AUSTRALIAN DEFENCE scientists are using a retired US Navy Seahawk helicopter to develop fatigue testing technologies, which could transform how military helicopters are managed.

The program is aiming to reduce maintenance costs and improve aircraft availability and the companies involved include Nova Systems, Jack Thompson Engineering, Fortburn and Advanced VTOL.

The US Navy has supplied one of their aircraft for the research, and has expressed interest in implementing full-scale fatigue testing of their entire fleet of Romeo Seahawk helicopters. 

The new technologies could have significant benefits for both military and civilian helicopter operators.

The Defence scientists and engineers are developing a full-scale, structural fatigue test rig that can accurately replicate the loads and forces experienced by a helicopter in flight.

Full-scale fatigue tests are routinely conducted for fixed-wing aircraft, but until now the complex, high-frequency flight loading of helicopters has been particularly challenging to replicate in the laboratory.

“Instead, helicopters are certified using conservative test methods that do not always fully predict the possibility of fleet damage,” Defence Industry Minister Christoper Pyne said. Defence was investing $5 million over the next five years in the project and working in collaboration with industry and the US Navy.

he trial program, including the building of the innovative test rig and test demonstration, commenced late last year and will continue until 2022.

“The program aims not only to develop the capability to fully test and validate helicopter structures, but also to deliver innovations that may be applied to other areas such as the fatigue testing of fixed-wing aircraft,” Mr Pyne said.

“If successful, the technology could represent a considerable commercial opportunity for the defence industry in Australia.”


THE FORMER Chrysler and Mitsubishi car manufacturing plant at Tonsley, South Australia, has been transformed into a ‘cyber factory of the future’.

Flinders University has installed what it calls a ‘cyber physical factory’ with state-of-the-art Industry 4.0 (i4.0) automation and robotics training, along with capability building platforms, as part of the new $1 million Tonsley Manufacturing Innovation Hub.

Funded by a $490,000 State Government grant, as part of the Australian Government’s Innovative Manufacturing Cooperative Research Centre, the Tonsley Manufacturing Innovation Hub (TMI Hub) aims to accelerate the adoption of advanced digital technologies by local businesses and support the creation of highly skilled jobs for the future. 

High-tech manufacturers in South Australia have been openly invited to use the TMI Hub to progress their product and business development. Apart from Flinders University, the Tonsley facility has the commercial support of Siemens and TAFE SA.

“The new digital technologies hub will train businesses and students in the implementation of i4.0 technologies that will revolutionise the way manufacturers connect with customers and suppliers through digital internet-based technologies,” Professor John Spoehr, director of the Australian Industrial Transformation Institute at Flinders University said.

“The adoption of digital technologies in South Australia is giving rise to a new generation of manufacturers and highly skilled jobs,” he said.

“The Tonsley Manufacturing Innovation Hub will accelerate this process, helping to ensure that South Australia remains at the centre of high-technology manufacturing in the nation.

“We welcome the opportunity to partner with the State Government and the Innovative Manufacturing CRC to establish a truly world class facility at Flinders University, Tonsley.” 

Prof. Spoehr said the TMI Hub would provide both practical training and real-world research opportunities for businesses, students and researchers wanting to learn more about automation, advanced robotics and the Internet of Things.


AUSTRALIA is developing the equivalent of a ‘black box’ for combat soldiers, already dubbed the Fight Recorder.

In a collaboration between the Australian Defence Force and industry, the Federal Government is allocating $700,000 from the Next Generation Technologies Fund to two industry partners – Myriota and IMeasureU – who will fully develop the product.

Defence Industry Minister, Christopher Pyne said the Fight Recorder would be a soldier-worn system aimed at capturing valuable data on the battlefield, and would act as an emergency beacon to reduce the time taken to reach and treat battlefield casualties

“Survival rates for battlefield casualties are closely tied to response times and the Fight Recorder will enable Defence to quickly locate and treat casualties,” Mr Pyne said. 

“In addition to serving as a location beacon, the data captured by the Fight Recorder could be used to inform the design and performance of soldier equipment and protective wear.

“Start-up telecommunications company, Myriota and wearable technology company IMeasureU, were selected from 47 quality industry and university applicants from across Australia and New Zealand to develop the Fight Recorder.

