Larsen increases capacity with new Bystronic system

With capacity limitations hampering its ability to meet the needs of its customers, Larsen Engineering recently upgraded its workshop with a suite of new equipment from Bystronic. The latest acquisitions are already proving their worth, opening up new opportunities for the business.

Established in 2000, Larsen Engineering is a diversified manufacturer of complex sheet metal componentry, primarily servicing customers in and around Albury & Wodonga, on the border between Victoria and New South Wales. With approximately 50 staff, the company operates from three manufacturing plants totalling around 5,000sqm, located in Baranduda in south-east Wodonga, and in Lavington in north Albury. Larsen provides specialised engineering solutions to a highly diverse client base, with infrastructure, agriculture and defence representing key markets.

Still very much a family company, General Manager Ben Larsen is the third generation of Larsens leading manufacturing in the region, with his father Tim overseeing operations as Director.

“We are a supply chain manufacturer supporting local industries,” says Ben. “We don’t necessarily focus on our own proprietary products, but we supply to all walks of life between Canberra and Wangaratta, with some other work in Melbourne and Sydney every now and again. Our main focus is on laser cutting, but we also have plasma cutting, powder-coating and so on.”

The company has always prided itself on maintaining a competitive edge by investing in the latest state-of-the-art manufacturing technology. This has also seen Larsen expanding the capabilities it can offer, providing a range of secondary services such as metal forming and bending, welding and fabrication, assembly, sand-blasting and powder-coating.

“We’ve been quite fortunate in maintaining five or six customers that are our bread and butter,” says Ben. “And we’ve supported these core customers by tailoring our new facilities and infrastructure to service their needs. We’ve grown as they’ve grown, and expanded into specific technologies to provide them with a better service, best supporting their development of products and services.”

Having established a strong customer base and a solid reputation, one problem for Larsen has been in maintaining its ability to stay on top of demand and fulfil the requirements of its clients. Around three years ago the company decided to replace one of its original machines with a new 6kW ByAutonom 3015 fibre (CO2) laser and a ByTrans Extended material loader from Bystronic. For a while this proved sufficient to meet demand. However, as Larsen’s customers grew accustomed to the reliability of service Larsen could now ensure, it wasn’t long before the same problems began to occur once again.

“Basically when we commissioned the ByAutonom 3015 CO2 laser in 2015, we were able to service our existing contracts really well,” says Ben. “As our servicability improved we quickly filled our capacity, causing us to loose our edge on the market once again.”

It was time to for the company to think about investing again.

System upgrade

“We’d been running at capacity with our two lasers for almost two years,” explains Ben. “Our team was working on two shifts with consistent weekend work. It was a very demanding period but our team managed to deliver on our customer’s requirements. So instead of adding another machine of the same calibre, our team investigated technologies that could futureproof our position and also grow our market share.”

Larsen ultimately decided on a 10kW ByStar Fiber 3015 fibre laser cutting system from Bystronic. The Bystar Fiber can handle a nominal sheet size of 3,000mm x 1,500mm, with a maximum simultaneous positioning speed of 169m per minute. The machine has been designed to offer maximum operating convenience with a transparent, intuitive process control via the ByVision Cutting user interface.

To complement the laser cutting system, Larsen also invested in two further machines from Bystronic: a ByTrans Extended automatic loading and unloading system, and a ByTower flexible storage tower. Ben explains: “Essentially we’ve doubled our laser capacity with the new machine. We also invested heavily in automation for materials loading and unloading and part-sorting.”

The ByTrans Extended allows faster job-processing by decreasing set-up times, enabling higher machine utilisation. It is a flexible system, suitable not just for storage/return transfer but also for large parts removal, as well as the preparation of plastic protective separators for placement between the metal sheets. The ByTrans Extended also has two cassettes, making the system more autonomous.

The ByTower enables regularly used materials to always be available by storing them directly next to the machine. Both raw material and processed sheets can be loaded or removed easily with a forklift truck. The shuttle table remains freely accessible and is automatically loaded and unloaded, further enhancing machine utilisation.

“So now we’ve got an additional eight cassettes,” adds Ben. “That makes it a total of 17 stations across three machines that we can pick and choose from, whether that’s for raw material or unloading of parts or unloading waste materials and so on.”

One additional positive factor regarding the installation of the new system has been the service and after-sales support from Bystronic Australia. For Ben, this was important as Larsen had in the past had problems with previous suppliers, to the extent that it was threatening to undermine the team’s confidence in expanding and acquiring new technology.

“Bystronic equipment is great, but you need that support behind you,” he explains. “If we needed a replacement part, we had previously had to order it from Europe. Now with Bystronic’s Melbourne sales and service branch we have direct access to inventory of consumables and components that can be despatched same day. Bystronic troubleshoots quickly, they’re available and they can get their service staff here quickly. The installation was also a relativly seamless process.”

Capacity gains

The new machinery has provided a big boost for Larsen. It has restored the company’s competitive edge, not just over local businesses providing similar services, but with manufacturers further afield in the big cities.

“The project has improved our lead times, which was our ultimate goal,” says Ben. “At full capacity we were failing to deliver five days turnaround for local customers, which meant we were loosing existing work to our cometitors from the metropolitan areas. Now we can essentially deliver in three or four days with capacity to service urgent orders such as components required for breakdowns.

