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Multi-million dollar boost for engineering research

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Multi-million dollar boost for engineering research

University of Auckland engineering research has been awarded almost $20 million in new funding from the Ministry for Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) for a range of advanced technology projects and robotics.

University of Auckland engineering research has been awarded almost $20 million in new funding from the Ministry for Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) for a range of advanced technology projects and robotics.

The advanced materials for manufacturing group at the University receives $10.4 million over six years while a project to develop robots for the horticultural industry receives $7.6 million over four years.

Research in transport materials engineering specifically on aggregates led by senior lecturer Dr Doug Wilson from the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering in collaboration with the Geology Department receives $1 million over four years.

Dr John Cater’s research in the Department of Engineering Science to develop smart patient simulators for respiratory therapy receives $718,000 over two years.

Associate Professor Bruce MacDonald, from the University’s Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, is part of a research team to develop modular robots for horticulture.

“This is a fantastic step for us and we are very excited about this project which takes our robotics development a step further where we will see robots working in an outdoor environment,” he says.

The Autonomous Multipurpose Mobile Platform (AMMP) modular robot is capable of navigating autonomously in orchards and will include vision-sensing of flowers and fruit for kiwifruit and apples in orchards and arms and grippers for harvesting kiwifruit and apples as well as fast-acting directional control mechanisms for precision targeted spraying of pollen and soft robotic handling of apples and kiwifruit.

The research is a collaboration between Plus Group's RoboticsPlus Ltd, the University of Auckland, Plant and Food Research, and the University of Waikato.

Distinguished Professor Debes Bhattacharyya from the University’s Department of Mechanical Engineering leads a team developing advanced materials, product design and manufacturing processes to enable NZ companies to produce high performance products for export markets.

Deputy Director of the University's Centre for Advanced Composite Materials, Dr Mark Battley, says the strength of the group’s work lies in its strong ties to industry.

“We have strong collaborations with leading international companies such as BMW and we have leading NZ industry partners in aerospace technology, marine technology and consumer goods so that is a major strength of our research,” he says.

The project is a collaboration between the University of Waikato and AUT University.

Dr Doug Wilson’s and the joint engineering / geology team’s research on aggregates used in transport infrastructure focuses on better understanding the geological source and production properties of aggregates and how they relate to the durability and life cycle engineering performance of transportation infrastructure.

The research aims to reduce life cycle transportation costs for aggregates that make up the vast bulk of material used in roads and pavements. The work will help reduce road maintenance and construction costs by the better utilisation of non-renewable mineral resources (aggregates) and improve road safety and the durability of pavements. The research is strongly aligned to industry through the Aggregates Industry Working Group.

“This funding will allow us to specifically focus on aggregates which really are the building blocks of our entire transport infrastructure because they form the basis of road pavements, asphalt and concrete.”

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