Technology It’s all in the fine print

It’s all in the fine print

Ever replaced part of your car headlight? Cost more than you thought, didn’t it?

Researchers at Swinburne University of Technology have developed an ingenious solution, creating and attaching spare parts on demand.

The technology relies on a 3D printer and robotic arm to fuse the production and fitting processes, using a special, automotive grade polypropylene material also developed at the University.

Dubbed Repairbot, it avoids the long and complex operation currently necessary to achieve most car repairs, even small ones like replacing the bracket on a headlight.

Instead of beginning at the head of an international supply chain and ending in the hands of a skilled tradesperson, minor jobs can potentially be performed start-to-finish in a local garage.

Fixing damage to peripheral fittings such as lights, wing mirrors and bumper bars can be surprisingly expensive in Australia, partly due to a shortage of skilled labour needed to finish the work.

Repairbot, a collaboration with industry to address such skill shortages, recently achieved a key milestone by successfully printing a lug (or bracket) directly onto a damaged car headlight assembly.

While that might not sound like much, it is actually a world first, requiring sophisticated robotics to precisely manipulate the assembly under a stationary 3D printer, combined with advanced materials science.

Lead researcher Dr Mats Isaksson says cooperation between industry and a range of fields is crucial to Repairbot.

“The truly cross-disciplinary nature of this project has made it possible to develop new materials and methodologies hand-in-hand with the novel robotic solutions,” Dr Isaksson says.

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