Monthly Archives

July 2018

Here’s your chance to go below the deck of Australia’s largest warship

The Canberra-class Amphibious Assault Ship gives the Australian Defence Force one of the most capable and sophisticated air-land-sea deployment systems in the world.

Measuring 230m long with 15 deck levels, these 27,000 tonne ships, also known as Landing Helicopter Docks (LHDs), are Australia’s largest warships. They can land a force of over 1000 personnel by helicopter and watercraft, along with all their weaponry, ammunition, vehicles and stores.

Australia's largest warship

Explore Australia’s largest warship for yourself at the upcoming Australian Engineering Conference 17-19 September in Sydney. To register, click here

Why transport infrastructure is key to Queensland’s future

Queensland infrastructure projects

South-East Queensland’s Cross River Rail is a key ingredient in the state’s future success.

A centrepiece of the Queensland State Government’s 2018 Budget was an announcement, made in May this year, of a $45 billion spend on infrastructure over the next four years. One of the key pieces of infrastructure under this announcement, seen as vital to the building of “future Queensland”, is the ambitious project known as the Cross River Rail (CRR).

The business case for the CRR says that it will “create the foundation for a world-class, integrated public transport system in South-East Queensland (SEQ)”. With a population expected to be 1.9 million greater by 2036, the state is having to answer questions about how it expects to move those people around. The CRR offers one of those answers.

Transport is not just a topic of political conversation in Queensland, but is being discussed Australia-wide. At the Australian Engineering Conference 2018, Sir Rod Eddington, former Chairman of government body Infrastructure Australia, will be discussing the fact that smart transport infrastructure is at the core of a city’s liveability.

“Cities are seen as more attractive places to live for a whole series of reasons, despite the challenges that living in them brings – the cost of housing, congestion availability of services, commutability,” he said.

“The bottom line is, we didn’t invest in our rail networks for a long time. As the cities get bigger and more congested, the best way to move large numbers of people down narrow corridors is rail.”

CRR, which will deliver 10.2 km of rail line (5.9 km in twin tunnels under the Brisbane River and CBD) between Dutton Park and Bowen Hills, as well as four new high-capacity, underground stations and two station upgrades, comes as the state admits roads and bus systems are beginning to reach capacity.

It has also been designed to release capacity across the entire rail network, clearing bottlenecks and creating opportunities for further rail extensions to growing parts of SEQ. It doubles rail capacity across the Brisbane River and, the business case says, allows for more people to live within 30 minutes of their work. Network expansions to Flagstone, Caloundra, Ipswich, Springfield and the Gold Coast all become possible thanks to the CRR. Around 23,000 trips each day are expected to shift from road to public transport by 2036, reducing travel times for all commuters.

Amazingly, the CRR’s Albert Street and Roma Street underground stations will be the first new CBD stations in 120 years! Growth areas such as Woolloongabba and Bowen Hills are expected to experience extra revitalisation support as a result of the new rail line. The project is forecast to generate around 1500 new jobs, directly and indirectly, annually over the next four years.

Cross River Rail

An artist’s impression of the future Albert Street Station. (Image: Courtesy Queensland Cross River Rail Delivery Authority)

Why is rail so important? A standard six-carriage train carries 750 people (and trains on the CRR will be up to nine carriages in length), compared to a bus that carries 65 people, a light rail train that carries 250 people, and a ferry that carries 165 people. Cars, of course, carry one to five commuters. No other form of transport comes close to rail in terms of moving large numbers of people.

Tenders for the major works are, at the time of writing, in progress. These include the tunnel work, from a location near Dutton Park station, under the CBD and the river, to a northern portal, four new underground stations, tunnel portals and dive structures, plus all associated electrical, mechanical and safety systems, vertical transport systems for passengers and track work, power systems and operation and control infrastructure. Minor works include demolition and clearing projects.

Clearing works have begun on the Woolloongabba site, which will be the launch pad for the tunnel boring machines and, eventually, the site of a new station. The CRR is expected to be fully complete by 2024.

Experts agree that the CRR is not just an interesting engineering project, but also an excellent way for the state of Queensland to future-proof its most populated regions.

“As the motor car arrived, rail patronage either stalled or fell a bit and, as a result, we took our eye off the rail ball particularly,” Eddington said.