“Essentially the new investment has enabled us to meet customer requirements. We’ve had some contracts that we literally couldn’t take because we didn’t have the capacity for them. So now we’ve been able to shore them up with our customers and provide them with security when it comes to reliability. They know they can get it and they don’t have to worry about how busy we are or if there are other jobs interfering with production schedule.”

That increased capacity has in turn extended across Larsen’s secondary capabilities, creating opportunities for the company to diversify its service offering. Larsen can now offer these secondary capabilities more widely across its customer base, where previously they had to be restricted to certain key clients.

“Our dedicated sandblasting and powder-coating facility has been extended to two shifts with the influx of work from the new machine,” says Ben. “Many secondary operations were restricted within the company, they weren’t open to the general market because they were servicing specific contracts with existing customers. Now we’ve been able to increase capacity everywhere, so now we can service general market rather than just being defined by a select amount of customers.”

While the new machinery investments are opening up exciting new possibilities for Larsen, they are also creating new employment opportunities. The company has already made some additions to its head count, with more likely to follow.

“We have already increased our workforce and transitioned many staff into higher-skilled positions in preparation for the projected growth.” Says Ben. “The project has created many full-time job opportunites, including six new full-time positions, not only for the laser department, but for the secondary operations which have grown as a result of the expansion.”

The company is also undergoing an extensive rebranding: “We have done a redevelopment of our logo to reflect a new chapter of Larsen, and modernised of all of our marketing materials and our website. We’ve also included a video to showcase the vision and philosophy behind our business.”

Given the positive direction the company is moving in, it seems inevitable that Larsen will eventually start to run up against a fresh set of limits on its capacity to meet demand. However, with the new Bystronic system, Ben is confident that in terms of laser cutting at least, that point is some way off.

“We have been successful in delivering a huge amount of capacity to the market,” he says. “It’s really incredible”

Bystronic Australia will be holding an Open House event on 29-30 November at its showroom in Cranbourne West, Victoria. The event will be a chance to meet the team at Bystronic, learn more about the machinery range, and network over food and drink. For more information visit the Bystronic website.

Bluefrog Design creates life-changing medical device via additive manufacturing

Founded in 1990 by Chris Samwell, Bluefrog Design serves a wide range of industries including consumer goods, packaging, transportation and medical. Although its clients’ specialities are very diverse, they all look to Bluefrog for innovation.

“Our clients approach us to bring their ideas to life, and to solve problems in ways they hadn’t considered possible,” Samwell explains. “Prototyping is essential to our business, as it proves to clients that our designs are viable. However, when producing these prototypes with traditional methods, we were not only constrained by time and cost, but also increasingly felt the prototypes often lacked the realism our clients demanded.”

Bluefrog needed the freedom to escape traditional design constraints at every stage of product development. It needed to produce fully functional, advanced prototypes with industry-recognised, engineering-grade materials. In a quest to find a solution, the team turned to additive manufacturing.

Bluefrog’s versatility is best exemplified by its ability to solve seemingly insurmountable challenges. The team was recently approached by a young man suffering from paraesthesia, a condition that causes inexplicable burning, tingling or prickling across the skin. The only way to ease his pain was to ensure that his clothes touched his skin as little as possible. Despite interventions from doctors, no solution had been found. It was clear to Samwell the patient could benefit from a custom device he could wear with minimal skin contact that would also minimise his skin’s contact with clothing. The device had to be customised to his body, resting only on areas not affected by his condition.

Bluefrog’s team knew this case required a realistic prototype and final product in as little time as possible. They began by creating a complex 3D scan of the patient’s body, which was converted into a 3D-printed prototype on their Stratasys FDM 3D printer. Once tested and modified, the final version was produced in tough, medical-grade ABSPlus material, chosen thanks to its stability over time. Due to the round-the-clock capability of the Fortus 3D printer, this process took just three days, a dramatic turnaround for a patient who had been suffering for years.

Thanks to the 3D scan of the patient’s body, the team could isolate areas of his chest unaffected by paraesthesia, and determine where on the body the device could be hung. Given that the device would need to be worn every day, they also needed to consider its exact weight and shape. It needed to be organic, easy-to-wear and completely personalised.

“Stratasys additive manufacturing offered us the ability to create a lattice-based design with minimal fuss,” says Samwell. “We were able to reduce the weight of the device even further and save up to 60% of the material that traditional production methods would consume. From testing through to the final part, Stratasys additive manufacturing enabled us to control and optimise the design. We would not have been able to create such a high-performing, unique solution without it.

Global collaboration gives rise to 3D printed field test kit

A collaboration between South Australia, Texas and Ethiopia is using 3D-printing and design innovation to efficiently diagnose a deadly disease that infects a million people every year.

The kit to diagnose leishmaniasis began trials in July by the Armauer Hansen Research Institute (AHRI) in Addis Ababa, as part of a program to revolutionise the way diseases are tested and treated. Working with Austin-based infectious disease virtual incubator PandemicTech and the New Venture Institute (NVI) at Flinders University in Adelaide, Dr Endalamaw Gadisa has been able to quickly iterate his knowledge of a better way to test for leishmaniasis into a practical, cost-effective design.

Leishmaniasis is a parasitic disease spread through sandfly bites. The World Health Organization estimates up to 1m new cases and 30,000 deaths occur annually, usually among malnourished people living in poverty or unsanitary conditions. Although it can lead to ulcers and death, leishmaniasis is curable if diagnosed and treated early.

