A Wollongong company that delivers easy, quick and affordable software for robotic welding has won a major Australian technology competition.
Verbotics was formed by University of Wollongong graduates Andrew Short and Nathan Larkin in 2017.
While at university, the pair was part of a project with Defence, programming the iconic Bushmaster Army vehicles.
“We got involved in an automation problem that they were having and it sparked this whole project,” managing director Nathan said.
“We’re watching them manually program their robotic production for that and thought there must be an easier way, so that’s where it started.
“We worked in other defence projects while we were at university and then founded Verbotics to commercialise that and take it from something that was required a lot in defence, to manufacturers throughout Australia and now worldwide.”
Andrew, Verbotics’ technical director, says the issue for manufacturers is that programming a robot is a very manual process, requiring highly skilled people and a lot of time.
“If you’re changing your production a lot, you need to always be reprogramming your robot. So that means robotic welding automation is accessible for those medium to high volume manufacturers, but for those high mix, low volume manufacturers it’s just simply out of their reach,” he says.
“It’s just not cost economical, and the programming is the reason for that, not necessarily the cost of the physical robot itself.
“We automate that entire robot programming process, turning it from a time-consuming, fiddly, manual process that needs an expert robot programmer, by importing a 3D model of the item you’re making, figuring out where the welds should be and all the robot motions needed to make it happen.”
Verbotics, now based at the Innovation Campus, was awarded the Australian Technologies Competition (ATC) award for Advanced Manufacturing at a presentation earlier this month (October).
The national growth and awards program is designed to showcase and promote innovative Australian technologies with global growth potential. This year more than 100 companies vied for 10 category awards.
Entrants included companies across various sectors including clean energy, fintech/regtech, medtech, critical technologies, advanced manufacturing and social impact.
The judges said Verbotics’ software “revolutionises how manufacturers program their robots, turning it from a time-consuming and expensive process to one that is automatic, easy and flexible”.
Andrew says the ATC competition was a great process, where they were able to connect with other businesses who were not necessarily in the same industry, but facec a lot of the same challenges.
“We’re looking to scale up and go international with our software, so winning the award and getting those connections is really valuable for us at the moment.”
The pair has already booked a spot at a trade show in North America for next year and is researching how to expand the software beyond welding applications.