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$1.45 million grant to boost shipbuilding technology

A $1.45 million grant from the Australian Government-funded Innovative Manufacturing Cooperative Research Centre (IMCRC), matched by industry funding, will help develop and pilot new, advanced manufacturing technologies that will be used to build the Navy’s nine HUNTER class anti-submarine warfare frigates.

The $1.45 million IMCRC grant to BAE Systems, ASC and Flinders University will strengthen both Australia’s shipbuilding technology base and Australian manufacturing more generally. Credit: BAE Systems

The new technologies will be used by BAE Systems Australia’s shipbuilding business, ASC Shipbuilding, at the latter’s shipyard at Osborne in South Australia.

In partnership with Flinders University and localSMEs, the project will drive digital transformation through advanced robotics, assistive manufacturing and readiness for Industry 4.0 utilisation – both inside the shipyard and more widely in the Australian supply chain.

The IMCRC funding matches BAE Systems Australia’s $1.45 million investment and is on top of $5 million already invested in developing digital technologies, to turn the digital shipyard concept at Osborne into a reality.

“The building of these frigates is a true project of the digital age and these new researchers will significantly increase the firepower of the research effort already underway at the collaboration lab,” said Minister for Industry, Science & Technology Karen Andrews. “The ideas and new practices developed as part of this research will not only benefit the frigates project but the Australian manufacturing sector in general.”

The $2.9 million total cash investment will create seven additional research positions at Flinders University, making a total of 16 at the digital test and trial collaboration hub at Tonsley Innovation District in Adelaide’s south.

From March 2020 until 2022, when steel is cut on the first HUNTER class frigate, the researchers will work with the shipbuilding workforce to trial advanced manufacturing technologies for use in the shipyard and beyond.

These technologies will enable connectivity between manufacturing equipment and design and management databases to provide real-time insights into shipyard and supply chain performance, leading to enhanced productivity, safety and quality outcomes.

“Digital technologies such as AI, robotics, cognitive automation and advanced analytics are redefining the Australian manufacturing sector and therefore the nature of its work,” according to David Chuter, CEO of the IMCRC.

“Australian manufacturers, particularly SMEs, need to learn how to embrace and contribute to new work environments that blend advanced technologies and digital skills with uniquely human skills.”

ASC Shipbuilding Managing Director Craig Lockhart said, “At Tonsley we are working in partnership with Flinders University to embrace a culture of innovation, conducting research and developing emerging technologies in order to gain an insight into how shipyard workers will interact with digital technologies, and so we welcome the $1.45 funding from the IMCRC.

“An important aspect of the research at the collaboration hub is that we want to share the outcomes with industry, to help educate others on the importance and implementation of industry 4.0.”

Thanks to this strategic investment by IMCRC, Flinders University’s research expertise in advanced manufacturing will be strengthened, helping to ensure that the HUNTER class frigates will be built by using world-leading technologies, says Flinders University Vice-Chancellor Professor Colin Stirling.

“Our strengths in industry 4.0 and cutting-edge digital laboratories will enable the development and testing of bespoke technologies to advance the specialised construction processes required for this nationally significant project.”

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