A proposed $50 million Australian Centre for Innovative Manufacturing (ACIM) at Tonsley, in southern Adelaide, will be the nation’s first reconfigurable ‘future factory’, connecting Australian companies with the latest manufacturing technologies and research expertise worldwide, and providing education and training to modernise workforces.
The 4000m2 advanced manufacturing test bed facility at Flinders University’s award-winning Tonsley Innovation District is expected to play a key role in providing state-of-the-art facilities to explore the application of new technologies to manufacturing next generation products.
Professor John Spoehr, Pro-Vice Chancellor, Research Impact and Director of the Australian Industrial Transformation Institute, has welcomed a $20 million commitment from the Shadow Minister for Innovation, Industry, Science and Research, Senator Kim Carr, and is looking forward to support from all sides of politics. The university will invest $10 million towards land, capital and operational costs and has sought $30 million from the Federal and State Governments towards capital, equipment and operational costs. Industry investment is expected to be more than $10 million over the short term.
“This is an initiative that transcends politics and is deserving of broad support in the state’s – and the nation’s – interest,” Professor Spoehr says. “Advanced technologies are transforming manufacturing around the world, fuelling the growth of new and existing companies and generating thousands of well-paid and rewarding jobs.
“Large scale ‘Factories of the Future’ are playing a key role in accelerating this transition in the UK, Europe and the United States because they bring researchers and companies together in purpose-built facilties to explore innovation of existing technologies and experimentation with new technologies.”
The ACIM will be established with a mandate to create jobs and promote growth in areas of strategic importance to Australia, including defence and aerospace, construction, medical devices/assistive technologies, wine and food, and minerals and energy. The advanced manufacturing technologies could include automation, robotics, cobotics (collaborative robots), digitally assisted assembly, photonic sensing, and land and maritime autonomous systems.
It will be affiliated with the world’s leading advanced manufacturing accelerator, the Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre in Sheffield, England, which is funded by the UK Government’s Industry Catapult Programme. It will also work closely with the University of Strathclyde’s Advanced Forming Research Centre to support the application of new manufacturing technologies for shipbuilding.
The factory is expected to create more than 750 jobs and generate $182 million in economic activity for South Australia. It will incorporate more than 200 academics from the university, employ an additional 20 researchers and technical personnel and be capable of hosting up to 50 industry personnel working collaboratively on multiple projects.
The facility will also provide accredited courses in manufacturing and Industry 4.0, and advanced education and training for up to 1000 students, including 50 post-graduates, each year.
The ACIM has already attracted significant industry support, most notably in the shipbuilding sector where the benefits of advanced manufacturing practices will be significant. BAE Systems will explore the potential applications of automatic and robotics and technologies in shipbuilding, while SAGE plans to co-locate its skills lab, head office and main laboratory in ACIM.
“ACIM will significantly lower the barriers to entry that many companies face when considering the adoption of advanced manufacturing technologies and play a brokerage role in helping to connect companies to key enabling technologies and research capabilities,” says Professor Spoehr.