Gadisa identified several difficulties in testing for the disease in Ethopia, leading to the need for more effective, practical diagnostic equipment. The difficulties with the current system include the cost of a liquid medium (reagent) for testing, the fragile test tubes used to store the reagent, the challenge of viewing samples under available microscopes, and the length of time to get results, which can be more than a week. He developed a design for a test tube that requires significantly less reagent (10 microlitres versus 25 millilitres) and could provide results in as few as three days, but he lacked the ability to build his prototype in Addis Ababa.

Andrew Nerlinger, Director of PandemicTech, offered to work with Gadisa as one of the incubator’s original pilot projects, and then brought the problem to Matt Salier, Director of Flinders University’s New Venture Institute.

“When I eventually described the project to Matt Salier during the South by Southwest Conference in March 2017, he offered to collaborate and introduced me to NVI’s Raphael Garcia, who ultimately worked directly with Dr Gadisa and me on several design iterations resulting in the prototype depicted in the most recent photos,” Nerlinger said.

The New Venture Institute is located in the Tonsley Innovation Precinct in Adelaide, a sister city of Austin. Salier said the sister city relationship helped start the conversation.

“Flinders NVI has had an office presence in Austin for over four years now with our local partner Tech Ranch. I met Andrew from Endura Ventures as he was establishing PandemicTech and we saw an opportunity to apply our design and innovative manufacturing expertise at Tonsley,” Salier said.

Prototyping the design took less than four months and was done on NVI’s Stratasys Objet Connex 3D printer. This allowed various solutions to be considered through a Design-Thinking process before picking the most suitable one to be designed on CAD software.

Salier said the first prototype was created using a clear liquid resin and was produced in three parts: a main body to hold the fluid; a cork on top to plug the culture tube; and a bottom plug that is removable to clean the culture tube. The main body has a central hole throughout the unit, which the plugs connect to, a design choice that means the culture tube is reusable and cleanable.

The design was refined several times to increase the clarity and durability of the main body, the part responsible for allowing diagnosis through microscopic inspection. Different materials were printed for the top and bottom plugs to ensure they could completely seal the main body while remaining easily removable for cleaning and sterilising.

The finished kit, which cost less that A$5,000 to develop, is packed in an off-the-shelf Pelican case with foam laser-cut at the University. The pack also comes with special 3D-printed microscopes that attach to a smartphone camera and convert the phone into a powerful 60x magnification microscope that can collect photos for diagnostic purposes. The microscope is made by South Australian education startup company Go Micro, also co-located at Flinders in Tonsley.

Despite Austin, Adelaide and Addis Ababa each being more than 10,000km apart, Nerlinger said the cost-effective collaboration has created reusable high-quality prototypes at a fraction of the typical cost, “for a neglected disease that causes immense morbidity and mortality in the most austere and resource-limited environments in the world”.

“We were also excited that NVI was able to match Dr Gadisa with one of its own technologies, the microscope attachment used on a smartphone that is able to read the results of the leishmaniasis testing,” Nerlinger added. “The new testing device will allow more patients to be treated earlier and decrease the time it takes to obtain a diagnosis. It will also potentially allow health workers to provide a diagnosis to patients while conducting medical work in the remote regions often most impacted by leishmaniasis. If the testing is successful, the opportunity exists to build a financially sustainable social impact company around the testing kit that brings together resources from Ethiopia and Australia.”

Salier said projects like these were exactly why Flinders NVI was always endeavouring to demonstrate how new technologies and business models could address large-scale problems facing society: “We don’t need more software to solve problems already solved 10 times over; what we do need is innovation which has impact, that creates value by applying new approaches to global challenges.”

Vaughan Construction in awards win for Dulux Mickleham factory

Vaughan Constructions’ work on Dulux’s new state-of-the-art factory in Mickleham helped it secure two prestigious industry awards at the Master Builders Association Victoria Awards 2018.

The awards showcase craftsmanship and excellence in the commercial building sector. Vaughan secured the Master Builder of the Year Award, as well as the award for Excellence in Construction of Industrial Buildings, for its work on the $165m Dulux Merrifield Coatings Plant. Managing Director Andrew Noble said Vaughan was absolutely thrilled to take out such a prestigious award.

“We are very proud to accept an award, which puts us at the top in our industry in ultimately recognising the years of hard work and commitment from our highly experienced and highly skilled team, our attention to detail, and our superior ECI project methodology which works with the client to achieve the best possible outcome, ” said Noble. “The award also reflects the contribution of our consultants, suppliers and subcontractors for their hard work, dedication and loyalty to Vaughan over the years, which is greatly appreciated in helping us to deliver outstanding results.”

Vaughan was engaged under an ECI (Early Contractor Involvement) agreement to complete the base build of Dulux Merrifield, a task which was expanded as the project’s design and implementation progressed to also take on responsibility for the completion of the production process fitout. Noble explained that ECI, put simply, meant utilising the builder’s expertise as early as possible in the development process to maximise both cost and operational efficiencies in the design and construction of a building.

“There’s no greater disaster for a client than getting the design they want but one they can’t afford or that ultimately doesn’t meet the desired outcome,” said Noble.

According to Noble, many national and international companies now utilised ECI methodology to achieve enormous benefits which could extend to ESD outcomes, OH&S, quality, performance objectives, maintenance, life cycle costing, transaction costs and costs associated with both site choice and acquisition.