“Defence will work closely with these companies to help deliver this world-first innovation. Once again our local small and medium enterprises have demonstrated they are well placed to deliver Defence innovation,” he said.

When fully developed, the Fight Recorder could provide benefits in other physically demanding occupations including emergency services and law enforcement.

The funding comes from the Next Generation Technologies Fund which complements the Defence Innovation Hub launched last year, as the core of the new Defence Innovation System outlined in the Defence Industry Policy Statement.

These two innovation research and development programs, together with the Centre for Defence Industry Capability, deliver on the Federal Government’s $1.6 billion commitment to grow Australia's defence industry and innovation sector, Mr Pyne said.


AUSTRALIAN companies are being invited to join forces with Defence contractor Raytheon to participate in the new Short Range Ground Based Air Defence project.

Defence Industry Minister, Christopher Pyne has launched Raytheon Australia’s LAND 19 Phase 7B Supplier Portal in a bid to get more local companies involved. He said the portal would allow Australian companies to register interest in areas such as component manufacture, assembly and test, systems integration and in-country sustainment.

Worth up to $2 billion, the project will deliver Army’s future Short Range Ground Based Air Defence (SRGBAD) capability based on the proven National Advanced Surface to Air Missile System (NASAMS) which is fielded in seven nations, including the United States. 

The system provides ground based air defence against fixed wing aircraft, helicopters, cruise missiles and unmanned aerial systems.

“We want to create as many local jobs as we can and Raytheon’s response has a strong focus on identifying opportunities for Australian companies to participate in the project,” Mr Pyne said.

“This portal is the first step in engaging local industry, in particular, small and medium enterprises, to develop the partnerships needed to deliver a world leading SRGBAD capability.

“It’s fantastic the process will also identify export opportunities for Australian companies to support future NASAMS programs internationally as part of the global supply chain.”

Defence and Raytheon are already investigating mounting missile launchers on Thales’ Australian made Hawkei vehicle and using Canberra based CEA Technologies’ radar.

Raytheon will conduct a series of industry showcases in every capital city later this year. This will give companies which have registered on the portal the opportunity to discuss their capabilities with Raytheon.

The cut-off date to register on the portal is October 25.

Capital city meeting dates will soon be released..


By Richard Collins >>

IT IS EASY to look at an industry like composites and quickly dismiss it as slow-moving and of no real interest to you or your company, but the chances are you would be wrong.

At the top-level, there are several assumptions that remain correct: the total growth rate is not dramatic, volume production of synthetic fibres used in composite parts is dominated by glass fibre (research organisation IDTechEx calculates this to be 95 percent), and that nobody sees carbon-fibre as a futuristic material anymore.

But, looking beneath this basic top level there is a wealth of innovation, supply chain turbulence, and specific growth areas. These are all analysed in a new report from IDTechEx Research, Composites 2017-2027: Innovations, Opportunities, Market Forecasts


The route to a fibre-reinforced plastic (FRP) composite part has never been straightforward, with multiple steps needing to come together. At each step of the supply chain there are multiple innovations, extending from the fibres and their precursors through to the manufacturing processes and their associated industries. 

IDTechEx has investigated every step through primary interviews with key players and provide comprehensive analysis of the key changes in each. This includes alternate fibre feedstocks, plasma oxidation ovens for fibre processing, thin-ply technology for fabrics and prepregs, thermoplastic epoxy and bio-sourced resins for the matrix, 3D printing of composite parts and tools, in-situ foaming of sandwich core materials and many more.

Beyond the manufacturing, there are opportunities, not just for the traditional end-user, but also in how these parts are repaired and increasingly important how they are recycled or disposed of at the end of their functioning life. What is more, these technical challenges are being confronted all the way from multi-billion dollar companies through to start-ups and university research, meaning this seemingly slow and steady industry is one that is rife with opportunities.


The usual headline-grabbing property is the improved strength-to-weight ratio of these lightweight composite parts. This will continue to enhance their ever-increasing relevance for the automotive and aerospace industry, as lower emissions (ICE) and improved mileage (electric) are required. Lightweighting is the one area that both propulsion sides are singing from the same hymn sheet about.

