Improving Product Output and Quality with Smart Jigs

Location: Clyde, NSW

Duration: 3 months

Proposed start date: 1st September 2018

Keywords: Mechatronics, Mass Spectrometry, Robotics, Prototype development, Manufacturing technology, Programming, Proteomics

Please note: Due to funding requirements, students must have Australian Citizenship or Permanent Residency to apply. Any applicants not meeting this requirement will be ineligible for this project.

Project Background

ETP Ion Detect builds various products for ion detection. Our major product is discrete dynode type electron multipliers. The assembly of this type of electron multiplier relies on a significant amount of `hand assembly’. Hand assembly methods have a fundamental limitation. There is a great amount of variation between assemblers, and also between the performances of an individual assembler on different days. This variation leads to variation in product assembly quality and duration. This affects our manufacturing yields, costs and testing requirements. It would allow us to build higher quality products quicker and cheaper if we could reduce the amount of hand assembly required.

We currently use jigs to reduce the variation in hand assembly. These jigs force assemblers to put pieces into the right place, in the right order, prior to assembly. We want to take this a step further by developing smart jigs. We want these smart jigs to be capable of the following. First, they should use one or more cameras to check that all the required parts have been correctly placed in the jig. Second, they should use these same cameras to check that the jig has correctly assembled an item from the provided pieces. Third, they should log these photos to network storage for quality control purposes. Fourth, they should use actuators or other motorised components to self-assemble parts as much as possible. Fifth, using lights and sounds they should be able to not only provide feedback to the operator, but gain their attention.

We expect that someone with a Ph.D. in mechatronics or robotics will have the necessary skills to create smart jigs. Our engineers can assist with the mechanical and electrical engineering. Our scientists can assist with programming and computer vision.

Research to be Conducted

ETP needs to know what is required to build a smart jig, and whether the returns justify the costs. To determine this, we will need the intern to design and build a working prototype of a smart jig. They will then need to carry out an assessment of this prototype and characterise it’s performance. Lastly, they will need to write a report presenting their results.

ETP has resources available to support this research. This includes the expertise of our own engineers who can provide manufacturing and engineering support. It also includes the ability to produce some parts in-house for rapid prototyping, depending on the material and specifications. We can also provide tolerance studies that clearly specify the impact of assembly accuracy on product quality. Additionally, we have an in-house testing facilities that will allow us to assess the quality of products assembled with a smart jig.

Skills Required

We are looking for a PhD student with the following skills:

  • Mechatronics/robotics
  • Programming

Expected Outcomes

This project should deliver both a prototype and a feasibility report. This feasibility report must include a cost breakdown for building and operating this smart jig. These operational costs should include the time it takes to assemble a product. The report should also include an analysis of the products assembled using this smart jig. This report will be the basis for a decision on whether smart jigs should be incorporated into our manufacturing process.

If a prototype can’t be created, the feasibility report should outline what issues need to be addressed. In this instance, we would need to know if it’s never going to be possible, or if we’re waiting on other technological advancements.

Additional Details

The intern will receive $3,000 per month of the internship, usually in the form of stipend payments.
It is expected that the intern will primarily undertake this research project during regular business hours, spending at least 80% of their time on-site with the industry partner. The intern will be expected to maintain contact with their academic mentor throughout the internship either through face-to-face or phone meetings as appropriate.
The intern and their academic mentor will have the opportunity to negotiate the project’s scope, milestones and timeline during the project planning stage.

To participate in the APR.Intern program, all applicants must satisfy the following criteria:
• Be a PhD student currently enrolled at an Australian university
• PhD candidature must be confirmed
• Applicants must have the written approval of their Principal Supervisor to undertake the internship. This approval must be submitted at the time of application.
• Internships are also subject to any requirements stipulated by the student’s and the academic mentor’s university

Applications Close

 29 July 2018


INT – 0463


03 8344 1785