Real-time data for process optimisation

Industry 4.0, Big Data, the Internet of Things (IoT), digitalisation, networked production – these topics and buzzwords seem to be everywhere. Indeed they are so prevalent that the mere mention of Industry 4.0 is causing uncertainty among many technicians in medium-sized companies, who are unsure what Industry 4.0 will actually mean for their own day-to-day work and their future-proof production strategies and production planning.

Machining specialist Walter decided to tackle the topic area of digitalisation some years ago and, under the Walter Nexxt product line, is offering digital products and Industry 4.0 solutions that are tailored for use in medium-sized companies. It does not have to be, and above all cannot be, the one and only Industry 4.0 solution. Instead, Walter is dealing with a wide range of different levels of the planning and production process. For example, the Comara iCut software for optimising cutting data and the Comara appCom platform for monitoring production processes.

Adaptive feed control: Cutting data optimisation via live data

Automation, digitalisation and networked processes have been everyday aspects in many areas of industrial production for a long time now. New opportunities for further optimising processes have been created by the increase in performance achieved by hardware and software for collecting and analysing live data. For example, Walter’s Comara iCut software tool is based on the real-time analysis of incoming machine data.

Florian Böpple, Digital Manufacturing Manager at Walter, comments: “Our software developer Comara has not reinvented milling or turning with its iCut adaptive feed control, but has instead focussed on a very specific problem: How can we get the most out of a machine without making major changes to the existing process or carrying out complex and time-consuming programming work? The result is our iCut software, which can be used to reduce the machining time for milling per workpiece.”

The iCut software is simply integrated into the existing control program and applies the data for the machining process. In the first cut, iCut “learns” the idling output of the spindle and the maximum cutting efficiency per cut. After this, it measures the spindle output up to 500 times per second and automatically adjusts the feed. As a result, the machine operates at the maximum feed that iCut “learned” for each tool whenever possible.

If the cutting conditions change, for example owing to varying mill contact angles and depths of cut, fluctuations in allowance, or due to signs of wear on the tool, it adapts the speed and output in real time. With a positive effect, not just focused on the machining time of a workpiece, the optimised milling behaviour also increases process reliability. The forces acting on the spindle are more constant, which increases its service life. If the tool is in danger of breaking, iCut reduces the feed straight away or stops the action altogether.

“We have already achieved astonishing increases in efficiency for customers using iCut,” Böpple adds. “If the machining operation is compatible, a 10% reduction in machining time is always achievable. We have already managed to reduce machining times by double this amount. When the quantity is high, this frees up considerable machine capacity.”

Walter iCut can even be used without Walter tools – all that is necessary is for the machine’s system requirements to be met.

Increased reliability and efficiency through transparent machine data

The software specialists at Comara tailored iCut to the optimisation of a really specific, narrowly defined process and developed Comara’s appCom software platform to make all the data that a machine generates during the machining processes usable for process optimisation. This is done as simply and clearly as possible. Comara appCom consists of two components: a PC, which is installed in the machines and integrated in the control system; and the software, which analyses and displays data.

Walter uses the app principle for this. Even the basic version of appCom features more than 13 applications that can be used to collect and monitor the most important parameters for process optimisation. These include the status of the monitored machines, their productivity, responsibilities and the runtime stability of the programs being run. All important parameters, reports and monitoring data are processed so that they are displayed clearly and are easy to understand.

Individual assignment of access rights

Individual assignment determines who can view this data. This means that the machine operators only see data and reports that are relevant to them. In contrast, managers in charge of production and planning can utilise all monitoring options.

In addition to the standard apps, company-specific apps can also be programmed and displayed on appCom. The apps are displayed in a web-based interface, which can be accessed via stationary PCs as well as all common mobile devices. appCom can be used to identify current problems and critical processes and to analyse all of the production processes that take place on a machine.

Parameters include efficiency, costs per tool or per workpiece, and process reliability. This enables live data to be used to optimise and plan production, without having to compile this data manually from various monitoring programs, data formats and data sources.

appCom can also be connected to ERP systems. The data that is loaded in this way is processed by the app and linked to the machine data. Another advantage is that appCom operates without the use of a cloud. Data that is critical to the company is located on the appCom PC and the company’s own servers and not stored in a cloud, either by Walter itself or by another provider.

The potential offered by monitoring and analysis tools such as appCom is obvious for machining companies, which are usually under pressure with regard to costs and efficiency. However, it is difficult to give specific figures relating to this.

“Various factors determine the potential efficiency and savings that result from the use of a monitoring and analysis software platform such as appCom,” says Böpple. “The degree of automation and digitalisation of production processes is important, as is how critical the machining operation itself is to the problem at hand. Example figures for this are inconclusive but we can say that customers who use appCom see a significantincrease of productivity and process reliability per machine.”

Queensland – Invested in manufacturing

Queensland is fast emerging as a leader in advanced manufacturing with the sector having a profound influence on the strength of the local economy. With an industry that ranges from food processing, metal manufacturing and aerospace, to defence and medical technology manufacturing, Queensland manufacturers are well placed to becoming an economic powerhouse.

Manufacturing is critical to the Queensland economy. It is the state’s sixth-largest employing industry with more than 170,000 people in the year to June 2018, and is the third-largest employer of full-time workers. Strategy is fundamental to the success and longevity of industry, which is why the Queensland Government has committed significant resources to ensuring manufacturing continues to be a key driver of the state’s economic and jobs growth.

