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A Virtual Manufacturing Laboratory

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1998 Annual Conference


Seattle, Washington

Publication Date

June 28, 1998

Start Date

June 28, 1998

End Date

July 1, 1998



Page Count


Page Numbers

3.61.1 - 3.61.8



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

Session 3659


Hugh Jack, Michael Karlesky Padnos School of Engineering Grand Valley State University, Grand Rapids, MI

ABSTRACT: A virtual manufacturing laboratory is currently under development and will be in use by the summer of 1998. This laboratory allows students to access robots, CNC (Computer Numerical Control) machines, DAQ (data acquisition) cards and other equipment using the Internet. A standard web browser is used to access the laboratory ( The student can then use virtual reality (VR) devices to explore the equipment. At present students can simulate programs on the virtual robot. When the student is satisfied that a program is functional, he/she can download it to the real robot, and monitor the robot with a video link. Students are also able to read and write to a data acquisition card to read/write analog data values. The hardware architecture of the laboratory uses a number of networked computers running Linux and Windows NT. Software has been written in C/C++ as well as Java to interface with equipment and web clients. VRML (Virtual Reality Markup Language) has been used for displaying the geometry of the devices.

1. INTRODUCTION: As part of a newly created manufacturing emphasis, we have added a number of courses and related laboratories. Among these additions is a senior course in integrated manufacturing (EGR 474). It was decided to spend time and effort to develop an innovative laboratory that would overcome access barriers and develop an environment containing modern integration technologies. Access is a common problem with laboratories. In particular a lab that houses robotic machines poses a danger when not properly supervised. As a result these laboratories typically have few open hours, and the equipment goes largely underutilized outside of scheduled times. An ideal model for usage is that students have access to the equipment any time of the day without having to travel to a single location. Manufacturers have also been facing similar problems. In a facility that contains thousand of operations and separate functions, timely access and response to information is critical. The Internet/World Wide Web (Web) has been proven to be an excellent access tool. It can interconnect computers at any distance. The computers can then be connected to various devices to perform functions. By allowing students to access the equipment via the Web the following advantages are gained, • people and equipment may be in remote locations (for safety or convenience) • many people can access limited equipment (no standing room limits) • equipment can be monitored without a visit (efficient use of time) • users don’t have to monopolize equipment (hot seating)

Karlesk, M., & Jack, H. (1998, June), A Virtual Manufacturing Laboratory Paper presented at 1998 Annual Conference, Seattle, Washington. 10.18260/1-2--7522

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