“Roads are an important part of the jigsaw too, but inner cities only work if you have the right rail network as well as the right road network.”

Learn more about the future of Australia’s transport infrastructure at the Australian Engineering Conference 17-19 September in Sydney. To register, click here

Melbourne’s unprecedented population growth prompts huge infrastructure investment

Melbourne North East Link

The biggest transport infrastructure investment in Victoria’s history, the North East Link is actually three major projects in one.

A budget announcement from the Victorian state government in April 2018 confirmed the earmarking of $110 million to begin the process of detailed planning and design in order to create a blueprint for roadworks and tunnel boring for the North East Link. A further $3.12 million was set aside to put in place pedestrian crossings as well as various traffic flow measures that will become necessary as the work begins.

The North East Link, Victoria’s biggest ever transport infrastructure investment, has been referred to as ‘the missing link in Melbourne’s freeway network’. It is actually a combination of:

  • the North East Link – completing the ring road between the Eastern Freeway and the M80 Ring Road in order to connect Melbourne’s northern and south-eastern suburbs;
  • the Eastern Freeway upgrades – including new lanes, and technology that has the potential to improve trip times by 40 per cent; and
  • Doncaster Busway – a new busway with dedicated lanes along the Eastern Freeway from Doncaster towards the city.

The office of Victoria Premier Daniel Andrews said, “The $16.5 billion North East Link will slash congestion across Melbourne’s north east, take thousands of trucks off local roads and create more than 10,000 new jobs during construction.”

Peter Newman, Professor of Sustainability at Curtin University and a presenter at the upcoming Australian Engineering Conference 2018, says it is vital to fix the travel time issue in our cities as the cities themselves become dysfunctional when commutes to and from work take too long.

“It’s increasingly dysfunctional because younger families are just falling apart,” he said.

“It’s like fly-in-fly-out every day. There’s a big social impact as well as economic impact.”

Newman is excited about the possibility of technology such as trackless trams – autonomous trams that are actually a series of electric buses in convoy, following sensors in the road.

The North East Link is not only about roads, but also about tunnels. In fact, once the project comes to a close it will have produced Victoria’s longest tunnels – three-lane, twin tunnels that travel for five kilometres under roads, residential areas and parklands.

(Image: Courtesy North East Link project video screen grab)

Other infrastructure included in the project includes new local roads, intersection reconfigurations and land bridges for communities adjacent to the North East Link and Eastern Freeway, new cycling and walking paths along those two freeways and the completion of the 100-kilometre continuous ring road cycling trail. New and upgraded noise barriers will be erected to ensure traffic noise standards are met, a Freeway Control Centre for managing all roadway operations will be constructed, and a focus will also be on high quality landscaping and urban design along the new routes.

The entire project has become necessary as a result of population growth in Melbourne that is unprecedented for any Australian city. Incredibly, in the 2015-16 financial year, close to 30 per cent of Australia’s population growth occurred in Melbourne, claims the business case for the North East Link project.

“If current trends persist, Melbourne will be a city of 8 million people by 2051, surpassing Sydney as Australia’s largest city by population and reaching a population as big as London and New York City today,” it said.

Most growth is predicted to occur in the outer suburbs, meaning transport corridors between outer suburbs and employment/education/retail etc centres – including road and rail – must evolve to meet the coming demand. Cities that do not provide such critical infrastructure risk negative social, economic and environmental consequences, as Newman pointed out.

Sir Rod Eddington, former Chairman of Infrastructure Australia, who will be interviewed by Newman at the Australian Engineering Conference 2018, agrees. Eddington, who has a particular passion for rail, says the liveability of our cities very much rests on smart transport infrastructure. This infrastructure is ‘smart’ because it enhances other transport networks. The North East Link, for example, will include major upgrades and additions for bus, bicycle and pedestrian networks as well as those utilised by cars.

“You need to think about infrastructure in the context of networks, not in the context of single pieces of the jigsaw,” Eddington said.

“When thinking about building another rail line, or another road, or another piece of the electricity grid, you need to consider what it means for the networks. Individual pieces of the network must work for one another.”

