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A Novel Architecture for Electromechanical Trainers Allowing Selectable Control by Either Microcontroller or PLC

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2015 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Seattle, Washington

Publication Date

June 14, 2015

Start Date

June 14, 2015

End Date

June 17, 2015





Conference Session

Instrumentation Division Technical Session 4

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Page Count


Page Numbers

26.77.1 - 26.77.8



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Paper Authors


Aidan F. Browne University of North Carolina, Charlotte

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Dr. Browne is an Assistant Professor in The William States Lee College of Engineering at The University of North Carolina at Charlotte. His current research areas are mechatronics, mission critical operations, instrumentation and controls. His core courses are an undergraduate three-semester embedded controller practicum and a graduate mechatronics course. He mentors a Senior Design team that competes in the NASA Robotic Mining Competition. He has worked for United Technologies (Hamilton Sundstrand) and General Dynamics on numerous projects including International Space Station Life Support, Joint Strike Fighter Propulsion Control Systems and U.S. Army Biodefense. He received his B.S. from Vanderbilt University and his M.S. and Ph.D. in Biomedical Engineering from the University of Connecticut. Dr. Browne serves as the Chair of the Engineering Technology Division of the Southeastern Section of ASEE; he also does extensive volunteer work for the FIRST Foundation (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology).

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David George Vutetakis Jr University of North Carolina, Charlotte

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David George Vutetakis is a graduate student at The University of North Carolina at Charlotte. He is currently pursuing a Master of Science degree in the Applied Energy and Electromechanical Systems program. He received his B.S. in Electrical Engineering Technology from UNC Charlotte. His areas of interest are robotics and electromechanical systems. He is also a graduate research assistant at The University of North Carolina at Charlotte in areas such as mission critical operations and mechatronics.

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A Novel Architecture for Electromechanical Trainers Allowing Selectable Control by Either Microcontroller or PLCEmbedded microcontroller systems and programmable logic controllers (PLCs) are usedextensively in industry and thus are a cornerstone in engineering education. In engineeringdepartments, the target training hardware interfacing to these two types of devices is oftenduplicated in two different labs. This repetition of plant hardware can become expensive andspace consuming with separate setups required for each controller.This paper introduces a novel instrumentation and control system training platform based aroundthe use of both an embedded controller and a PLC wired to the same electromechanical plant. Asupervisory controller electronically enables one of the controllers to interface to peripheraldevices and sensors. This allows an instructor to set up a trainer to be used in either a PLC classor an embedded systems class with the flick of a virtual switch. The setup could be used tocontrol virtually any electromechanical system in an educational environment such as a smallscale elevator simulator or a Cartesian robot for pick and place operation. In the prototype setup,an Allen Bradley PLC and a National Instruments embedded controller were used to interface toa two-car three-floor elevator system containing 8 actuators, 22 sensors, 14 switch inputs and 14indicators. All components of the system are networked, so that both the supervisory and studentcontrols can be used remotely, supporting both 24/7 access to experiments and distanceeducation students.Since the PLC and microcontroller are user operated using different programming languages, thesetup provides a level of versatility through the capability to interact with two separatetechnologies on one independent system with no physical configuration changes necessary. Thisleads to lower costs by limiting the amount of hardware required while also saving space andallowing the potential for a greater diversity of training setups to be utilized in a smaller area.

Browne, A. F., & Vutetakis, D. G. (2015, June), A Novel Architecture for Electromechanical Trainers Allowing Selectable Control by Either Microcontroller or PLC Paper presented at 2015 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Seattle, Washington. 10.18260/p.23418

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