The Queensland Advanced Manufacturing 10-Year Roadmap and Action Plan, the State Government’s strategic vision for the sector, is supporting manufacturers as they transition to advanced manufacturing, increase productivity, improve international competitiveness and access emerging opportunities. Since the launch of the plan in December 2016, the State Government has provided advice and support to hundreds of Queensland manufacturing businesses, helping them make the transition to high-value, knowledge-based advanced manufacturing.

Utilising industry expertise – The Manufacturing Ministerial Committee

The Queensland Government has committed to expand upon its track record of growing the industry and give representatives from across the state’s diverse manufacturing sector – from Queensland niche small manufacturers to multinationals – a seat at the strategy table. A new ministerial advisory committee – equally composed of male and female members – has officially kickstarted its work this year using industry expertise to drive Queensland’s manufacturing sector.

Minister for State Development, Manufacturing, Infrastructure and Planning Cameron Dick hosted the first meeting of the Manufacturing Ministerial Committee in July to identify practical ways to help the sector thrive and create jobs for Queenslanders.

“The Palaszczuk Government is driving manufacturing in Queensland with a strong focus on growing the sector,” said Minister Dick. “But we also know nobody knows manufacturing better than manufacturers themselves, and we want to harness their expert advice to expand that focus as we enter this period of optimism and opportunity for manufacturing in our state.”

The Manufacturing Ministerial Committee has a strong focus on regional Queensland and will address challenges facing the industry and strengthen support for manufacturing in Queensland.

Made in Queensland

The Queensland Government is actively attracting manufacturing industries to the state through a range of initiatives including the Advance Queensland Industry Attraction Fund.

The Government is also encouraging local businesses to expand through funding programs like ‘Made in Queensland’, a $40m state-wide manufacturing program dedicated to supporting local manufacturers increase their productivity and competitiveness, and adopt innovative processes and technologies. The program offers matching grants of between $50,000 and $2.5m to manufacturers who must go dollar-for-dollar with the government to fund business improvements.

Uptake of the Made in Queensland program has exceeded expectations. An additional $20m was committed to the program as part of the 2017 Queensland Government’s election promise. The Made in Queensland program has, to date, awarded $18.2m, contributing to $47.7m in project value to more than 45 Queensland manufacturers.

Case study: Evolve Group

Evolve Group, an Australian-owned advanced plastics manufacturer located in Crestmead, provides a full range of services from plastic injection, compression, blow and rotational moulding, design and prototyping assistance, through to tool manufacture, component construction and finished goods assembly.

With the help of a Made in Queensland grant, the company has upgraded its machinery to transform it from a traditional blue-collar manufacturing plant into a world-leading, advanced automated manufacturing facility. The move to increase the incorporation of automated systems has enabled Evolve to become so globally competitive that it is reshoring existing manufacturing back from China and other overseas countries to Queensland.

Evolve has retained and is retraining employees in high-value, knowledge-based jobs and its workforce is rapidly growing with every new product it starts manufacturing in Queensland.

Case study: NOJA Power

Queensland manufacturer NOJA Power specialises in the research & development, manufacture, sale and service of medium-voltage, pole-mounted switchgear products that manage and protect large-scale renewable energy generation. To date, it has installed more than 50,000 automatic circuit reclosers (ACR) in more than 87 countries worldwide.

Funding provided through the Made in Queensland program will be used to set up new advanced automated production processes to increase NOJA Power’s production and export capacity. It will also enhance NOJA Power’s international competitiveness and profitability by improving product quality, minimising errors, increasing sales capacity and growing market size. It will also protect existing jobs at NOJA Power and create new high-skill jobs to work with new automated test systems and production equipment.

Gold Coast manufacturers

Minister Dick recently visited Gold Coast manufacturing businesses who were reaping the rewards of the Made in Queensland government support.

“Our government is focused on driving the manufacturing industry forwards by supporting companies to be internationally competitive and to inject new innovation into their business,” said the Minister. “And this agenda is working wonders for businesses across the state, including on the Gold Coast and surrounds.

“The Gold Coast is Queensland’s top region outside Brisbane for manufacturing work, with around 21,400 people employed in the industry, so we know this sector is an important economic contributor for this region. We want manufacturing businesses in Queensland to think outside the square and set their sights on a promising future, and we are backing companies across the Coast to grasp this optimism and opportunity with both hands.”

Nerang glass and aluminum manufacturer Patterson Glass is using its $253,160 Made in Queensland grant to purchase four new pieces of equipment including a waterjet cutter, an upright glass washer, an automatic glass racking table and automatic glass-cutting table. Patterson Glass Director Wendy Wheway said the grant will provide the business with greater capacity to take on bigger projects and give them greater control of quality and output, which will in turn create more opportunity for local jobs.

“This will make us more competitive in the international marketplace,” Ms Wheway said.

As the sole producer of synthetic grass in Queensland, Yatala’s Urban Turf Solutions specialises in manufacturing, fitting and maintaining quality sporting surfaces. The company is set to upgrade its technology and create five new jobs thanks to a $256,579 Made in Queensland grant.

Urban Turf Solutions will use the grant to install a tufting machine to increase manufacturing speed, capacity, reliability and product consistency, while significantly reducing waste and downtime. The company will be the only manufacturer in the country to be operating this new automated tufting machine which will enable the company to expand at a faster rate.

