Asee peer logo

A Cost Effective Robot Work Cell

Download Paper |


2009 Annual Conference & Exposition


Austin, Texas

Publication Date

June 14, 2009

Start Date

June 14, 2009

End Date

June 17, 2009



Conference Session

Automation and Robotics Subjects in Manufacturing Education

Tagged Division


Page Count


Page Numbers

14.18.1 - 14.18.15



Permanent URL

Download Count


Request a correction

Paper Authors

author page

James Sample Oregon Institute of Technology

author page

John Anderson Oregon Institute of Technology

Download Paper |

NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

Cost Effective Robot Work cell


This paper describes the design and construction of a cost effective robot work cell using an integrated software system. Surplus industrial cylindrical coordinate robots were updated with new electronics and software as well as tooling. A vision system was integrated using inexpensive USB cameras and a “shareware” vision software system was integrated into the robot operating system.

This system uses readily available tooling adapted from common appliances such as hand drills and hot melt glue guns to emulate common industrial processes. The work cell can be easily duplicated at low initial cost and ongoing maintenance. Undergraduate student teams were integrated with graduate students to design and build the system.


This work was sponsored through the Graduate Fellowship Program of the Oregon NASA Space Grant Consortium. At the onset of this project the Mechanical and Manufacturing Engineering (MMET) department at the Oregon Institute of Technology had just a handful of functioning robots, even fewer robotic work cells, and none which were fully capable of simulating manufacturing assembly processes. This scenario left the MMET department with few real-world tools with which to educate undergraduate students on topics of current importance to manufacturing such as agile assembly systems, flexible work cells, virtual simulations, robotics and robot integration. The following project was thus commissioned in June 2007 to build a functioning robotic work cell to address this need.

A robot platform similar to the one we will build could easily cost tens of thousands of dollars for new equipment but with this project we would prove it could be done for considerably less money. To keep costs low we first located several obsolete but mechanically functional robots known to be available at OIT. We then planned to retrofit the robots with a modern PC-based control system and build tooling in-house to complete the project. The budget was initially $5,000 but in the end we only used about half that to fully complete the work cell.

Through a quick survey of the functioning robots in the MMET department we selected a pair of functional but electrically obsolete cylindrical coordinate SCARA robots that were donated to OIT. As we later learned these robots were manufactured by Seiko-Epson circa 1987 and used for discrete electronic component assembly processes in an industrial setting for several years before they were donated to OIT with their respective control systems and one complete work cell. The Epson robots were a perfect match for the project requirements as they were unused by the department, had a relatively small number of control axes, and were electrically and mechanically sound.

Although the two robots were identical only one of the robots was in a complete and functional work cell, see “Monica” in Figure I. The other robot ‘Lisa’ had been stored intact on a small

Sample, J., & Anderson, J. (2009, June), A Cost Effective Robot Work Cell Paper presented at 2009 Annual Conference & Exposition, Austin, Texas. 10.18260/1-2--5331

ASEE holds the copyright on this document. It may be read by the public free of charge. Authors may archive their work on personal websites or in institutional repositories with the following citation: © 2009 American Society for Engineering Education. Other scholars may excerpt or quote from these materials with the same citation. When excerpting or quoting from Conference Proceedings, authors should, in addition to noting the ASEE copyright, list all the original authors and their institutions and name the host city of the conference. - Last updated April 1, 2015