Learn more about the future of Australia’s transport infrastructure at the Australian Engineering Conference 17-19 September in Sydney. To register, click here

Australia’s largest transport infrastructure project is a bold initiative

WestConnex Sydney transport infrastructure project

To solve its traffic congestion problems, Sydney is digging deep.

Few people will ever argue that an urban road is a thing of beauty, particularly when it is filled with the glint and growl of slow-moving traffic. But encase that road underground, in a tunnel, and it becomes something else altogether. It is an engineering marvel, an unimpeded way to get from A to B as quickly and easily as possible, and a way to give back open space to the communities above, rather than take it away.

That is what WestConnex in Sydney is now aiming to do. Having already widened the M4 between Parramatta and Homebush, releasing thousands of motorists from a chain of 28 sets of traffic lights on Parramatta Road, it is now digging downwards. The new project extends the M4 at Haberfield in the inner west, via twin underground tunnels around 7.5 kilometres in length, with the M5 at St Peters, near Sydney Airport.

Australia’s largest transport infrastructure project, the WestConnex initiative is coming in at a reported cost of around $16.8 billion. It is expected to be open to traffic in early 2020, with the main tunnel open in 2023. The tunnel linking M4 and M5 has a project cost of $7.247 billion.

Once complete, this massive infrastructure build will result in 33 kilometres (14 kilometres above ground and 19 kilometres underground) of new motorway linking western and south-western Sydney to the city and airport. It is predicted that travel times from Parramatta to Sydney Airport will be cut by up to 40 minutes, bus travel times from the inner west to the city will be halved and up to 52 sets of traffic lights will be bypassed. Most impressively for residents, around 4000 trucks per day will head underground, rather than clogging up Parramatta Road.

WestConnex Sydney transport infrastructure

(Image: Courtesy WestConnex project video screen grab)

It’s a big vision and a bold initiative, providing relief to the city of Sydney before traffic created chaos. Most impressive is the creation of green community spaces at the same time that trucks and other traffic are sent underground.

While road capacity will be doubled along the M5 East corridor, there should be no noticeable surface traffic increase. In fact, on the surface 10 hectares of disused Rozelle Rail Yards will become green space, reclaimed for the use of residents and including footpaths and cycleways. A new bridge is planned to link this space to other foreshore parks.

Another eight hectares of open space will be created, including six hectares in St Peters. These spaces, and the lesser transport times resulting from the better road systems, are expected to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by more than 610,000 tonnes per annum. Fourteen kilometres of new paths for pedestrians and cycles will become a reality. The entire project has/will create over 10,000 jobs, including 4,400 jobs on the New M5 project, 4500 jobs on the M4 East project and 900 jobs on the King Georges Road Interchange Upgrade.

“The M4-M5 link is part of a comprehensive range of road and public transport projects that are all connected and will make Sydney a much better place to live,” said Anthony Roberts, NSW Minister for Planning and Housing.

Such planning and progress is an essential to avoid an increasingly dysfunctional city, says Peter Newman, Professor of Sustainability at Curtin University and a speaker at Australian Engineering Conference 2018. Engineers, Newman says, play a key role in ensuring the sustainability of cities, particularly around transport infrastructure.

He is particularly interested in new technologies and innovations, such as ‘trackless trams’, convoys of driverless, electric buses that follow sensors down a road. “It’ll be the engineers who pick up on it,” Newman says. “They’ll team up with entrepreneurs, developers and good governments and we’ll get a new regime of building trackless tram systems through our cities that will solve many of our current problems.”

Good roads, good rail systems and innovation between the two, Newman says, will turn cities into places where home and work are always accessible within a 30-minute commute. The answer lies with a coming together of government and private commerce, as is the case with WestConnex. When that collaboration occurs, he says, anything is possible.

Learn more about the future of Australia’s transport infrastructure at the Australian Engineering Conference 17-19 September in Sydney. To register, click here

The future of engineering is uncertain – and full of possibilities

Elanor Huntington on the future of engineering

By the time current first-year engineering students graduate, the world will be a different place than when they started university. What skills will they need to solve problems and do jobs that don’t even exist yet?

Elanor Huntington, Dean of the College of Engineering and Computer Science at the Australian National University, has thought a lot about what the term ‘engineer’ will mean in 10, 20, 50 years’ time.