Important additional properties also play a crucial role in their successful uptake and allow these materials to move into unseen directions. This could be their superior stiffness, corrosion resistance, or temperature stability.

Take CFRP (CARBON-frp) as an example. It has long been used, and is very much the industry standard, in certain application sectors. However, beyond these core sectors, newer areas including rail transport, civil engineering remediation, spars in wind turbines, prosthetics, UAVs, and pressure vessels are all looking at this as their needs and the material maturity start to align. 

Alternatively, if the properties or price are not currently to the end-user’s standards then hybrid parts are becoming increasingly viable options. There are numerous ways that dissimilar materials or fibres can be combined to optimise the product with an ever-increasing number of success stories.    


Although carbon fibre may not be the material of the future anymore, this industry is already showing its hand as to what might be.

In the report, IDTechEx predicts that continuous and chopped ceramic fibres and their role in CMCs are right at the cusp of some very significant expansion (10-year compound annual growth rate for the fibres is 27 percent is predicted). 

These have so far been trapped in the usual catch-22: manufacturing and cost advancements cannot occur without scaling, but scaling cannot occur without orders.

 The slow growth and closed-door early adopter industries they have been operating in will finally start to come out of research and qualification to hit large-scale production volumes.

Even more nascent are the roles of continuous ceramic fibre tows and monofilaments in MMCs, which are accurately described as ‘mature technologies in embryonic markets’ – and the impact pure boron fibres may have in the long-term future.

It is also expected that the next-generation materials will start our progression away from ‘dumb’ structural parts towards multifunctional products. Functionality will be incorporated in fibre composites for energy storage, sensor technology, energy harvesting or many more reasons.

All these key next-generation advancements are analysed in the IDTechEx Research report Composites 2017-2027: Innovations, Opportunities, Market Forecasts.


BRISBANE-BASED Ferra Engineering has been contracted to manufacture sub-assemblies for the German-assembled Phoenice platform, Thales’ tactical navigation radar system for submarines.

Ferra Engineering specialises in the design, manufacture, assembly and test of defence and aerospace sub-assemblies, both locally and internationally. It has won manufacturing contracts for components ranging from missile systems to submarines to the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter – an impressive leap from Ferra’s origins as an auto parts maker.

Ferra will deliver two systems to one of Thales Germany’s existing European customers, with substantial potential future sales.

The program is expected to have flow on benefits to Ferra’s supply chain, with more than 15 Australian based suppliers engaged to deliver the project. The project is expected to create 25 jobs within Ferra Engineering itself. 

Ferra is the latest manufacturer to benefit from the Federal Government’s Global Supply Chain program, which has so far seen 148 companies awarded contracts totalling more than $900 million.

Defence Industry Minister Christopher Pyne said, “Ferra’s success recognises a significant shift from automotive parts in 2002 to the innovative advanced manufacturing company Ferra is today, supplying complex assemblies globally.

“The project will result in the creation of new positions and the up-skilling of staff to manufacture, assemble and test what is an extremely complex assembly.

“Those benefits will be realised across the Australian defence industry as some work will be performed within Ferra’s extensive supply chain around Australia.

“The signing of this contract is a strong example of Australian small to medium enterprises building their capabilities and creating long lasting export relationships,” he said.

These Australian Government’s Global Supply Chain Program, delivered by the Centre for Defence Industry Capability, aims to increase Australian defence industry’s international competitiveness and facilitate opportunities into the supply chains of multi-national defence companies, Mr Pyne said. 


THE NEW VIDEO social network launched by QMI Solutions aims to do a lot more than help drive industry innovation through moving pictures.

The Vuable team believes that fostering ideas, skills and experience will ensure a sustainable and prosperous future for Australia’s industries. The Vuable video platform will interlink small and large business, including innovators, researchers, start-ups and project owners.

Founded 25 years ago as the Queensland Manufacturing Institute – and now a national industry solutions catalyst and technology disseminator – QMI Solutions is well known for taking the lead in introducing new technologies to the manufacturing sector, successfully.

QMI Solutions managing director and CEO, Gary Christian – who pointed out that QMI successfully introduced the first industrial 3D printing system into Australia 20 years ago – said Vuable had been created in direct response to industry challenges in visibility, market access, collaboration and innovation.

