A collaboration with Integra.
A commitment to research has underpinned the successful evolution of Melbourne-based metal component manufacturer Integra Systems, at a time when Australian manufacturing is in decline. An important part of Integra’s success is its long-standing relationship with Associate Professor Colin Burvill and his team the University of Melbourne’s Department of Mechanical Engineering.
A decade ago Integra was an engineering design house.
Other people manufactured the components they designed, Assoc Prof Burvill says.
But then it changed direction, from a design-focused business model to one that manufactured the components and devices designed in-house, using, whenever possible, fabrication equipment that was also designed and developed in-house.
Integra wanted to create a manufacturing system that was faster than others in the market, to produce a range of simple parts more cheaply, and we were able to help the Integra team achieve that.
Mechanical engineering research students worked with Integra to customise and optimise a punching press system developed in-house, resulting in the PunchIT Coil Line production system. Operating significantly faster than the widely used turret punch press, it also proved more adaptable to a wider range of metal inputs and component designs.
It was a world-first innovation that won several manufacturing innovation awards and led to Integra’s success as the 2013 Victorian Manufacturing Hall of Fame’s Manufacturer of the Year.
Assoc Prof Burvill says that at the time no other manufacturing system in the world could produce high-volume components with the speed and flexibility of Integra’s innovation. The university’s mechanical engineering team has since worked to improve the manufacturing efficiency, with projects ranging from improved sheet-feeding conveyors to better planning and production control systems.
Assoc Prof Burvill says the focus on continual improvement, supported by research, has helped Integra adapt and survive in a highly competitive international marketplace.
As Integra has grown, it has moved on to other machines, including off-the-shelf equipment, with the focus on good programming by a thinking team that cares about the technology, design and optimising performance.