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Built environment could be key to Australia’s advanced manufacturing future

CSIRO's printable solar cells
CSIRO's printable solar cells

3D printing, advanced materials, sensor technology and augmented reality are just some of the technological innovations the built environment will need to employ to keep pace in an uncertain world, according to a new CSIRO Advanced Manufacturing Roadmap.

The roadmap has been written in collaboration with industry, government and researchers, and identifies the major growth opportunities available in advanced manufacturing, and what manufacturers must do to enjoy the benefits.

A key section of the roadmap focuses on sustainable manufacturing, which the roadmap says will become necessary in a world competing for increasingly scarce resources.

“Opportunities for creating value in sustainable manufacturing span the entire supply chain and product lifecycle, including production processes, products and end?of?life disposal/recycling of products,” the roadmap says.

“Sustainable processes can include reducing costs, resources and emissions through cleaner energy sources and leaner processing techniques; smarter design using innovative technologies such as advanced and high performance materials and 3D printing; and maximising efficiency across value chains.”

Demand for sustainably manufactured products will likely increase due to a “social licence issue”.

“A range of indices and sustainability scales will be developed over the short term that allow consumers and businesses to easily understand the sustainability of products and value chains to make informed decisions,” the roadmap says.

Opportunities for sustainable manufacture in the short term (0-3 years) include double-glazing glass, lightweight materials for wind turbines, aerial drones, and supercapacitors and efficient batteries.

In the medium term (3-10 years) there’s opportunities in green building materials such as plastics, chemicals, cement and steel for construction and infrastructure; large scale energy storage devices from local materials for in?home renewable energy storage; robots for disassembly; and self?service housing with integrated recycled water, food waste processing and renewable energy.

In the long term (10-plus years) we could see waste material from metal product manufacturing processed into feedstock for 3D printing; and atmospheric energy harvesters that collect and store ambient and concentrated forms of naturally occurring energy.

“The Advanced Manufacturing Roadmap is the compass that guides our excellent science to deliver the breakthrough innovation needed to re-imagine Australian advanced manufacturing,” CSIRO chief executive Dr Larry Marshall said.

“Australian science can turn disruptors and increased globalisation into opportunities for value creation right here at home.”

CSIRO manufacturing director Dr Keith McLean said there would need to be significant technological innovation by public and private research communities to see the opportunities realised.

Worryingly, however, the report found there were just three Australian universities with research in built environment and design that had performance above world standard, and no universities well above world standard. All other sectors outperformed the built environment.

“The industrial landscape is changing fast. We need to start evolving with it,” Dr McLean said.

“Australian manufacturing has a strong, high-tech future.

“The research sector needs to focus on areas like sensors, data analytics, advanced materials, robotics, automation, 3D printing and augmented – or virtual – reality.

“Australian manufacturers must transform their businesses by investing in new knowledge, skills and practices.”

The roadmap calls on Australia’s research and manufacturing sectors to increase collaboration and alignment with one another, and also urges manufacturers to:

  • place a greater focus on participation in global value chains
  • improve their ability to attract and retain staff with skills in digital literacy, leadership, customer interface and STEM capabilities
  • increase the gender, age and ethnic diversity of their workforce
  • improve business-to-business collaboration

“Industry needs to lead this transformation. CSIRO has the expertise, experience and business network to help guide them,” Dr McLean said.

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