Facebook Twitter: @NeosKosmos Instagram With many sectors of Australian manufacturing doing it tough, the CSIRO – the Commonwealth science body – says that new robotic technology has the potential to increase manufacturing safety and profits, and at the same time secure, rather than threaten jobs for Australian workers.Since 2008 more than 100,000 manufacturing jobs have been lost in Australia, but a CSIRO white paper released this week claims that new systems designed to enhance workers’ skills, not replace them, could revolutionise manufacturing. The paper outlines how the current robotic systems that are available to manufacturers are built for high volume mass-manufacturing, but that new economic drivers require manufacturers to focus more on low-volume, highly customised and high value-adding products.Known as Lightweight Assistive Manufacturing Solutions, the new technology includes virtual reality headsets and smart robots which can be taught to multi-task and which can be controlled over the internet.Dr Peter Kambouris, co-author of the paper and the CSIRO’s business development manager, says that with manufacturers shifting away from large-volume production to mass customisation, companies need more flexible systems to deliver more customised products. “This white paper seeks to highlight these trends, and present solutions which will enable Australian industry to address these challenges,” says Dr Kambouris. “Industrial automation used in manufacturing today is limited, but developments in ICT and robotics present Australia with an opportunity to change the way we manufacture.”Kambouris and his colleagues believe lightweight robotics and advanced ICT systems are a crucial tool for manufacturing to meet its challenges.A virtual headset called ReMote is one of the systems being trialled. Using a head-mounted camera the wearer (worker) is able to ‘beam’ what they can see to someone else (expert/helper) in a remote location. The helper is then able to project their hand gestures onto whatever the worker is looking at, and virtually show them how to fix an issue or conduct a repair.Systems like ReMote have been designed with safety in mind, allowing workers to operate in hazardous environments and more safely execute complex tasks.“Our focus has been on creating systems which can help people and businesses work safer and smarter. “Consultation with industry has shown that safety, flexibility and affordability are the three drivers for Australian industry,” says Dr Kambouris.With the computer technologies able to be installed in real factories within months, integrating the new robotic technologies is a longer-term prospect. The first implementation of the new technology is likely to be seen in areas such as mining.