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Swinburne develops the world's first Industry 4.0 test laboratory for manufacturing 3D printed carbon fiber composites

Jun 06, 2020

Organizations such as Swinburne University of Technology in Australia recognize that collaboration is very important when developing innovative technologies in the field of 3D printing. Two years ago, the university and three other organizations established a joint manufacturing research center in Shandong Province, China.

Now, as part of its digital manufacturing process research, it is working with several new partners to build the world's first Industry 4.0 testing laboratory for composite carbon manufacturing.

"Swinburne, together with our partners, will lead the world in providing digital manufacturing solutions to ensure Australia's position in the lucrative intermediate product market," said Professor Bronwyn Fox, director of the Swinburne Manufacturing Futures Research Institute.


The focus of the Industry 4.0 test laboratory will be the first industrial-grade multilayer method of 3D printing carbon fiber composite materials, which will be able to produce commercial parts made with the material, thereby reducing waste, reducing costs and increasing production capacity.

The unique multi-layer 3D printing technology that Swinburne will use to build Australia's first mature Industry 4.0 Testlab material was developed by a family-owned company founded by the Austrian engineering company Fill in 1966.

Carbon fiber composite materials have many advantages-engineering materials can be used to manufacture smart products and provide unlimited flexibility in design. However, due to high labor costs and manufacturing speed limitations, it is difficult to produce large amounts of materials on a commercial scale. This is why Swinburne is working with one supplier and three equipment manufacturers to "show the manufacturing of actual commercial parts on an integrated test line," as the university says.

Professor Aleksander Subic, vice president (research department) of Swinburne, believes that the next generation of materials, such as these 3D printed carbon fiber composite materials, is the center of the university’s New Industry 4.0 test laboratory and its future factory, a 3D visualization and design studio, recently Siemens was digitized because it received a US$135 million industrial digitization grant in August 2017. The funding will also be used to help develop Industry 4.0 test laboratories.


Professor Subic explained: "In order to mass-produce such high value-added products that can withstand mass production in Australia, we are developing technologies and processes that have the potential to disrupt and transform the manufacturing and infrastructure industries.

"The partnership with Fill (Austria) is particularly important for our strategy because it enables us to introduce unique 3D printing technology for composite products to our laboratory and fully automate the process.

"In the final stage, we will digitize the laboratory through a strategic partnership with Siemens and the $135 million industrial digitization grant provided to Swinburne at the end of last year.

"This will be the world's first fully operational pilot plant for Industry 4.0, providing unique education and research opportunities for our students, employees and industry partners."


Professor Bronwyn Fox, director of the Swinburne Manufacturing Futures Institute.

The entire process, including resin distribution and curing and Fill's multi-layer process, will be fully digitally controlled.

Professor Fox said: "Together with our industrial partners, we will create a digital process and push the boundaries of virtual commissioning."

Professor Fox also said that the university's new Industry 4.0 testing laboratory will provide Australian manufacturers with the latest cutting-edge technology, such as 3D printing.

"The Advanced Manufacturing Growth Center (AMGC) reports that 41% of the global economy is in the intermediate product market, while Australia currently participates in less than 1%," Professor Fox explained.

"This is a major opportunity for Australian SMEs. Through our international cooperation, Swinburne Industry 4.0 Test Lab will actively connect Australian SMEs with global value chains, just as we have already done with our partner Imagine Intelligent Materials."

"Through collaboration with global original equipment manufacturers, we have found that the real opportunities for Australian industry are not in raw materials, but in high-value-added digital design, simulation and product manufacturing."

According to Professor Fox, Swinfield is also collaborating with Mulitmatic, an automotive product design and component manufacturer, to conduct Industry 4.0 testing experiments and a new multi-layer 3D printing process. The two companies will work together to develop a new product at a reasonable price for the automotive industry and increase opportunities for manufacturing processes.