Currumbin’s Freedom Screens will use its $105,680 grant to manufacture a ZL2 integrated system to enhance adaptability with varying door configurations and build an automated test jig to improve quality assurance, widen its market share and hone its competitive edge. It is anticipated this grant will allow Freedom Screens to put on another six jobs.

Two other Gold Coast businesses, Geofabrics Australasia and aluminium manufacturer Knotwood, have also received grants from the program.

Geofabrics, based at Ormeau, will use its $525,466 grant to install and commission new technology to increase automation and to upskill its workforce in the programming, operation and maintenance of the new project equipment, and remove constraints to export market competitiveness and growth. This project is expected to create 12 jobs.

Knotwood has used its $451,563 grant to source, install and commission advanced and automated vertical powder coating plant for aluminium extrusions, which will reduce lead times by 82% and increase sales revenue, as well as creating three jobs.

A renewed sense of optimism is evident in the Queensland manufacturing sector with a government focused on making things happen. The sector will no doubt continue to face challenges, but programs supporting innovation, growth, and international competitiveness, and the geographical proximity to the Asia-Pacific region, the world’s fastest growth market, has put Queensland firmly on the map as the future of manufacturing in Australia.

Connecting next-gen tools to new gen machining centres

Modern industry demands fast and effective solutions for mass production. The new generation of multi-spindle machining centres responds to this need; they can increase productivity by the simultaneous machining of two to four workpieces. Iscar has correspondingly developed tooling solutions for this type of machine to ensure precision and quality in minimal set-up time

Tool builders must also adapt to developments in the aerospace, aviation and medical industries that have necessitated machining high-temperature or exotic materials with maximum efficiency. In particular, the application of coolant with high (or ultra-high) pressure, directly to the working area to increase efficiency and chip flow, requires a suitable tooling solution.

Vertical pick-up turning machines have wide applications for manufacturing of automotive, hydraulic and general industry parts, and their value in maximising efficiency should not be underestimated.

Tools for multi-spindle machining centres

Multi-spindle machining centres save space at manufacturing facilities and reduce tool inventory by using combined tools for sequential operations, and decrease set-up time by assembly and adjustment of the same tool for each spindle.

The principal aim for using multi-spindle machines without Z-axis compensation is to facilitate the axial adjustment needed to achieve overlength precision. This ensures part repeatability over all spindles and reduces cutting time, due to a more precise cut pass.

There are several existing methods for this purpose:

  • Grinded spacers, commonly applied on face milling cutters to provide a simple technique for length adjustment.
  • Adjustable wedges on inserts for fine turning of overlapping (sometimes in addition to grinded spacers), commonly used for face milling of the finish operation.
  • Tools for drilling or boring operations, with exact hole depth, which can be adjusted by cartridges (there is also an option for radial adjustment). For simple solid carbide drills, the tool can be mounted on an adjustable holder.
  • Complex tools, incorporating different types of instruments, which can be combinedly adjusted by some (or all) aforementioned methods. The image below is an example of a tool that performs drilling, chamfering and slot milling, and is regulated by a spacer, wedges and preset screws.

The adjustment of complicated technical systems to meet customer requirements necessitates additional time and human resources for assembly and fine-tuning procedures.

In general, leading multi-spindle machine tool builders (MTB) prefer to deliver all-inclusive solutions for initial equipment or turnkey projects. These comprehensive schemes save time and cut down on the human resources required for start-up procedures, especially for larger projects. A leading supplier of cutting tools and related accessories, Iscar provides completely assembled, adjusted, balanced and well-packed tools.

MQL applications

Minimum Quantity Lubrication (MQL) technology is widely applied to multi-spindle machine tools, as it circumvents the problem of liquid leakage from machine and does not require additional equipment for coolant return. MQL helps to maintain the machine’s condition during continuous usage, improves chip quality, evacuation and recycling, and represents a “green” technology for a healthier environment.

Tools working with MQL have a different design and accessories compared with tools that work with conventional coolant. Iscar’s vast experience working with MTBs who utilise this coolant concept has enabled Iscar to develop appropriate MQL tooling solutions that achieve high-quality functionality in the metal cutting process.

Tools with high-pressure coolant

Applying high-pressure coolant in grooving and parting operations provides excellent chip breaking results on all materials, reducing or even eliminating built-up edge phenomenon, particularly when machining stainless steel and high-temperature alloys. To harness these capabilities, Iscar designed a wide range of tools for turning, grooving and parting applications with high-pressure coolant, with different sizes, adaptations and machine interface connections.

The Modular-Grip systems for high-pressure coolant were developed to reduce tooling costs and inventories and take into consideration Iscar’s many years of experience in working with leading MTBs. Co-operation with significant players in the machine tool manufacturer market has led to the development of standard lines of dedicated tools for each MTB interface, such as VDI, Dovetail, CAPTO, and a wide range of specific interfaces.

CNC turning machines with disc-type turrets use different interfaces and often require adjustment of the tool’s overhang. Iscar provided an answer to this need with the Multi Connection (MC) JHP line for turning, parting, grooving and threading tools mounted on holders with a bottom-fed coolant system, which allows simple and rigid clamping and is widely used by European, US, Japanese, South Korean, Chinese and Taiwanese MTBs. The multi-connection tools enable clamping on quick-change toolholders and also directly on the turret with different coolant connections. Tools with a jet high-pressure coolant outlet also deliver an advantageous performance when conventional pressure is applied.

