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Research that has been providing solutions for Australian-built defence equipment is being adapted to meet the needs of small and medium manufacturing enterprises.

RoboMotion, a start-up company at the University of Wollongong (UOW) business incubator iAccelerate, is developing smart software to generate robotic welding programs for industry.

RoboMotion was started in March this year, when mechatronic engineering PhD students Andrew Short and Nathan Larkin and Senior Lecturer Dr Zengxi Pan saw an opportunity to develop a software platform into a commercial application.

“It will enable manufacturers to go straight from design drawings to a robot program they can run on their shop floor, without the need for robotic expertise,” PhD student and co-founder Andrew Short said.

“This makes it viable to use robots for low volume and highly flexible applications without the high costs of manual programming.”

The software technology has been refined over the past eight years through research that underpins UOW’s contribution to the Defence Materials Technology Centre (DMTC), where automated welding processes have supported the production of the Australian-designed and built armoured vehicles for the Australian Defence Force by Thales Australia.

“We believe our research had progressed to a point where it was solving real industry problems and was ready to transition to a commercial product,” Mr Short said.

Recently, the company’s rapid progress was highlighted when it won the pitching competition at the NSW Pearcey awards.

It also took out a category of the 2017 UOW Pitch competition and was awarded “most likely to succeed” at the 2017 iAccelerate Pitch.

Mr Short said starting the company was a challenge that has provided a number of valuable skills.

“Coming from a research background I tend to focus on the technology. Moving beyond this to focus on the impact has been a key learning.

“Another lesson is to get outside the building and actively engage with people and potential customers to make sure you are creating value for them.”

“We’re continuing to work on our initial product, and are hoping to start testing it with beta partner companies in early 2018,” Mr Short said.

“Our end goal is to develop a product that is simple to use and makes robotic automation accessible for low-volume manufacturers.

“The dream is to have thousands of companies across the world using our software to manufacture their products.”

Mr Short, who studied a double degree in Mechatronics Engineering and Computer Science at UOW, said his undergraduate degree gave him the fundamental skills, which have been enhanced throughout his PhD through exposure to industry-related research projects.

“This has given me both technical skills and an appreciation of the business problem that we are trying to solve,” he said.

RoboMotion joined the UOW’s accelerator and incubator iAccelerate in July this year and is in the final stages of its Start program, which is designed to support early-stage businesses develop their ideas.

“We’re very lucky to be in an incubator where we’re surrounded by people with a huge range of skills and expertise.

“Advice on everything from high-level business strategy to workers’ compensation insurance requirements has been very important and useful.

“When we started our company, we had an idea for technology, but we were still working on our business model and value proposition.

“Being mentored through the process of identifying customers, how we help them, and then developing this into a business model has been vital.” 

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