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BAE Systems Australia and Australian research partners to develop shipbuilding smarts

BAE Systems Austraia’s HUNTER class ‘digital twin’. The company will team with UniSA and IMCRC to develop digital shipbuilding technologies. Photo: BAE Systems Australia

Australia’s Innovative Manufacturing Cooperative Research Centre (IMCRC), the University of South Australia (UniSA) and BAE Systems Australia’s shipbuilding business, ASC Shipbuilding, are partnering to invest more than $4million to research data visualisation that will prepare Australia’s shipbuilding industry for a future driven by digital innovation

The research, spearheaded by UniSA, will shape the development of digital manufacturing (Industry 4.0), improve shipyard planning and add unique data analytics and problem-solving capacity to the HUNTER program, which will deliver nine world-leading anti-submarine frigates to the Royal Australian Navy.

The Federal Minister for Industry Science and Technology, Karen Andrews, said, “Not only will harnessing data visualisation research help the HUNTER program itself, it will also assist critical local supply chains and future projects across the manufacturing landscape. This type of industry-led innovation that can be applied in a range of different settings will be key to charting our COVID-19 economic recovery.”

UniSA chief collaborator Professor Bruce Thomas from the Australian Research Centre for Interactive and Virtual Environments, says the research will focus on how narrative visualisation and big data processing can deliver, reshape and refine the highly complex manufacturing environment across the timeframe required for each frigate build.

“Fundamentally, the research project will be changing the way processes are carried out internally and externally to the shipyard,” Prof Thomas says. “Through data fusion, machine learning and artificial intelligence data analytics, and visualisation technologies, we will be bringing intelligent planning systems and smart ‘human in the loop’ decision making to the project.

“What we learn by adapting, trialling and testing to suit the HUNTER class frigate’s design will support the prototyping later this year, but will also build significant knowledge for wider application in Australian manufacturing. The work will underpin a change in the way shipyards are planned and managed by enabling integrated data insights across the supply chain.”

The HUNTER class frigates will be the world’s first bow-to-stern digitally designed anti-submarine warfare frigate, and each ship involves highly complex supply chains.

ASC Shipbuilding Continuous Naval Shipbuilding Strategy Director, Sharon Wilson, said the company welcomes the opportunity to partner with UniSA and draw on the expertise of local researchers to drive innovation in digital manufacturing and find innovative solutions to production challenges.

“Together we’re creating a first-of-its-kind digital environment through the entire ship design and construction to improve productivity, quality and safety outcomes in the shipyard, and underpin growth and longevity in the naval shipbuilding industry in Australia.

“These innovations will be significant across the local supply chain so that Australian manufacturers can start their digital journey, building their capability to be involved in the HUNTER program and future shipbuilding projects.”

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