Multi-million dollar boost for engineering research

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Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering associate professor Bruce MacDonald is part of a research team to develop modular robots for horticulture.

Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering associate professor Bruce MacDonald is part of a research team to develop modular robots for horticulture.

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.

Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering associate professor Bruce MacDonald 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; arms and grippers for harvesting kiwifruit and apples; and 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.

Department of Mechanical Engineering distinguished professor Debes Bhattacharyya leads a team developing advanced materials, product design and manufacturing processes to enable NZ companies to produce high performance products for export markets.

Centre for Advanced Composite Materials deputy director 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,” Dr Battley says.

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

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