is also easier to find online tutorials of KUKA PRC, whereas Robots is freely available and easy to control with Grasshopper comments. It can also control all kinds of robots. On the other hand, Autodesk PowerMill Robot is most commonly used in architectural manufacturing firms. Open software packages for controlling robots are very common in robotic engineering. Software like ROS that can control robots, in general, are adapted for designers through more user-friendly interfaces. Also, free-standing software like Mind Ex Machina can connect different design platforms such as Processing, and Grasshopper.

Stand-alone Programs

The software in the following table are stand-alone programs.

Name Website Robot Brands
Mind ex Machina Link All kinds of robots
RhinoRobot Link KUKA, UR, ABB, Staubli, Yaskawa, Fanuc
PointLoader Link KUKA
PowerMill Robot Link ABB, FANUC, KUKA
ROS Link All kinds of robots
Robo.Op Link ABB

Grasshopper Plugins

The following table lists software add-ons that can be used with the parametric design software environment ‘Grasshopper’.

Name Website Robot Brands
CRANE Link Staubli
GAZEBO Link UR
HAL Link ABB, KUKA, UR
KUKA PRC Link KUKA
Mussels Link ABB robots
RAPCAM Link ABB, FANUC, KUKA
ROBOTS Link ABB, KUKA and UR
SCORPION Link UR
TACO Link ABB

 

The Future of Manufacturing

With support from the Innovative Manufacturing Cooperative Research Centre (IMCRC), Design Robotics is collaborating to present a range of new fabrication and vision systems solutions. The goal is simple – to design for human intelligence and optimize the relationship between people and machines.
Pushing the limits of 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.
 

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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
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

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.

Categories
_ 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.

Categories
_ 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