Robotics lab to encourage hands-on Industry 4.0 knowledge

A new digital fabrication facility, ProtoLAB, opened this week at Swinburne University of Technology.

The lab will house industrial robots for large scale architectural design prototyping.

The design of the space is intended to open up the fabrication process to passers-by and allows observation and interest to be garnered by the large windows that open out at street level and the presentation of the machinery inside.

Included in the lap is a high-speed HP Jet Fusion 3D Printer, which allows for prints with complex geometry without support materials needing to be removed. In addition, a Okuma CNC turn mill, seven laser cutters, a Biesse CNC router, a Mutlicam router, two KUKA collaborative robots, and a larger KUKA KR120 robot are available for use by students and researchers.

According to manager of technical services, architecture and design, Andrew Tarlinton, the site allows for better ways of creating products.

“By using data and analytics [students] work out what’s required, reducing waste material and improving user experience. Generative design and parametric design are not new ways of working, but we are progressively finding easier ways of producing designs, and communicating to the machines,” said Tarlinton.

At other levels of collaboration, the facility will broaden the capabilities of Swinburne’s researchers to partner with industry.

“We also now have the space and large-scale robotics to undertake prototyping, fabrication and assembly at architectural scale,” said dean of design, professor Jane Burry.

Having the machines on site allows for students to gain practical knowledge alongside theoretical understandings imparted in the classroom.

“By teaching the full potential of Industry 4.0 machines, we enable students to translate these capabilities back into their designs with a deeper technical knowledge and understanding,” said Tarlinton.

With such a modern facility, Swinburne hopes to garner the interest of a broad swathe of industrial designers.

“In design, access to a top-quality workshop is a major attractor for both students and researchers for testing and developing ideas. The quality of the workshop and expertise of staff is critical, and regular access invaluable,” said Burry.