At the Tonsley Innovation District in Adelaide’s south, BAE Systems Australia and Flinders University established Line Zero – Pilot Factory of the Future, an advanced manufacturing accelerator and proving ground for new manufacturing techniques and technologies.

The Line Zero facility enables BAE Systems employees and Flinders researchers to test and trial innovative technologies in a safe and controlled environment, before adapting them to the Osborne Naval Shipyard, where the 9 Hunter class frigates will be built.

Recent trials have focused on digital technologies and how they can support human performance in assembly and inspection. Trials involved wearing a ‘HoloLens’ – an augmented reality headset – to support assembly, and a cobot with optical recognition camera for visual inspection tasks. Cobots are collaborative robots and are designed to assist humans. At the shipyard, participants navigated the HoloLens’ virtual instructions to successfully assemble electric cabinets, and then activated the cobot to perform inspections.

BAE Systems Australia – Maritime, Continuous Naval Shipbuilding Strategy Director, Sharon Wilson, said “The Line Zero – Pilot Factory of the Future facility at Tonsley allows us to collaborate with academics, researchers and industry to solve real-world shipyard problems in a safe, controlled and intelligent environment. I can’t overstate the importance of collaboration – it’s vital we continue working with industry and education organisations to continue driving industrial capability across the supply chain. If these latest trials demonstrate augmented reality technology and cobots have a role to play in the shipyard environment, it’s yet another step towards a paperless, digital shipyard.”

BAE Systems Australia – Maritime, Operations Director, Jim Cuthill, said: “Manufacturing is changing, and we are doing shipbuilding in a way that has never been done before. By trialling new manufacturing methods and technologies at Tonsley and then adapting them to the shipyard, we will achieve higher productivity, quality and safety outcomes that will also lead to savings on cost, schedule and rework. But the Hunter Class Frigate Program is about more than just building 9 of the world’s most advanced anti-submarine warfare frigates; it is about building an enduring and uniquely Australian sovereign industrial capability that supports Australia’s continuous naval shipbuilding strategy for future generations.”

Flinders University Professor John Spoehr, Pro Vice-Chancellor of Research Innovation and Director of The Australian Industrial Transformation Institute, said “Conducting research in real-world production environments, such as the Osborne shipyard, is essential in determining how best to support new technology adoption for advanced manufacturing. Augmented reality headsets, initially tested at Line Zero – Pilot Factory of the Future, offer mobility, hands-free operation and real time data-transmission which holds the potential to support the timely completion of work to a high standard. We can also explore the limits of acceptable workloads which better inform the rate and complexity of new technologies in the supply chain.”

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