UHP Solutions

Ultra-high pressure coolant (UHP) tools facilitate effective machining of titanium and heat-resistant materials utilised by the aerospace industry, in order to achieve high machining rates while maintaining small chip sizes. Iscar provides a variety of special UHP solutions for different types of machine interfaces and various applications.

Tools with CAPTO connections without automatic tool changers

Vertical pick-up turning machine turrets can be equipped with instruments without automatic tool changers, which enables tools to be manufactured with as short an overhang as possible. This in turn increases machining process rigidity and stability, and lowers tool production costs. Iscar has developed dedicated CAPTO blanks without an automatic tool changer flange and with no inner thread, specifically for producing these types of instrument.

Fire resistant steel buildings in the frame for QUT

Professor Mahen Mahendran of Queensland University of Technology (QUT) has been awarded a quarter-of-a-million dollar grant from the Australian Research Council (ARC) to investigate the fire resistance of common pre-fabricated steel wall systems, with the project ultimately aiming to improve the safety of newly-constructed buildings.

Professor Mahendran said the project, in collaboration with the National Association of Steel-Framed Housing (NASH), would specifically examine the fire resistance levels of complex, high-strength Light Gauge Steel Framed (LSF) wall systems, which are being increasingly used in low and mid-rise buildings around the world.

“We are seeing plasterboard-lined LSF walls being used more and more, because they are a cost-effective load-bearing wall, but that has required new wall designs, which involve complex steel stud wall configurations. The real issue is that their fire resistance is not yet fully understood,” Professor Mahendran said. “This project aims to investigate the thermal and structural behaviour of those wall systems when they are exposed to fire, and to also develop a generic model for predicting fire resistance levels of LSF wall systems.”

Professor Mahendran said he was pleased that this project would further increase awareness of fire-resistance levels and make important fire resistance data on LSF wall systems more accessible to the construction industry.

“We want to help make buildings as safe as possible and provide useful information to benefit not only the community, but also the Australian steel industry and the construction sector,” Professor Mahendran said. “Once we have developed fire resistance levels for commonly used LSF wall systems, they can then be included in a national Fire Design Handbook, and we will be in a position to propose improvements to the construction detail of the wall systems, to enhance fire resistance.

“This research will address one of the most significant current challenges for ensuring cost-effective but fire safe building construction worldwide. QUT’s research team is looking forward to working closely with NASH on this important project.”

The project is planned to run until June 2021 and will include full scale fire tests at QUT’s Wind and Fire Lab and computer modelling on hundreds of potential wall system combinations. The $258,778 grant was one of several new research partnerships announced under the ARC Linkage Projects scheme. Further details on the Linkage Projects scheme is available from the ARC. In addition to the grant, the project is being supported by NASH with almost $100,000 in funding as well as in-kind support.

Deakin researchers discover how to transform jeans into joints

Denim jeans could be transformed into artificial cartilage for joint reconstruction thanks to advanced textile recycling methods pioneered by researchers at Deakin University.

Deakin scientists Dr Nolene Byrne and PhD candidate Beini Zeng have discovered how to dissolve denim and manipulate the remains into an aerogel – a low-density material with a range of uses including cartilage bioscaffolding, water filtration and use as a separator in advanced battery technology. Dr Byrne, who completed the ground-breaking work in a joint project with Deakin’s Institute for Frontier Materials (IFM) and the School of Engineering, said the process worked because denim was made from cotton, a natural polymer comprised of cellulose.

“Cellulose is a versatile renewable material, so we can use liquid solvents on waste denim to allow it to be dissolved and regenerated into an aerogel, or a variety of different forms,” said Dr Byrne. “Aerogels are a class of advanced materials with very low density, sometimes referred to as ‘frozen smoke’ or ‘solid smoke’, and because of this low density they make excellent materials for bioscaffolding, absorption or filtration. When we reformed the cellulose, we got something we didn’t expect – an aerogel with a unique porous structure and nanoscopic tunnels running through the sample.”

Dr Byrne said she believed the sticky nature of the denim cellulose solution was likely responsible for the unique aerogel structure that resulted, something ideally suited for use as synthetic cartilage.

“That’s exactly what cartilage looks like,” she explained. “You can’t 3D-print that material – and now we can shape and tune the aerogel to manipulate the size and distribution of the tunnels to make the ideal shape.”

IFM’s Dr Wren Greene, who assisted through testing the suitability of the aerogel materials as cartilage-like bioscaffolds, said the similarities were remarkable: “The remarkable similarity in the pore network structure of these aerogels and cartilage tissues – even down to the dimensions, orientations, and density distribution of pore channels – enables these materials to replicate a special type of ‘weeping’ lubrication mechanism used by cartilage to protect against wear and damage.”

Apart from its applications as a cartilage supplement, Dr Byrne said the denim recycling technique would also help contribute to the fight against textile waste.

“Textile waste is a global challenge with significant environmental implications, and we’ve been working for more than four years to address this problem with a viable textile recycling solution,” she said. “With population growth and the development of Third World countries combined with today’s rapid fashion cycles, textile waste is always increasing, leading to millions of tonnes of clothes and other textiles being burnt or dumped in landfill.”

