AMGC backs project to automate vehicle panel repair

AMGC state director Michael Sharpe, Tradiebot chief creator Mario Dimovski and PPG Industries Australia marketing director Kevin Woolerton at the signing ceremony in UNSW.

AMGC state director Michael Sharpe, Tradiebot chief creator Mario Dimovski and PPG Industries Australia marketing director Kevin Woolerton at the signing ceremony in UNSW.

The Advanced Manufacturing Growth Centre (AMGC) is supporting a collaborative project with Tradiebot Industries to deliver the world’s first automated vehicle panel repair system.

As part of the project, Tradiebot Industries will collaborate with the University of New South Wales (UNSW) ARC Training Centre for Automated Manufacture of Advanced Composites (AMAC) on developing a robotic control system to carry out physical repairs on damaged vehicle panels.

Tradiebot’s chief creator, Mario Dimovski said the project seeks to achieve a shift from manual production jobs, towards a more customised, smart and competitive manufacturing model, backed by high skilled workers.

According to Dimovski, the project addresses a current skills gap in the vehicle collision repair industry.

“The collision repair sector is currently facing shortage of skilled workforce. By automating the panel repair process, we shorten the length of time required to train people to carry out the tasks. This also helps to attract the young generation to the sector, as they will need to control robots rather than doing hands-on tasks,” Dimovski told Manufacturers’ Monthly. 

The AMGC is providing $197,000 in co-funding for the first stage of the project, which is matched by equivalent funding from Tradiebot Industries. Further investments will follow as the project achieves set milestones.

Apart from providing an internal solution for the automotive repair sector, Dimovski said the project also opens the path for creating new manufacturing jobs in Australia as the technology sets to disrupt the global automotive industry.

Successful completion of the project will allow Tradiebot to create new revenue streams by leasing or selling digital assets and robotic systems to vehicle repairers.

Tradiebot has partnered with the global automotive coating giant, PPG Industries, on developing and later distributing the robotic solution through its global customer base.

Kevin Woolerton, marketing director, PPG Industries Australia, said PPG is happy to work with Tradiebot on leading innovations within the automotive repair sector.

“We are interested in the innovations within the industry and leading that innovation with Tradiebot. The repair processes have evolved considerably over the years. Using a robotic arm to do the physical repairs such as the sanding process can help avoid the occasional flaws that occur as a result of the human factor,” Woolerton told Manufacturers’ Monthly. 

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The signing ceremony at the ARC Training Centre for Automated Manufacture of Advanced Composites at UNSW on 14 August 2018.

AMGC state director, Michael Sharpe said the project is a good example of how collaboration can help Australia advance forward.

“Tradiebot is setting an example of how we can advance Australia further – helping to upskill the next generation as well as generating jobs for today.

“Also, the fact that Tradiebot is collaborating with a global company such as PPG is instrumental in creating export opportunities. The AMGC research clearly shows that as more Australian companies look at export opportunities, it positively affects the nation,” Sharpe said.

The project is the first collaboration between AMGC and the AMAC centre. Dr Jayantha Katupitiya, head of Mechatronic Engineering at UNSW, will be the leading academic working on the project.

The two core activities involved in the project include digitalising the process of repairing damaged vehicle panels by developing virtual models of vehicle panels, as well as developing a robot control system that can conduct these physical repairs, including sanding, painting and polishing.

The participants will also collaborate to integrate data from various devices into a unique Internet of Things (IoT) solution for vehicle panel repair.

A successful project outcome is likely to inspire similar solutions in areas beyond vehicle repair, such as commercial cleaning, painting and washing. Participating companies will also enhance their skills base by gaining first-hand experience in developing cyber-physical systems.