We caught up with her before her appearance at this year’s Australian Engineering Conference 17-19 September in Sydney to get some predictions about where the industry is headed and what engineering students have to look forward to.

What role will engineers play in the future? Hear from experts and discuss ideas at the upcoming Australian Engineering Conference 17-19 September in Sydney. To learn more and to register, click here

Confessions from engineers who have made it in the business world

business leadership

It is not hard to name engineers who have built their ideas into a prosperous business. What does it take to do this?

From Henry Ford to Bill Gates to Elon Musk and, closer to home, Atlassian founders Mike Cannon-Brooks and Scott Farquhar, there are ample cases to suggest that engineers and technologists can make super-successful company founders and leaders.

So, do engineers make good entrepreneurs? Anyone can make a good entrepreneur, said Professor (Emeritus) and University of Technology Sydney (UTS) Innovation Adviser Roy Green. The essential element is a viable product, based on good research, and which can be commercialised.

“An engineer or technologist has a head start in that respect because they understand product development,” said Green, who will moderate a panel discussion titled ‘The Genius of Naivety’ on 19 September at the Australian Engineering Conference in Sydney.

“But in order to translate a product into a market opportunity, other skills are also necessary.”

Sebastien Eckersley-Maslin is the Founder and CEO of startup accelerator BlueChilli and has won the EY Entrepreneur of The Year (Emerging category). His resume includes 10 years as a weapons engineer in the Royal Australian Navy.

BlueChilli founder and CEO Sebastian Eckersley-Maslin.

Asked if members of his profession make good entrepreneurs, he tells create: “I think engineers do make really strong, good leaders, but that’s only one of the characteristics that they require to be a successful entrepreneur.

“Also, engineers are fantastic problem solvers, and it’s that active problem solving which I think can make them amazing entrepreneurs.”

Without guidance, however, they can sometimes suffer from ‘The Developer’s Dilemma’. They might be in love with their idea though without an understanding of their end user. Building things to solve problems is in their DNA, and when there are problems they might just keep adding technology.

“Their instinct is to go back to what they know, which is to build, and they add more features or tweak the services or whatever,” Eckersley-Maslin said.

“You end up in this horrible loop, where you just keep adding more stuff. And you end up building massive, monolithic structures that no one is buying.”

He advocates the well-known Lean Startup methodology to avoid this possible trap.


Need for speed


Byron Kennedy, CEO and co-founder of SPEE3D, is commercialising an additive manufacturing method using robotics to spray metal powders at supersonic speeds to build parts. It officially launched at Formnext in Germany last November and has received orders within Australia and from the US, Germany and Singapore.

SPEE3D is combining robotics and 3D printing.

He and co-founder Steve Camilleri previously spun out In Motion electric motors from Charles Darwin University, selling this to a division of Regal Beloit. He believes entrepreneurship is “just chasing your dream or your passion” and an entrepreneur can come from any disciplinary background.

“However, what engineering does is give you the skillset to solve technical challenge. What we do on a day-to-day basis is to have a particular engineering challenge,” he explains, adding that his and Camilleri’s profession helps in systematically breaking a project into smaller problems.

“When we started on the printer, for instance, we broke it into 10 separate elements and we ran Technology Readiness Levels (TRLs) on each of those and you could ultimately see where you had to spend your time. One was already a four – happy with it. But is that one a zero? We’ve got to put a bit more time into that zero, at least get it up to a one or something like that. We put a lot of process thinking into solving these problems.”

Engineering skills give the founders the ability to understand a range of possible solutions. Other, entrepreneurial skills, says Kennedy, allow them to pick out the most realistic solution based on constraints (financial, technological and other) and risks, before proceeding.


Robo rehab


UTS students Rowan Smith and Thirunisha Thirumurugan are at an earlier stage in their entrepreneurial journey.

Smith picked a ‘Robotic Rehabilitation’ option during the Summer Studio program. He did so following his grandmother suffering a stroke in late-2017, and rehab being “a pretty crap process”.

As Tech Gym, the two students are developing two solutions, one to assist rebuilding upper body strength and the other involving musical games to recover hand and finger strength.

“We are definitely still in the stage of looking for a mentor on a start-up level: we haven’t quite found that yet,” Smith said.

