Australia-based innovator has developed virtual reality programs to help train entry-level painters, augmented reality technical information systems and a robotic 3-D printing headlight Repairbot.
Longtime readers of CollisionWeek are familiar with Australia-based TradieBot Industries. Over the past few years, the company has launched a project to develop a robotic 3-D printing Repairbot to fix damaged plastic parts. Last year, the company also launched its augmented reality (AR) software application WorxAR for accessing repair information and its SprayVIS virtual reality (VR) spray-painting training simulator and software.
In our video interview embedded below, Mario Dimovski, owner of TradieBot Industries and Plastfix, details his work on VR and AR systems at Tradiebot Industries as well as the 3-D printing headlight repair project.
While the concept of using virtual reality to train entry-level refinish technicians is not new, the hardware needed has evolved, lowering costs and making it more accessible. The technology continued to improve and provide a more immersive experience.
“So what we’re trying to do with this, the virtual reality aspect of it is using current technology that’s already there as virtual hardware, the kids are growing up with, to actually stimulate interest into the industry, but also to give them that first hand training,” said Dimovski. “So we don’t have to get them into a spray suit, into a booth, waste paint and everything. Technically. creating a classroom anywhere.”
Dimovski also explained their work on AR systems and the key difference between them and VR.
“Every service industry that performs a repair service in the next five years will be using some sort of augmented reality,” said Dimovski. “What it does is very different to virtual and a lot of people, even most people that aren’t informed in that space confusing the two technologies.”
“Virtual is when you actually put the glasses on, you’re immersed in that, where augmented is we’re using a phone or smart glasses, but they’re actually seeing the physical item and they actually give you information around it. So best example, and I’m actually using one of my slides of augmented reality is the heads up display in your car. So you’ve got the screen still seeing the real world, but actually you’re getting information where to turn or what your speed is,” said Dimovski. “Now imagine if you’re going to have that when you’re repairing a vehicle, you’ve put it over a number plate, it’s activated, the car registered it, you pick your repair area, which might be the left hand fender. You go over, it overlays where to take it off, gives you all the instructions or repair methods.”
3-D Printing Headlight Repairs
After three years of research and development, in collaboration with research partners Swinburne University and Australian government’s Independent Manufacturing Cooperative Research Centre (IMCRC), Dimovski’s plastic repair company, Plastfix, has developed the first known prototype of an automated headlight repair system using state of the art robotics, software algorithms, 3D scanning and the key factor, a custom automotive compatible polypropylene-based 3D printing material.
The company recently announced the availability of its system to the market that enables repairers to 3-D print broken headlight tabs
“Additive manufacturing is rapidly developing, I mean you look at, already OEMs are using it for end products, not just plastic, metal as well,” said Dimovski.
The system essentially replicates the manual lug repair-kit solution that OEMs use to replace broken tabs a for certain headlights. Though, instead of screwing the tabs into the provided repair points on the headlight, the Repairbot system 3D prints a set of staking posts, it then uses a heat staking method to attach the pre-manufactured tab that results in a cleaner outcome than the screw heads being exposed. Research and testing is ongoing, with plans to 3D print the entire replacement tab directly onto the headlight as materials and technology evolve.
Swinburne University of Technology Project Leader, Dr. Mats Isaksson noted his enthusiasm with the outcome, “The team has been outstanding during this project as we overcame several significant obstacles, not the least of which was that we had to engineer our own polymer as commercial grades were unsuitable of our application.”
The video below shows the Repairbot system in operation.
“We now move into the exciting part of commercialization. The Tradiebot EU team has been working on the project for the last 12 months side-by-side with Swinburne and are preparing a more fine-tuned commercial Repairbot system ready for use in today’s collision repair industry,” said Dimovski. “We have come so far and learnt so much and the advancements in technology and hardware is positive as the systems become faster and products are more affordable, ultimately allowing us to build an end product in reach of any collision repair or parts supply business no matter its size.”
Dimovski added, “Our end goal is to have these Repairbot units on the shelf for sale for sale by the start of next year retailing for approximately $20,000 including an ongoing subscription and material cost.
“In the end, if we can assist the industry to repair more headlights instead of buying new, reducing repair costs and divert them from landfill, it’s a win for business, consumers and the environment,” Dimovski said.