Manufacturing news briefs – stories you might have missed

Computer vision breakthrough for Australian laundry robot

Consolidated Linen Service (CLS) and the Advanced Robotics for Manufacturing (ARM) Hub have developed a prototype robot to make life easier in a hot, humid workplace. The project’s first phase, according to ARM Hub CEO Associate Professor Cori Stewart, showed it was possible to automate picking up linen from a container and flattening it: “the key task for feeding a towel or other item into a folding machine.” CLS’s Tom Roberts added, “The feeding process is incredibly labour intensive… [and] takes around six seconds per item.” CLS staff currently handle around 700,000 linen items per week, in conditions up to 50 degrees Celsius and 95 per cent humidity, and with a huge predicted increase in demand for their services in the next decade. The current prototype involves two robot arms on a benchtop, equipped with LiDAR and RGB cameras, and trained to recognise corners on towels (see video below.) The project began with funding from the Queensland Government’s Essential Goods and Supply Chain Program.

Traffic Technologies new lighting order

Smart city and smart lighting manufacturer Traffic Technologies has won a new order for 7,000 additional next-generation street lights as part of their partnership with Southern Sydney Regional Organisation of Councils. The lights, which will form part of the largest smart lighting upgrade underway in Australia, will be completed by Ausgrid. More than 92,000 street lights will be upgraded by Ausgrid over the next three years in the programme. Thirty three councils are now involved in the upgrade, with the new order for IoT ready, energy efficient LED lighting technology.

New SA food export strategy

Food South Australia has issued a South Australian Food and Beverage Five year export Strategy, aiming to grow exports to $3 billion in five years, up from today’s $2.6 billion. Issued at the Food South Australia Summit, the strategy was developed in consultation with local industry. A steering group of industry figures will work with government agencies to address key export challenges facing the sector, both for existing and new exporters. Monitoring global trends, developing skills and developing logistics infrastructure are a focus. The new strategy does not cover the state’s wine sector.

Conflux Technology launches first product 

This week additively manufactured heat exchanger specialist Conflux Technology released its first product, an ultra-high performing additive manufactured Water Charge Air Cooler (WCAC). According to the company, the new product rivals and out-performs other leading WCACs, is applicable to motorsport and high-end automotive markets, is configured to specific customer requirements, and has been launched with performance, competitive pricing and rapid delivery top of mind. Dan Woodford, Conflux’s Chief Product Officer, said the product “is rapidly configured to our customer’s prioritisation of performance, size, and packaging requirements” and thanks to additive manufacture, is supplied “with low lead time and competitively priced.”

Sunshine Coast’s ZoneRV awarded grant to support 90 new jobs

ZoneRV is has been awarded a state government Made in Queensland grant of more than $1.4 million. According to manufacturing minister Glenn Butcher, who announced the grant this week at the company’s Sunshine Coast facility, the funding would help it invest in an advanced composite division and a state-of-the-art manufacturing facility supporting 90 new jobs. ZoneRV’s founder David Biggar said the company made use of 25 years’ experience in true composite manufacturing “across the marine, aeronautical and civil construction industries and our products reflect this setting a new benchmark for caravan manufacturing standards in Australia.”

UNSW solar-powered car on track to challenge for world record

The UNSW Sydney Sunswift Racing team has officially unveiled its latest model this week, the Sunswift 7 (pictured.) According to a statement from the university, it has been designed to claim the title of world’s fastest solar vehicle, with its credentials going on the line in a Guinness World Record attempt in December for Fastest Solar Electric Car over a distance of 1,000 kilometres. Sunswift 7 weighs just under 500 kilograms, with a carbon fibre chassis and bodywork, aerodynamic design to reduce wind resistance, and efficiencies in power transfer between the solar panel and the motor meaning it can travel for more than 1,200 kilometres on a single charge. The 50-person student team is overseen by Professor of Practice Richard Hopkins, former Head of Operations for the Red Bull Racing Formula One Team

AWU wants UK-style gas profits tax 

The Australian Workers’ Union has said the federal government must urgently put a UK-style windfall tax on the table to force multinational exporters to give Australian manufactures access to affordable gas. The AWU said it has long backed a domestic gas reservation scheme, and has warned of the risk of domestic price explosions and job losses for over a decade. With the current emergency meaning factory closures are imminent, National Secretary Daniel Walton said multinationals could currently “cream astronomical mega-profits from Australian gas while forcing Australian factories, smelters and plants to the wall… Without drastic action we’re going to see thousands of Australian manufacturing jobs lost this year.” 

Picture: The UNSW Sunswift team (image credit

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