A team from the Swinburne University of Technology in Australia has successfully demonstrated the ability to 3D print a replacement lug directly on an automotive headlight assembly. The achievement was carried out through the university’s Repairbot project.
Swinburne’s Repairbot project is being developed in collaboration with robotics company Tradiebot and AMA Group with funding from the Australian federal government through the Innovative Manufacturing Cooperative Research Centre (IMCRC). The goal of the project is to develop an automated robot capable of repairing parts using an additive technique.
In this particular demonstration, the robotic setup printed an in-house formulated polypropylene composite material to repair a headlight assembly. The material, developed by materials scientist Dr. Mostafa Nikzad, was designed to be compatible with automotive-grade injection molded plastic.
The material, along with the Repairbot technology, was used by Swinburne researchers (led by Dr. Mats Isaksson) to 3D print a replacement lug directly onto a headlight housing. The process involved using the robotic arm to carefully move the headlight under a stationary 3D print head to accurately produce the needed component.
The breakthrough demonstration shows promise for industries which are feeling the ramifications of skills shortages and lack of skilled personnel. The technology could also create opportunities in the automotive repair industry by training technicians to work alongside the robots to fast-tract on-the-job training.
“It’s amazing to witness something I envisioned three years ago becoming reality,” said Tradiebot founder Mario Dimovski. “It was such a complex project with many challenges to overcome. What the Swinburne team have delivered is Australian innovation at its best. The Repairbot will allow repairs to be conducted on damaged automotive plastic parts not currently repairable by technicians. The benefits will affect repair shops, consumers and flow on to the environment diverting these damaged parts from landfill. It’s a win, win for everyone.”
The recent announcement marks a significant step ahead in the Repairbot project, which has the ultimate goal of creating a full prototype for automatic repairs of headlight assemblies. The combination of both the materials research and the robotic development are truly making the Repairbot project an exciting prospect for the future of automotive repair.
“The Repairbot project is a great example of industry and research collaboration,” commented David Chuter, CEO and Managing Director of IMCRC. “The researchers at Swinburne have wholeheartedly embraced Tradiebot’s idea of developing a technology-driven solution that will automate the repair service for automotive plastic parts.
“Reaching this major milestone demonstrates how committed they are to pushing materials and technology boundaries to help solve an industry specific problem that has the potential to not only transform Tradiebot’s business but the whole automotive repair industry. IMCRC as a collaborative partner is proud to help catalyse these transformative outcomes.”
The Repairbot project still has about 18 months of development time before it is implemented on the shop floor. According to Dave Calder from AMA Group, the next phase of the project will be to further validate the material and to fine-tune the digital development of the software for design and repair procedures.
In addition to the automotive sector, Repairbot could have applications in a number of industries, including defense. The joint Repairbot team is currently in discussions with a number of potential users, including OEMs, repair facilities and parts suppliers.