Robotic assistance to help manipulate a patient’s arms also addresses physical issues for physiotherapists. Smith says they train five years for a job that they leave after seven years on average, due to work injuries.

One of the first steps in developing Smith’s and Thirumurugan’s ideas was to hear what the UTS physiotherapy researchers’ problems were. Though the venture is a promising one – the pair won a recent university pitching competition and will present at the Virginia Tech Global Entrepreneur Challenge Competition in August – they are always looking to potential end users for guidance.

Roy Green says engineers understand product development, and therefore make excellent business leaders.

“The big part that we need is mentors to push us in the right direction of the medical field, because both Nisha and I are mechanical and mechatronic engineers, so our medical understanding is quite limited,” he said.

“We just want to build robots.”

Asked if engineering students should be exposed to entrepreneurial thinking before graduation, Eckersley-Maslin said yes, though he added every engineer should be an entrepreneur or vice versa.

“But I do think a healthy understanding of the two worlds is important for people to make an informed decision if that pathway is for them, or they want to go and work for a high-tech, high-growth company,” he said.

According to a survey by Smith’s university, a significant proportion of students (40 per cent) are seeking an entrepreneurial element to be taught through their degree. As featured in the March 2017 issue of create magazine, the university began offering an MBA in Entrepreneurship (MBAe) with other Australian universities also offering new post-grad degrees with an entrepreneurial bent.

As with Eckersley-Maslin, Green believes students, including those in engineering, should be exposed to entrepreneurial ideas as a matter of course.

“Not all of them of course will necessarily end up creating a business. But even if they didn’t, wherever they work they’ll take an entrepreneurial mindset with them,” says Green.

“And not just a technological mindset or managerial mindset. They would have a much broader approach to whatever problems and challenges might be facing them.”

What are the skills young engineers need to succeed in business? What can existing businesses do to stay on top of current trends? Roy Green will share his insights at the upcoming Australian Engineering Conference in Sydney 17-19 September. To learn more and to register, click here

Anatomy of One Central Park’s award-winning green infrastructure

One Central Park Sydney green infrastructure project

Since its completion, One Central Park has become a bit of a Sydney icon for a few reasons. One of the more obvious ones is that it’s covered head to toe in greenery.

The green walls covering the two towers are just part of the award-winning project’s sustainability profile. The $2 billion, 5.8 hectare precinct included $100 million earmarked for investment in green technology, including its own tri-generation plant, a recycled water network and onsite renewable energy.

One Central Park, Sydney, has one of the 'greenest' buildings in the world.

The gardens use a remote-controlled dripper irrigation system and a special mesh-covered felt to anchor the plants to the scaffolds. The gardens are maintained by Junglefy, which specialises in green walls.

Another eye-catching feature of the development is the cantilevered heliostat, which serves a couple of functions.

You can learn more about sustainable infrastructure and tour the One Central Park project for yourself at the upcoming Australian Engineering Conference. To learn more and to register, click here.

“Find problems worth solving”: One medtech engineer shares the secrets to his success

Dr Chris Jeffery is a medtech entrepreneur with several innovations under his belt.

As CEO and co-founder of innovative medtech company Field Orthopaedics, Dr Chris Jeffery has worn a number of different hats. But his focus on pulling apart and solving problems is a constant.

Wanting to broaden his expertise with a bionics PhD on the way to a role as an orthopaedic surgeon, Dr Chris Jeffery was told by a mentor to “go find problems worth solving” and make a real impact.

“They sent me back out in the world to hospitals, and that was really the catalyst for change,” the CEO and co-founder of Field Orthopaedics told create.

Finding and tackling problems is life for Jeffery, who at just 31 years has achieved a surprising amount. His line from graduating in electrical and computer engineering (with an honours thesis that won the JH Curtis Award) to medical innovator has not been a straight one.

Dr Chris Jeffery, founder and CEO of Field Orthopaedics, is a medtech innovation juggernaut.

Jeffery with a Baxter collaborative robot.

He served as a Royal Corps of Australian Electrical and Mechanical Engineers (RAEME) officer after graduation, receiving an Army Capability Development award for developing an AI platform to speed up deployment in the field. He was then deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan.

“You’re like the COO of the company, where the CEO or the commanding officer in the army sets the plan and the adjutant enforces and implements the plan,” he said of his service as an adjutant.


