On robots seeing, thinking and doing at the IMCRC conference

Teaching robots to see, developing robotic vision systems for design-led manufacturing; one-of-a-kind automated production systems; and, unlocking manufacturing potential. 

Photo Credit: Cian Sanders

Four members of the Design Robotics group presented at the recent 2019 Innovative Manufacturing Cooperative Research Centre IMCRC Conference in Melbourne. PhD candidates Alan Burden and Baris Balci presented their PhD ‘pitch’, along with featured speakers Dr Glenda Caldwell and Dr Jared Donovan. UAP Founder and Managing Director, Matthew Tobin, was a panellist in the discussion on Industry-Research Collaboration: Unlocking Manufacturing Potential in Australia. 

Bringing together thought leaders, industry experts, researchers and students exploring advanced and digital technologies, the IMCRC conference progresses discussion about innovative leaps in manufacturing. The event seeks to project the future possibilities for disrupting and transforming Australian manufacturing through industry-led research, accelerating projects and inspiring new ideas.


Teaching robots to see was the subject of the featured talk by Dr Glenda Caldwell and Dr Jared Donovan. The audience was invited to imagine the potential of robotic vision in creating beautiful art objects, leading to more jobs in manufacturing. Robotic vision capability enables robots to see what they are working on and unlock the potential of robotic manufacturing for Australian small-to-medium enterprises specialising in bespoke manufacturing. The presentation highlighted the need for design-led manufacturing processes as well as open innovation networks. “Dare to experiment” was the message, to realise collaborative and creative projects. 

Jared Donovan and Glenda Caldwell. Photo Credit: IMCRC

“When people are inspired they will engage. When academics and industry partners share common values, then finding the sweet spot of research is possible.”

  • Glenda Caldwell


Alan Burden talked about his PhD research on developing new ways to use robots & vision systems for design-led manufacturing. Framing the potential of Design Robotics with a quote from the McKinsey Global Institute, “Every country is going to feel the impact of automation by 2030” the presentation highlighted the how automation will affect industry. The creative opportunities robots afford us through assisted manufacturing processes can be seen in projects such as Richard Sweeney’s piece, Reflection.

Alan Burden. Photo Credit: IMCRC


Baris Balci presented on the development of an automated robotic polishing system for one-of-a-kind production. It was fascinating to see what can be achieved when the industry and the universities work closely”. Baris observed, “These type of collaborations create opportunities to address the untouched problems in different domains of engineering”.


Baris Balci Photo Credit: IMCRC

Baris’s presentation highlighted the value of custom one-of-a-kind robotic manufacturing alongside mass manufacturing in industry. Specifically, the potential value in robotic polishing operations and the ability to remove bottleneck issues in manufacturing processes were explained by first seeing, planning, and then developing novel ways of doing

Before the IMCRC conference, Alan and Baris attended National Manufacturing Week 2019, participating at the IMCRC booth on the trade floor. “We were given plenty of time to see the newest technology in additive and subtractive manufacturing”, Alan explained, “as well as scanning and robotics from all the big industry companies”.

Alan Burden was awarded the IMCRC PhD Student Pitch Award. Each student was given five minutes to explain his research in a way that is understandable to a general audience. “It was a surprise and an honour”, Alan said, “it was good to see the other IMCRC scholarship holders and meet them in person”. 


Photo Credit: IMCRC


The event provided many highlights, including hearing about current PhD and other academic research exploring innovative manufacturing techniques. Critically, it was the opportunity to observe direct links between this research and industry that held value for the Design Robotics team. As highlighted in Glenda and Jared’s talk, the opportunity to support design-led and creative approaches to research applies to all disciplines and all questions across industries.