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THE CANOPY | CRAFTING COMPLEX CURVES WITH AR & VR

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

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

The Canopy insitu at One Melbourne Quarter
The Canopy Design

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

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

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

New Ways of Seeing

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

The view from inside the HoloLens

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

UAP's team refining The Canopy
The Future of Manufacturing

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

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Knowledge Sharing News Webinar

WEBINAR | INSIDE THE LEARNING FACTORY

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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_ Knowledge Sharing News

JING PENG | BETTER ROBOT GRINDING

Jing Peng
Postdoctoral Research Fellow 

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

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Opinion

Robot Sculpture, coming to a gallery near you


The Conversation

Robot sculpture, coming to a gallery near you

File 20170718 24602 vecpe5.jpg?ixlib=rb 1.1
A robot sculpts a recreation of the Ancient Greek work Laocoon and his Sons, which was exhibited in Linz last year.
Ars Electronica/Flickr, CC BY-NC-ND

Jared Donovan, Queensland University of Technology; Glenda Amayo Caldwell, Queensland University of Technology, and Jonathan Roberts, Queensland University of Technology
Two weeks ago, in an industrial shed in the northern suburbs of Brisbane, a team of engineers installed a large, orange robot arm. It was a standard industrial robot arm, but it was not going to be used for standard purposes. The robot’s job would be to carve moulds for the casting of large-scale, metal sculptures. It is being installed by Urban Art Projects, a company that specialises in the manufacture of sculpture and custom architectural facades.
Sculpture might not be the first thing that springs to mind if someone mentions robotics. We hear again and again that robots are set to change the way we drive our cars, grow our food, and perform surgery. But robots are changing art too.
There is, in fact, an extremely long history of robots being used in the arts. The creation of automata, mechanical devices driven by cogs, goes back centuries. These “robots” found their greatest expression in the incredible feats of mechanised Karakuri puppets in Japan and the clockwork automata of Europe in the 17th and 18th centuries.
The arts actually invented the name “robot”. The first use of the word recorded anywhere in the world was from a 1920 Czech play that featured humanoid style automatons, played by human actors.
In the mid-20th century, “cybernetic artists” began to work with electronic robots. Often these were produced as art objects themselves, similar to the older tradition of automatons. The polish artist Edward Ihnatowicz created The Senster, an electromechanical sculpture that could move and respond to people around it in a surprisingly lifelike manner.

Cybernetic sculptor Edward Ihnatowicz built the Senster – a 15 ft long, hydraulic robot – for Philips. It was on permanent display at the Evoluon, in Eindhoven in 1970.

Fast forwarding to our present moment, the Italian artist Quayola last year exhibited a reproduction of an ancient Greek sculpture, Laocoon and his Sons, which had been carved from polystyrene by a robot. The robot was deliberately instructed to leave the sculpture unfinished.

Artists’ assistants

Artists have already done a lot with robots, but it’s safe to say that there’s more to come. Robots could have a big impact on the way artists work, especially by helping them produce sculptural art. Rather than being art, these robots are more of a tool for the artist.
In architecture, robots are already used for 3D printing houses, laying bricks, and cutting, shaping and moulding all manner of forms. But why use robots to make sculpture?
Art (especially sculpture) can be dangerous and expensive to produce. It is essentially a manufacturing process that relies on the input of many highly skilled artisans and fabricators to cast metals, weld, grind, polish and patina a final piece. If robots can help even with part of this process and still maintain the handmade quality, then that artwork could be produced at a more affordable price.
Robots could be used to quickly rough out a sculptural form that is then refined by the human artist. Or a human artist could do the bulk of the work and then leave it to the robot to finish the fine surface detail. This process could include programming of robots to leave the “mark” of the artist.
Robots will also allow artists to work at a physical scale much larger than their own bodies. Often, large public artworks are first produced as small scale models, or digital files that need to be translated into much larger finished works. By allowing artists to work at scale, robots will allow a smoother transition from working out preliminary ideas on miniature models through to finished works while maintaining the integrity of the artists’ input.
There are also possibilities to support artists working together across great distances. Robots, connected via the internet, could provide a way to do “sculptural conference calls” and allow collaborations between artists who would not otherwise get a chance to work together. This could be extended to aid the process of learning practical sculpting skills. The robot could provide a way to guide the untrained hand of novice users based on the expertise of a master artist.

Makerspaces, shared spaces for creating art, could also benefit from having robots smart and capable enough to create art. This way, members of the public could get easier access to these technologies and use them to realise their own artistic creations.

New kinds of robots

Robots as we know them still have a long way to go before artists will really be able to make widespread use of them and before a robot can produce something on its own that comes close to the quality of a human handmade object.
Fortunately, recent developments suggest robots are about to become much more adaptable and useful. In surgery, robotic assistants are now being routinely used by surgeons to carry out procedures that would not be possible or are extremely difficult to perform by hand.

An industrial robot arm used for sculpture.
Ars Electronica, CC BY-NC-ND

Industrial robots can move with great accuracy, but they rely on pre-programmed movement paths. They usually can’t see what they are working on or adjust their movements in real time in the way that a human sculptor would. This lack of awareness makes robots dangerous to work around. Robots typically require highly controlled environments with expensive safety systems – not the kinds of environments you would find in most artists’ studios or busy makerspaces.
However research into collaborative robotics is set to make robots safe enough that people could even dance with them. Artists will need much more natural and intuitive ways of interacting and controlling the robot than we currently have available.
No matter what kind of robots we end up developing, one thing is certain. Artists have always employed new technologies in creative ways, to give us new kinds of art and to ask new questions about ourselves. That’s reason enough to continue to explore the intersections of robotics and art.
Jared Donovan, Senior Lecturer in Interaction Design, Queensland University of Technology; Glenda Amayo Caldwell, Senior Lecturer in Architecture, Queensland University of Technology, and Jonathan Roberts, Professor in Robotics, Queensland University of Technology
This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.