Bionics knowledge


Time spent with doctors in the Middle East inspired Jeffery to change career tack and pursue medicine. He qualified as one of five to earn a full scholarship – including a concurrent MBA during medical school – through University of Queensland’s Medical Leadership Program.

“With my engineering, doctor, business and emerging bionics knowledge, I ended up
coming back with a whole bunch of business ideas,” he said.

The first of these emerged as an answer to a serious problem he experienced on placement as a junior doctor at a children’s clinic at Ipswich General Hospital.

“The average patient was five years of age, referred because they were missing developmental milestones, withdrawing from family or friends, or having behavioural issues,” Jeffery said.

“And the question was, ‘Is it that they can’t hear, they have another medical issue, or is it behavioural?’.”

A threshold-based audiogram was required for diagnosis, with a wait time of 18 months to see an audiologist. A wait to see Jeffery? 12 months.

A kid presenting with no test would just be put in a queue – “a travesty,” said Jeffery, given the simplicity of the test and children sometimes waiting two years “before you can know what’s wrong, let alone where to start to look at how to fix it.”

He wrote a logic-based program on a Raspberry Pi to emulate the screening, later starting Audera to commercialise this IP. A consumer element also became part of the company, which makes headphones that adjust to a user’s hearing profile.

“Three years down the track – literally thousands and thousands of audiograms – we’re yet to see a perfect audiogram,” Jeffery said.

“You can make the best headphones in the world, but until they can identify and adjust to your hearing they’re pretty pointless. We used the selling of those to fund the ongoing medical innovation and creation of my medtech company.”

Mentors asked Jeffery why he was devoting so much time to ear, nose and throat problems when he wanted to be an orthopaedic surgeon. He began to focus on issues with upper limb extremity devices, where four out of 10 patients suffer complications.

The wrist is a hard joint to fix because of its complexity and range of motion.

The first problem was severe arthritis of the wrist, affecting one in six people over 60. There is no way to replace the complex joint, unlike with a hip or knee, and options range from painkilling drugs to fusing the wrist.

“Essentially two joints in one, it’s got a massive circumferential range of motion,” he said.

“Importantly, unlike the hip or the knee, when those joints are loaded the bones smoosh together to stabilise them; when the hand is loaded or the wrist is loaded, if you think about how you hold a phone, the force is normally orthogonal to the axis of the bones.”

This led to a total replacement method using magnets to stabilise the wrist, which Field Orthopaedics was formed to commercialise.


Engineering dilemma


Early this year the company made news with the cheapness and speed of development for the Field Micro Screw, taking 12 months and $600,000 (compared to an average of 31 months and $39 million). The device for treating small fractures is currently awaiting US FDA approval.

These two companies and another have incubated within RER Labs, which Jeffery co-founded. The company started working on outside projects, provided they are suitable and sufficiently problem-based, in the past two years.

“I call it the engineering dilemma,” Jeffery said of the wrong way of developing an idea.

“We often want to do a project that’s cool for coolness’ sake; so we might be trained in computer vision or we’ll be enthusiastic about drones, and that’s the solution. But that to me is always like trying to put a square peg in a round hole – it limits your creativity and the simplicity and elegance of what you’re going to give someone. We like to start with actually understanding the problem first.”

Asked about the difference between leading a project and leading a company, the entrepreneur said he doesn’t see a huge division between them. For both, it’s essential to understand the purpose and what problem is being solved. What is the essence statement, the barriers and the plan to overcome these?

Jeffery receiving the Young Business Person of the Year at the Brisbane Lord Mayor’s Business Awards in 2017.

“They’re both tricky, probably for the same reasons, and that’s managing human capital: so managing the people, the team, from the project point of view, or contractors that might not be as motivated or as invested or as effective as you; versus the company, which is how do you manage the people in your team. You need to all be as invested and driven to solve that,” he said.

Things like brand messaging are a concern for a company, though perhaps not for a project.

“The only difference between project and organisation is I suppose in an organisation there’s a few other elements, and you have to change your mindset: it’s not always a technical mindset,” he says.

How can you make the jump from project leader to business leader? Dr Chris Jeffery will share his insights at the upcoming Australian Engineering Conference. To register, click here