FormFlow, Deakin University to develop Industry 4.0 cell for metal forming

FormFlow, Deakin University and the Innovative Manufacturing CRC have announced a 12-month project to establish “an Industry 4.0 enabled manufacturing cell” for FormFlow’s metal bending process.

FormFlow was established in 2016 to commercialise a technique to bend corrugated metal at certain angles, without damaging the material’s structure or coating. The project would develop a “cell equipped with smart vision technologies to trace, evaluate, and continuously monitor the profile shape and forming load” for metal sheets, with funding assistance through IMCRC’s new activate program.

“FormFlow`s bending technology is unique. It is a secondary forming operation that relies on the theory of ‘folded developables’ to limit material deformation in incoming roll formed strip to simple bending while forming a complex shape, such as a 90-degree angle,” said Managing Director Dr Matthew Dingle (pictured left) in a statement.

“To achieve this, the profile shape of the incoming corrugated strip must conform to the surface contours of our bending technology. Unfortunately, this is often not the case as different steel manufacturers use different profile shapes and material parameters.

“Thus, being able to trace the incoming profile shapes and material properties in-real time and adjust the technology accordingly will enhance our bending process significantly, allowing us to respond to different customer requirements and deliver products of greater quality.”

The work is being led by Deakin’s Institute for Frontier Materials (IFM) Senior Research Fellow Dr Matthias Weiss (right), who is also R&D Director at FormFlow.

Weiss said the project represented a new approach for process monitoring and control of secondary forming operations at the company.

“By linking load signatures measured throughout the bending process to changes in incoming profile shape and material parameters, we hope to develop a proactive routine for FormFlow’s shape control,” added Weiss.

The IMCRC’s David Chuter said the benefits of the collaboration would extend through Australia’s sheet metal production industry, and “opens the door for FormFlow to upscale their manufacturing capabilities and expand their business model – not just in Australia, but globally.”

FormFlow announced a deal with BlueScope’s Lysaght division in July last year, applying 90-degree bends to Lysaght’s Custom Orb product.

IMCRC’s activate program supports short-term projects with matched funding between $50,000 and $100,000. The first project supported under activate was announced in November. 

Picture: supplied

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