Panel & Paint

Motor Equipment News - - CONTENTS - By Tim Michael of In­side Ro­bot­ics.

Skills short­ages, in­creas­ing com­pe­ti­tion, and con­tin­ual price un­der­cut­ting from insurance com­pa­nies is mak­ing do­ing busi­ness in the New Zealand crash re­pair in­dus­try one fraught with pit­falls. How­ever, at least one of th­ese prob­lem ar­eas is likely to be ad­dressed in the fu­ture by the growth of ro­bot­ics.

As com­pe­ti­tion and insurance com­pany control grows and prof­its shrink, re­pair­ers are now turn­ing to the lat­est au­to­mated so­lu­tions, and one Aus­tralian com­pany is lead­ing the way. Tradiebot In­dus­tries, a start-up com­pany with ground­break­ing new tech­nolo­gies, is spear­head­ing an In­dus­try 4.0 au­to­mo­tive rev­o­lu­tion. It is devel­op­ing tech­nol­ogy plat­forms and au­to­mated sys­tems that can fast track rou­tine jobs, re­pairs, train­ing, and de­liver an up-skilled work­force.

“We’re a small com­pany with big ideas,” says Tradiebot CEO and founder Mario Di­movski. “I’ve been in­volved in the car re­pair in­dus­try for al­most 28 years and I have a great un­der­stand­ing of how it all works. With key part­ners, Tradiebot has de­vel­oped so­lu­tions that can ben­e­fit the en­tire in­dus­try. Our tech­nol­ogy is way beyond any­thing else that’s out there now.”

And this tech­nol­ogy is set to change the car ac­ci­dent re­pair in­dus­try as we know it. Us­ing ro­bot­ics, au­to­ma­tion and 3D print­ing tech­nolo­gies to stream­line au­to­mo­tive plas­tic re­pairs and re­duce costs, the com­pany is fast at­tract­ing global at­ten­tion.

Tradiebot is now work­ing on projects with uni­ver­si­ties and re­search bod­ies in­clud­ing Swin­burne Univer­sity of Tech­nol­ogy, Univer­sity of NSW and Deakin as well as the Ad­vanced Man­u­fac­tur­ing Growth Cen­tre and In­no­va­tive Man­u­fac­tur­ing Co­op­er­a­tive Re­search Cen­tre (IMCRC). It has also forged a strate­gic part­ner­ship with PPG In­dus­tries, one of the world’s big­gest sup­pli­ers of au­to­mo­tive paints, coat­ings and spe­cialty ma­te­ri­als.

Through PPG’s ex­ten­sive net­work in more than 70 coun­tries, Tradiebot aims to even­tu­ally of­fer its new tech­nolo­gies to the world. “We want to first roll them out into the lo­cal mar­ket be­fore ex­port­ing them in­ter­na­tion­ally,” says Di­movski. He says his col­lab­o­ra­tions with lead­ing uni­ver­si­ties and re­search cen­tres have been vi­tal in the de­vel­op­ment of in­no­va­tive so­lu­tions for the auto in­dus­try. “We are cur­rently work­ing closely with uni­ver­si­ties on three dif­fer­ent projects,” he says. “Each project has been tai­lored for that par­tic­u­lar uni. We find out which uni­ver­si­ties are best suited to each project by look­ing at their strengths and ex­per­tise.”

Ear­lier this year, his com­pany part­nered with Swin­burne and IMCRC to de­velop world-first tech­nol­ogy that will rev­o­lu­tionise car ac­ci­dent re­pairs of plas­tic com­po­nents. The col­lab­o­ra­tive project, Re­pair Bot, uses 3D print­ing tech­nolo­gies and ro­bot­ics along with com­plex ma­te­ri­als to en­able an au­to­mated rapid re­pair ser­vice for plas­tic car parts. In­spi­ra­tion for the project stems from a need for tech­nol­ogy-driven so­lu­tions to is­sues fac­ing the car ac­ci­dent re­pair in­dus­try. Th­ese is­sues range from ma­te­rial wastage, com­plex and re­stric­tive de­sign el­e­ments and the lim­ited avail­abil­ity of skilled labour.

“The abil­ity to re­pair pre­vi­ously non-re­pairable parts us­ing world-first tech­nol­ogy will re­duce over­all re­pair times and re­pair costs,” Di­movski ex­plains. “It will also cre­ate real and sig­nif­i­cant ex­port op­por­tu­ni­ties and has flow-on ben­e­fits for the en­vi­ron­ment by re­duc­ing land­fill. Tradiebot will also de­liver new fu­ture skills to the in­dus­try as more pro­cesses be­come au­to­mated.”

