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Cyber-Physical “Future Factory” opens for business at Tonsley

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Promoted by Flinders Uni Defence.

The Future Factory of tomorrow, today.

No longer just a concept or catchy slogan, Industry 4.0 capability is now a tangible reality in South Australia, with the unveiling of the Tonsley Manufacturing Industry Hub.


Promoted by Flinders Uni Defence.

The Future Factory of tomorrow, today.

No longer just a concept or catchy slogan, Industry 4.0 capability is now a tangible reality in South Australia, with the unveiling of the Tonsley Manufacturing Industry Hub.

Key players amongst the defence primes and SMEs made sure they were among the 300 influencers attending the launch of the TMI, ensuring they were the first to see the possibilities presented by this powerful collaboration of Flinders University, Innovative Manufacturing Cooperative Research Centre (IMCRC), and the State Government.

Its centrepiece is SA’s first Cyber-Physical ‘Factory of the Future’, showcasing the latest automation, sensor, monitoring and robotic technologies in a state of the art i4.0 education, training and research facility.


It includes the latest in cobotics – collaborative robots able to work seamlessly alongside humans – such as the gripping device which takes its deign inspiration from an elephant’s trunk and can operate with an astonishing degree of strength, flexibility and delicacy.

As Professor John Spoehr, Director of Flinders’ Australian Industrial Transformation Institute explained to the assembled guests - amongst them senior executives from Naval Group, Fincantieri, Navantia, BAE Systems, Lockheed Martin, Boeing, Rheinmetall, DST Group, ASC, SAAB, Defence SA, and Defence Teaming Centre – the uptake of robots and the digital dividends they deliver is substantial.

“It’s estimated that digitalisation and the application of i4.0 agenda is contributing between $140 billion and $250 billion to Australia’s GDP per annum, Professor Spoehr says.

“Germany is an established leader in this area with almost 190,000 robotic units and 6 per cent growth. Australia is emerging from a relatively small base with about 9000 units, but our growth rate is 9 per cent. There’s no doubt the TMI heralds an important era of growth and collaboration in Australia’s advanced manufacturing and defence sectors, with particular potential for application in ship building.

“With $90 billion worth of defence projects in the pipeline in coming decades, defence needs to harness the i4.0 agenda and will equally need a workforce with well-developed skills. The TMI will provide next generation education and training for the apprentices, engineers and designers of the future, and work with companies to build digital maturity,” he says.

In particular, the TMI provides access to training in the use of the latest Product Lifecycle Management and Simulation software, enabling the development of ‘digital twins’ that support design, visualisation and testing in a virtual environment.

Digital twins are the foundation for ‘virtual commissioning’, a process that greatly mitigates risk prior to physical production. A range of visualisation platforms will be available to support engagement in this process.

South Australia’s Minister for Manufacturing and Innovation Kyam Maher says TMI will revolutionise the way manufacturers connect with customers and suppliers through internet-based technologies.

“As our economy transitions, we need to ensure our advanced manufacturing workforce and companies have the ability to compete globally in niche markets based on value and service.

“Industry 4.0 is the next technological wave that will create opportunities for South Australia’s advanced manufacturers to diversify into growth sectors such as defence, food and health.

“The TMI Hub will further cement Tonsley’s reputation as global centre of excellence for industry and research collaboration, with modern facilities to train people for the jobs of the future. Essentially, we can do things here that others just can’t do.”

The TMI Hub operates in one of Australia’s most dynamic innovation ecosystems, combining education, training and research facilities, mature global and local companies and numerous start-ups. The site is home to companies including Siemens, Zeiss Vision, Signostics, Zen Energy, MicroX, Advanced Focus, SAGE Automation, Azzo Automation, Radical Torque, 3RT, Hydrix, 1414 Degrees, and Simulation Australasia. Tesla is on its way.

As the latest collaborative advanced research entity to join the Flinders at Tonsley facility - already home to a network of world class research centres, more than 30 state of the art laboratories, and a new Innovative Manufacturing Accelerator Program which is set to turbo charge product development and commercialisation processes - the TMI will be perfectly placed to leverage the cutting-edge research for which Flinders is renowned.

Examples include the creation of autonomous vehicles and vessels that will transform how we move people and freight, to the development of energetic materials detectors that will enable drones to carry lightweight laser sensors to inspect suspicious devices from a safe distance.

Flinders University Vice-Chancellor Professor Colin Stirling told VIPs including the German Ambassador to Australia Her Excellency Dr Anna Elisabeth Prinz, IMCRC CEO David Chuter, Festo Didactic Head of Asia Pacific Volker Schmid, and SAGE Automation CEO Adrian Fahey that artificial intelligence, autonomous systems, smart materials, renewable energy cyber-security, applied nanotechnology, and photonics are putting Flinders at the forefront of some truly transformative technology.

“As a leading creator of knowledge and innovation that has extraordinary potential in manufacturing and defence, we are in turn contributing to the continued transformation of South Australia’s economy by helping to fuel growth of the industries of the future.

“Uniquely, TMI pursues this in tandem with the adoption of high performance business systems.

“When you bring imagination, ambition and technical ability together in a collaborative and immersive environment like Tonsley, the remarkable can happen” Professor Stirling concluded.

TMI further boosts Flinders’ impressive defence related research and training expertise and provides another avenue for collaboration between the defence industry and Flinders University researchers. To find out more visit or


Cyber-Physical “Future Factory” opens for business at Tonsley
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