Industry 4.0 is not one technology but a group of nine or so, according to the experts. These include the cloud, robotics and augmented/virtual reality, which all featured at the Digitalisation Pavilion.

According to Nital Shah, Regional Sales Manager – Southern Region at SICK, a “mixed bag” of old and new customers visited their stand and overall it was a “very good show” in terms of interest. Visitors were particularly drawn to the company’s Flexi Soft safety controllers and the range of safety laser scanners. Regarding Industry 4.0, SICK’s pitch focussed on “smart tasks” enabled by their sensors – which can process detection and measurement signals, simplifying control programs and processing elsewhere – and on getting away from Programmable Logic Controllers.

“The information from the sensor will be available to the cloud or to the browser, and that’s what Industry 4.0 is all about,” said Shah.

ABB’s stand featured YuMi, its contribution to the booming collaborative robot market. Adopting cobots effectively takes training as well as a little imagination, explained Paolo Maggi, ‎Product Specialist for Robotics. It’s important to understand the strengths of humans as well as those of robots.

“If you have a production line, you break assembly tasks down into different sub-tasks and have a close look at which ones you would automate with a collaborative robot and which ones you would leave with the operator,” said Maggi. “Humans are far superior when it comes to tactile sensitivity, and our vision is second to none.”

One Tasmanian customer has seen success using the robot as a temp when demand bumps up.

“They had issues with temporary staff, so whenever they have a spike in demand for certain components, they wheel YuMi in to pre-assemble – essentially lending a hand to the production line,” Maggi added.

Head-mounted virtual reality sets hit the consumer market in a big way last year, with product releases including Oculus Rift, HTC Vive and others. VR is currently being used by some manufacturers, but will be widely adopted soon, believes Autodesk’s Richard Elving. He says it’s currently proving useful in three main areas: as a sales tool, in design collaboration, and for training. Elving predicts VR will be commonplace in local manufacturing within 12-24 months.

“We just came from a large naval manufacturer in Melbourne this morning and they’re using it between offices in Melbourne, Adelaide and Perth, so they make sure designers are looking at the same thing,” said Elving. “It doesn’t matter where you are in the world, you’re looking at the same thing – and then you can do things like mark-ups, different versions, revisions.”