Di­movski pre­dicts ro­bot­ics will play a huge role in the fu­ture of the car ac­ci­dent re­pair in­dus­try. “It’s at the core of our in­no­va­tion.” Ro­botic ma­chines bring flex­i­bil­ity to a pro­duc­tion sys­tem with the right com­bi­na­tion of sen­sors, ac­tu­a­tors and dig­i­tal control logic to per­form a va­ri­ety of tasks. With mod­ern au­to­ma­tion, car ac­ci­dent re­pair­ers can in­crease pre­ci­sion, speed and ac­cu­racy al­low­ing ma­chines to per­form repet­i­tive tasks with zero de­fects and per­fect con­sis­tency.

“A ro­botic sys­tem can be connected to a global knowl­edge data­base to pro­vide ma­chine learn­ing and control al­go­rithms. This kind of tech­nol­ogy is set to rev­o­lu­tionise the car re­pair busi­ness and at the same time cre­ate a next gen­er­a­tion work­force.”

Also, 3D print­ing used in con­junc­tion with new poly­mer ma­te­rial so­lu­tions will en­able a low-cost rapid re­pair ser­vice for au­to­mo­tive plas­tic trim and as­sem­bly com­po­nents in car ac­ci­dent re­pairs. The goal is to have stronger, lighter and cheaper ma­te­ri­als that can be 3D printed with the ac­cu­racy and per­for­mance of main­stream pro­duc­tion parts.

Tradiebot is also us­ing vir­tual and aug­mented re­al­ity (now well-known for its ap­pli­ca­tions in gam­ing) as a train­ing tool. “In­dus­tries are be­gin­ning to see the po­ten­tial of us­ing th­ese vir­tual tools in staff train­ing,” he says. Vir­tual and aug­mented re­al­ity can help to re­duce set up costs and staff lo­gis­tics by cre­at­ing a vir­tual work space for train­ing pur­poses.

Di­movski, a recog­nised ex­pert in In­dus­try 4.0, added: “More in­dus­tries are now em­brac­ing dig­i­tal tech­nol­ogy, but un­for­tu­nately, when it comes to In­dus­try 4.0, ed­u­ca­tors have ‘missed the boat’.

“In fields such as engi­neer­ing and tech­nol­ogy, the skills gap is widen­ing. Where are we go­ing to find those peo­ple? While in­dus­try is rapidly devel­op­ing new tech­nolo­gies, the ed­u­ca­tion sys­tem is strug­gling to keep up. They don’t have suf­fi­cient cour­ses in place to feed the de­mand.” Di­movski is a strong ad­vo­cate for pro­mot­ing STEM (sci­ence, tech­nol­ogy, engi­neer­ing and maths) skills in schools.

“Hope­fully, we at Tradiebot can play a part in en­cour­ag­ing more stu­dents to fo­cus on STEM – and help make a dif­fer­ence. STEM skills have to start at school. In five years’ time, just about ev­ery job will re­quire some kind of cod­ing.”

It has been es­ti­mated there are about 50 new skills emerg­ing for peo­ple in­ter­ested in STEM ca­reers. Di­movski says ro­bot­ics will help to fill the skills gap by up­skilling the work­force. “Labour­ers will be­come ro­bot­ics tech­ni­cians by de­fault – we will need peo­ple to man­age the ro­bots.”

He’s not ex­pect­ing any job losses in the au­to­mo­tive in­dus­try due to au­to­ma­tion. “We will be cre­at­ing new roles giv­ing tech­ni­cians an op­por­tu­nity to up­skill. Staff will de­velop more skills as ro­bots de­velop and in­te­grate into the in­dus­try process.

“Car ac­ci­dent re­pair­ers who don’t em­brace au­to­ma­tion will not sur­vive,” he warns. “Many of those busi­nesses have been fo­cussing on hand skills for too long – and clearly that’s no longer work­ing. They need to re-in­vent their man­u­fac­tur­ing pro­cesses and those that don’t adapt will un­for­tu­nately fall be­hind.”

So where will Tradiebot be in five years time?

“We will def­i­nitely be a pi­o­neer in the car ac­ci­dent and gen­eral au­to­mo­tive re­pair space. It’s rapidly evolv­ing and we are a fast fol­lower as well as a pi­o­neer. We are align­ing our­selves with the right peo­ple – so I def­i­nitely think we will be a global player in the auto sec­tor.”

Di­movski be­lieves the po­ten­tial ben­e­fits of his new tech­nolo­gies go far beyond the car ac­ci­dent re­pair in­dus­try. “We are re­ceiv­ing a great deal of in­ter­est from ar­eas out­side the au­to­mo­tive sec­tor like de­fence and other in­dus­tries that are us­ing au­to­mated ve­hi­cles. Ba­si­cally, our tech­nol­ogy can be ap­plied to just about any­thing that has wheels. The fu­ture po­ten­tial is great.”

Ar­ti­cle cour­tesy of In­side Ro­bot­ics. Check out In­side Ro­bot­ics at https:// www.in­sider­obotics.com.au

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