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Plastfix Blog

Robotic Headlight Repairs Using 3D Printing & Advanced Materials

After $1.5 million of investment and 3 years of intense research and development, in collaboration with Tradiebot Industries, research partners Swinburne University and Australian government IMCRC, Plastfix has developed the first known prototype of an automated headlight repair system using state of the art robotics, software algorithms, 3D scanning and the key factor, a custom automotive compatible polypropylene based 3D printing material.

With the successful prototype demonstrating quality repairs of broken headlight tabs, the patented solution is moving towards expanding its repair range and commercialising a more compact, industry suited, automated system that would be affordable and easily utilised in any collision repair facility worldwide. The network of Repairbots will be supported by Plastfix’s central control centre in Europe, managed via a cloud-based inventory of repair programs and headlight tab CAD data.

Joe McFadries Editor of the National Collision Repairer Magazine, Australia who attended the event said:

“It is one of the most significant collision repair industry events in recent memory"

The system essentially replicates the manual lug repair-kit solution that OEMs use to replace broken tabs a for certain headlights. Though, instead of screwing the tabs into the provided repair points on the headlight, the Repairbot system 3D prints a set of staking posts, it then uses a heat staking method to attach the pre-manufactured tab that results in a cleaner outcome than the screw heads being exposed. Research and testing is ongoing, with plans to 3D print the entire replacement tab directly onto the headlight as materials and technology evolve.

Swinburne University of Technology Project Leader, Dr. Mats Isaksson noted his enthusiasm with the outcome, “The team has been outstanding during this project as we overcame several significant obstacles, not the least of which was that we had to engineer our own polymer as commercial grades were unsuitable of our application.”

David Chuter, CEO of IMCRC who attended the launch event said: “It is so amazing to see how far we’ve come since the idea was floated back in 2017. Australia is the perfect market for such innovation and this demonstration has been tremendous. Congratulations to the team at Swinburne and to all those involved throughout the journey.”

Mario Dimovski owner of Plastfix and Tradiebot Industries said:

“Watching the final demo was both exhilarating and emotional. To think 3 years ago this was a crazy idea and now we are witnessing a robot repair a broken tab on a headlight using 3D printing is just astonishing.”

“We now move into the exciting part of commercialisation. The Tradiebot EU team has been working on the project for the last 12 months side-by-side with Swinburne and are preparing a more fine-tuned commercial Repair-bot system ready for use in today’s collision repair industry. We have come so far and learnt so much and the advancements in technology and hardware is positive as the systems become faster and products are more affordable, ultimately allowing us to build an end product in reach of any collision repair or parts supply business no matter its size.”

Mr Dimovski added: “Our end goal is to have these Repairbot units on the shelf for sale for sale by the start of next year retailing for approximately $20,000 USD including an ongoing subscription and material cost.

We are currently exploring all market opportunities with collision groups, OEM’s and part suppliers to determining the best fit for our solution. In the end, if we can assist the industry to repair more headlights instead of buying new, reducing repair costs and divert them from landfill, it’s a win for both business, consumers and the environment.”