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University reckons manufacturers should tap into the cloud

University of Auckland researchers are developing cloud manufacturing technology to make it easier for New Zealand businesses to take on bigger projects and to share resources.

cloud manufacturingUniversity of Auckland researchers are developing cloud manufacturing technology to make it easier for New Zealand businesses to take on bigger projects and to share resources.

The university plans to run a pilot of its Cloud Manufacturing Platform project with a number of New Zealand manufacturing companies to test and further develop the technology later this year.

It says the Cloud Manufacturing Platform is the first of its kind in New Zealand and one of only a handful in the world, and will enable companies to share resources such as manufacturing software tools, equipment and fabrication capabilities with other businesses.

The project was developed under the university's Innovative and Manufacturing and Materials (IMM) programme. Launched in August last year, IMM is designed to provide a single point of contact for manufacturing and materials related businesses or industry groups who are looking to tap into university expertise. More than 150 researchers are involved in the programme.

Project leader Professor Xun Xu, from the Faculty of Engineering, says cloud manufacturing can give businesses access to extra capabilities and enable them to take on larger, more complex projects.

"Cloud manufacturing allows a company's resources to be packaged in a cloud for others to use. For example, a company may have a piece of machinery that is sitting idle for 50 percent of the time, which is a waste but if it were to hire that piece of machinery out by offering it as a cloud resource it could be used by another company. For both companies it's a 'win-win' situation."

The Cloud Manufacturing Platform enables network access to a shared pool of manufacturing resources that can be quickly released with little management effort or service provider interaction.

"It's a good fit for New Zealand companies because they tend to be small in size so it's difficult for them to take on big projects. But with cloud manufacturing if projects are too big for them to handle alone they will be able to access resources from other companies or to partner with other businesses."

Professor Xu has been invited to address the first annual World Conference on Cloud Computing (CloudCon-2012) this month in Dalian, China.