Associate Professor Wlodkowic is a business driven engineer who aims to build clever machines that make life easier and safer for mankind.
Associate Professor Donald Wlodkowic, RMIT Vice Chancellor’s Senior Research Fellow and Director of the BioMEMS Research Group, the School of Science
Associate Professor Wlodkowic is an international leader in innovative fluidic, Micro-Electro-Mechanical Systems (MEMS) and automation technologies with over 17 years of international academic and industrial experience.
Primary areas of research include miniaturised and automated bioanalytical technologies, fluidic technologies, additive manufacturing and rapid prototyping, robotics, mechatronics, MEMS and electronic technologies.
Wlodkowic's interdisciplinary research activities sit at the interface bridging bio-inspired engineering, mechatronics and manufacturing.
He brings a wealth of innovative research, particularly in the fields of bio-inspired engineering, fluidics, additive manufacturing, mechatronics and robotics to the RMIT BioMEMS Research Group, a state-of-the-art multi-disciplinary bioengineering research facility where his team of researchers and postgraduate students develop unique and cutting-edge technologies such as bio-inspired robots and miniaturised fluidic systems.
Wlodkowic started his scientific career as a biologist with a fascination for engineering, in particular robotics and mechatronics.
“The main drive behind my academic career was exploration and a thirst to create new technologies that matter for humanity”, he explained.
“Accordingly, over the years my career was underpinned by my passion for the translation of research into economic value through emerging high-tech start-up ventures.”
According to a recent report by the Australian Academy of Technological Sciences and Engineering (ATSE), Australia lags behind at translating and commercialising research.
In comparison to other leading OECD countries, Australia ranked near last on measures of innovation in industry.
“Improving productivity and facilitating economic growth are key priorities for Australia and the translation of research into economic value is critical in addressing such national priorities”, Wlodkowic said.
“My goal is to drive innovative R&D capability with transformational economic impact opportunity for Australia.
“A recent success story involves the discovery that toxic polymer used in 3D printing can be potentially dangerous.
“This has potentially serious implications for the people using certain types of 3D printers for rapid prototyping and manufacturing of parts.
“I am currently working on innovative robotic systems with significant applications such as search and rescue as well as fire-fighting operations.
“The biggest challenges in my field are lightweight power sources for mobile robotic systems as well as machine-to-machine communication (M2M) protocols allowing collaborative interoperability of diverse robotics systems.”
Wlodkowic believes that another barrier for a wider adoption of automation and robotics technologies in our everyday lives is the lack of standardisation and modularity.
“Robotic systems are still complex and difficult to operate and control, requiring highly trained teams of specialists in electronics, software, machine vision, wireless communication and many more.
“If robots and automated systems are to become part of our daily lives, programming and servicing needs to become vastly simplified and streamlined.
“You would not like to program your new washing machine for a week to do just do a single load of clothes.
“Undoubtedly progress in Artificial Intelligence (AI) will help alleviate certain barriers in the nearby future and we need an intuitive way of interfacing with machines otherwise they will always remain gadgets.”
Wlodkowic’s future ambition is to establish a National Defense Robotics Centre with a focus on the interfaces between design, engineering, bio-inspired engineering, and manufacturing to enable breakthrough technologies designed to protect the lives of Australian military personnel.
“I am at RMIT because the University provides me with the opportunity to follow my dream as it is a premier Australian university of technology and it consists of a melting pot of passionate people, ideas, research and infrastructure capabilities.
“The latter were ranked by the 2015 Excellence in Research in Australia exercise as ‘well above world standard’ in several disciplines relevant to my research.
“RMIT's research focus on ground-breaking technologies and translation of R&D advances into tangible outcomes for the economy is a primary driver for my work here.
“As an engineer I am a great geek and deeply believe that our future is closely intertwined with innovative robotic and artificial intelligence technologies that will revolutionise our lives in the years to come.”