Mr Christian also foresees Vuable having a significant role in connecting Australian researchers with industry and in helping companies market their innovations and products nationally and, eventually, internationally.

“Gary is right about that and it is the research into this area that we used to shape Vuable,” QMI Solutions’ Vuable co-creator Norm McGillivray said. “There is nothing like Vuable currently anywhere in the world.”

Mr McGillivray said the way the market has adopted video – through Facebook, Instagram and SnapChat stories – is an indication of how a well-planned and astutely organised video platform like Vuable could positively impact industry business growth.

“When QMI started to research and investigate a new platform, we looked around the globe to see if we could find anything like it, one that was solely tuned to industries and innovators,” Mr McGillivray said.

“We thought, ah! Obviously, YouTube and other social media platforms serve a diverse range of video content to the masses, but there was nothing just dedicated to industry and innovators.

 “Vuable serves our stakeholders in the sectors in which QMI is already active – and that is suppliers into major projects, manufacturers and their intermediaries, projects in development and innovators,” he said.

“It is, however, not limited to these industries. We are talking with retail, tech and financial institutions about joining the network as well as major projects and our industry leaders including government departments and research organisations.”


Mr McGillivray said Cisco Systems had released a report earlier this year on the impact of internet-delivered video, estimating that by 2018 people would consume about 80 percent of their online information through video.

The growth of video information has been driven largely by the smartphone, Mr McGillivray said. Industry is rapidly coming to grips with its potential, with many already incorporating video into training and apps.

Mr McGillivray, who has been working with his team on Vuable for just over 12 months, said observations of the video trend is backed by QMI’s investment in the system.

“I see small businesses in general already using video in many ways, along with larger organisations including government departments” he said. “Members of Vuable may initially use it to say who they are, what they do and who they work with. Taking their capabilities from text into the visual space”

“Research organisations and government departments will use Vuable to show what assistance programs are available, and what research organisations are doing currently.”

He said QMI could also see Vuable impacting the project space, highlighting major projects and being used practically for infrastructure to supply information, for contractors, community engagement, “and social good”.

Mr McGillivray said Vuable would almost immediately enable existing QMI Solutions customers to elevate their ability to market – an ongoing challenge in the manufacturing sector.

Mr McGillivray said in the initial planning stages of Vuable, a concern had been the capability of industry to create quality video updates – but the smartphone had virtually eliminated that concern. He added there would be a requirement of ongoing education to get industry comfortable about creating and publishing content, with confidence coming from seeing peers using the platform too.

There is also a range of “fantastic video editing apps that are either free or low cost as well as desktop computer options” he said.

 “The use of mobile phone is key … You can use mobile technology to get the best outcome, we are practising what we preach and have created our own videos on smartphones” Mr McGillivray said.


QMI Solutions has developed the Vuable platform in just over eight months, utilising in-house developers to adapt open-source software.

A useful feature is Vuable’s search functionality, which utilises hashtags, while full instant messaging capabilities are incorporated.

“This removes the friction from the dreaded cold call, and adds the ability for subscribers to interact, business to business, and arrange anything from meeting informally over a cup of coffee to arranging a site meeting at a business’s premises, we think this is a pretty cool feature,” Mr McGillivray said.

“Suppliers and innovators can come on-board and enjoy a free trial period of 30 days and if they don’t like it that’s fine,” he said. “But if they wish to continue it is a month-by-month subscription that’s $25 and they can upload their video any time they want. It’s very flexible, they have total control to pause and resume their subscription at any time.”

QMI has always been an innovator in technology adoption and dissemination.

The Vuable platform grew out of QMI Solutions’ own re-assessment of where digital was taking industries and enacting its own digital transition strategy.

The first instance of this was the introduction of the CoreValue business evaluation system to Australia and New Zealand. This was followed recently by QMI’s introduction of its Online Procurement System (OPS) that serves procurement for industry through a fully automated procure-to-pay system.

“These products are already successfully in the marketplace – and Vuable is the third product that we are bringing to market,” Mr McGillivray said.

 “Vuable is another first of its kind and in the form of a dedicated video platform for industry and innovation. We are very proud of that,” he said.

 “The vision of QMI is that QMI helps make new possible … Vuable will help us to supercharge that vision.”


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