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Industry 4.0-Enabled Collaborative Robotic Cell for Real-World Learning

Engineering and computer science students receive new lab and learning opportunity

Published: Wednesday, March 22, 2023 - 10:59

(Patti Engineering Inc.: Auburn Hills, MI) -- Patti Engineering Inc., a leading control system integrator based in Auburn Hills, Michigan, with offices in Texas and Indiana, has announced details of an ongoing project at Kettering University. This will be in partnership with BorgWarner to develop an Industry 4.0-enabled collaborative robotic cell for student learning. The lab is designed to help teach engineering and computer science students about real-world situations with manufacturing automation technologies they may experience during their co-ops and future careers.

Providing the highest quality education for its students is a top priority at Kettering University. For the last several years, the university has been developing the concept to create a new classroom lab to bring the latest technology to its students and facilitate cross-curricular collaboration.

“Patti Engineering has been a longtime supporter of Kettering University and has generously helped us design this new lab and develop related coursework,” says Scott Grasman, dean of the College of Engineering. “We are thrilled to incorporate real-world applications into a single robotic cell for our students to learn industrial robotics, control systems, the internet of things, wireless communications, and data analytics. Together with our industrial manufacturing, electrical, and computer engineering students, computer science students will work side-by-side on the different learning opportunities presented by the robotic cell. We will even integrate our 3D printing course into developing the end-of-arm actuators for the collaborative robot. It’s a comprehensive system designed to be utilized by all of our engineering and computer science programs.”

Patti Engineering’s deep ties to Kettering University began with founder and CEO, Sam Hoff, who graduated with an electrical engineering degree in 1990 and has supported the university in many ways over the years. This, coupled with Patti Engineering’s expansive knowledge base in the industrial controls, robotics, and practical application of Industry 4.0 digitalization technologies, has made the company a perfect fit for the job.

“We are excited for the opportunity to develop a new lab for the students at Kettering,” says Hoff. “The lab’s real-world challenges of collaboration across all disciplines will provide an excellent space for students to put their classroom knowledge into practice, preparing them for the obstacles they may face in their careers. By solving these challenges while still in school, students will be better equipped to navigate and solve problems in their future endeavors.”

Patti Engineering was involved with the design of the new classroom lab, along with developing the baseline program. The new robotic cell incorporates technology from some of the university’s corporate sponsors, including Mitsubishi Electric for the PLC, HMI, and collaborative pick-and-place robot, and Keyence for the vision systems and area scanners.

To facilitate learning and experimentation throughout the semester, the robotic cell was specifically designed to enable students to work with and modify the code. At the end of the term, the staff resets the code to the baseline program, ensuring the same opportunities to the next group of students. This thoughtful approach ensures that every student who uses the robotic cell is able to delve deeply into the material and achieve the cell’s full potential.

Currently, the university has separate labs to correspond with different courses. The new lab will be integrated into existing courses and available for use in future courses. The Kettering University faculty is creating additional curricula, including capstone experiences centered around the new lab, which is scheduled to open during the summer of 2023.


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For 40 years Quality Digest has been the go-to source for all things quality. Our newsletter, Quality Digest, shares expert commentary and relevant industry resources to assist our readers in their quest for continuous improvement. Our website includes every column and article from the newsletter since May 2009 as well as back issues of Quality Digest magazine to August 1995. We are committed to promoting a view wherein quality is not a niche, but an integral part of every phase of manufacturing and services.