Dr Byrne said the IFM team used an “upcycling” approach to get around cost-effectiveness issues.

“One of the main drawbacks of textile-recycling efforts is that any advanced technique requires the use of chemicals, which can then make the procedure less cost-effective,” she said. “We use environmentally-friendly chemicals, and by upcycling our approach to create a more advanced material we can address the limitations affecting other less cost-effective methods. We are now entering pilot-scale trials and look to be at commercial scale within three to five years with industry support.”

Three things Industry 4.0 will change about how you work

The Fourth Industrial Revolution. Smart manufacturing. Digital transformation. Industry 4.0. Call it what you will, the current trend for automation and data exchange in manufacturing technologies is disrupting how we produce and deliver goods today, and transforming the manufacturing workplace of tomorrow. By Terri Hiskey, Vice-President – Product Marketing Manufacturing at Epicor Software Corporation.

There is strong evidence that at an economy-wide level, business investment in digital technologies results in higher productivity over the long term. Manufacturing processes that were once standalone and analogue are becoming increasingly digitised. This facilitates development of “smart factories” that are significantly more flexible, transparent and customisable. A recent Epicor study found that over half of global businesses are assigning a high priority to IT investment.

The adoption and deployment of Industry 4.0 within Australia has the potential to significantly improve the competiveness of the advanced manufacturing sector. In 2016, the Prime Minister’s Industry 4.0 Taskforce was announced, with an initial aim to connect Australian and German industry leaders to collaborate and share information on Industry 4.0. The Taskforce now plans to create a network of Industry 4.0 testlabs, built in partnership with industry leaders to improve the competitiveness of Australian manufacturing industries through adoption of Industry 4.0 technologies and workforce transformation.

So there’s no doubt that Industry 4.0 will soon have an impact on your workplace if it hasn’t done so already. With machine learning capabilities and connected equipment enabling businesses to automate the production line, humans can up-skill, take on new duties, add greater value, and focus less on repetitive tasks. They can therefore expect to be employed in more interesting, challenging roles in the future, helping their personal development and growth.

According to a recent survey by the Ai Group, the relatively low use of networked technologies (as proxies to IoT) suggests Australian manufacturing is still in the early stages of embracing the technological foundation of Industry 4.0. Digital investment is very important for manufacturers that wish to increase their Industry 4.0 capability.

Industry 4.0 will involve a significant shift in how people work – specifically their mindsets, habits and remits. Here are three such workplace attitudes that will need to change.

  1. ‘That’s not my remit, talk to a different department about it’

Industry 4.0 is breaking down the traditional silos that separate the different departments within a business, with enterprise resource planning (ERP) software playing a crucial role. ERP software acts as a single-source for business intelligence in the age of Industry 4.0, presenting employees with real-time data when they need it, bringing departments closer together. That data might include information about the status of a project, updates on a partner’s requirements, or analytics about customer trends or equipment maintenance schedules. For example, jet-engine makers GE and Rolls-Royce now routinely collect data from their products as they fly around the world to schedule maintenance. In doing so, they stand a better chance of reducing aircraft downtime and keeping up with customer demand.

When sales teams, management, and production line staff alike can access real-time information like this, they can optimise conditions on the plant floor and improve orders and production output. In short, sharing data makes manufacturing more agile, bringing the days of moving in silos to an end.

  1. ‘If you want it like that, you’ll have to wait longer’

Industry 4.0 is dawning a new age of personalised manufacturing, combining customised production with the speed and on-time delivery expectations of today’s consumers. This is the age of the customer, and customers demand bespoke products, fast.

One of many companies putting this into practice is German cereal manufacturer MyMuesli, which makes personalised breakfast cereal for customers out of a collection of 80 different grains, nuts and fruits. The very fact that a product like muesli can be customised on a grand scale is testament to the rapid progression of Industry 4.0, and to MyMuesli’s successful digital transformation.

Intelligent and integrated systems play a vital role for manufacturers that want to put their customers first, delivering instructions to machines about specific customer orders as they progress along the production line, in an inversion of normal manufacturing. In the case of MyMuesli, each package moves around the factory on an intelligent product carrier, which tells filling machines what to add to each muesli box according to individual customer orders.

  1. ‘A machine can’t do it better than me’

Industry 4.0 requires a cultural change in the way humans work with machines. Not only will employees be able to work closer across different departments, sharing real-time data and insights to make accurate decisions in the workplace; they will also be able to have some tasks automated by machines, allowing them to work on new, less tedious tasks instead, and crunching delivery timescales.

This involves a significant change in the industrial environment, a fresh approach to workplace dynamics. One example of this change is the 45,000 robots recruited across Amazon’s 20 fulfilment centres. Taking instructions from digital databases and ERP systems, and working alongside Amazon employees, these robots pick and haul packages weighing over 300kg at the fast pace needed to keep up with customer demand. They do a job that wouldn’t be safe for humans, and staff can expect their job roles to become more digital and less manual as a result.

While the technologies associated with Industry 4.0 are transforming business processes, an often-overlooked challenge is managing the inevitable shift in workplace dynamics, which is crucial to supporting the successful integration of Industry 4.0 technologies.

The three points above are fitting examples of attitudes that need to shift, as manufacturers break down barriers between departments, embrace customisation, and work in tandem with machines. It’s up to employers and their teams alike, to embrace these changes and change their mindsets, as they grow their businesses in the Industry 4.0 world.