SINGAPORE: The Singapore Institute of Manufacturing Technology (SIMTech), a research institute of the Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*STAR), and the National University of Singapore (NUS) Faculty of Engineering is launching two joint research labs in precision motion systems and industrial robotics.
This collaboration brings together the local research community to build capabilities and develop technologies to boost productivity and gear up for high value manufacturing in the medtech, aerospace, marine & offshore and precision engineering clusters.
The Joint Labs are launched in conjunction with a new A*STAR Industrial Robotics Research programme. This programme brings together researchers from SIMTech, Institute for Infocomm Research (I2R), NUS, Nanyang Technological University (NTU), and other local and overseas universities and research institutes for multi-disciplinary collaboration.
The programme builds on existing robotics capabilities across the local research community, and aims to advance the performance and capability of robotic platforms for industry adoption to improve productivity.
The manufacturing industry is a significant pillar of the Singapore economy and contributes close to a quarter of its GDP . In recent years, the industry is facing problems such as increasing labour costs, lack of skilled labour and low productivity.
The Joint Labs will develop technologies and capabilities to improve workforce productivity in the medtech, aerospace, marine & offshore and the precision engineering clusters where automation is currently lower compared to automotive and semiconductor manufacturing.
The Joint Labs aim to boost automation in such industry clusters, by enhancing the capability, performance, and intelligence of precision machines and robotic systems to allow for higher throughput, higher accuracy, and greater human-machine cooperation on unstructured manufacturing shop-floors.
In addition to delivering cutting-edge technologies, the Joint Labs will serve as platforms to nurture R&D manpower for the industry, transforming them into centres of excellence in their respective technical areas to benefit more industry sectors.
Several outcomes are expected from the research collaborations:
For industrial robotics, an easy-to-use human-robot interface, with more than 50 per cent reduction in teaching and programming time compared to current robotic programming platforms, will be developed to propagate the application of robots in manufacturing.
For the aerospace industry, characterised by large work pieces, high precision and better surface finishing, the Joint Labs aim to develop a reconfigurable robot work cell for flexible redeployment. It is projected that the marine & offshore industry can benefit from more than 50 per cent productivity improvement in robotic welding and weld inspection systems.
In the area of precision motion systems, the technologies for high-speed and high-precision linear motion stages, wide-format roll-to-roll machines, and multi-axis nanopositioning systems will be developed. These will help local companies build high-end machines and complex equipment for high value manufacturing.
Said Dr Lim Ser Yong, Executive Director of SIMTech, “Currently, manufacturing companies are seeking automation solutions to improve productivity. With the new Joint Labs, companies have an added avenue to leverage on the combined expertise of SIMTech and NUS to develop automation technologies and solutions to achieve higher productivity and value-add. SIMTech has contributed successfully to the automation of work processes in the aerospace and marine industry clusters through R&D partnerships with aerospace and marine conglomerates in the areas of robotic finishing, robotic aircraft wing inspection and robotic welding systems, respectively.”
Said Professor Lim Seh Chun, Deputy Dean of NUS Faculty of Engineering, “The Joint Labs aim to forge a pyramid of strength in the fundamentals and methodologies of current and future technologies through the synergy of upstream and downstream research evolving industrial trends. Given the Faculty’s expertise and strengths in precision motion and robotics, I am confident that our latest collaboration with SIMTech will fulfil a spectrum of industrial needs in the manufacturing sector.”