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An Industrial Robotics Course for Manufacturing Engineers

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2016 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


New Orleans, Louisiana

Publication Date

June 26, 2016

Start Date

June 26, 2016

End Date

June 29, 2016





Conference Session

Innovations in Manufacturing Laboratories

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Paper Authors


Jeffrey L. Newcomer Western Washington University

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Dr. Jeffrey L. Newcomer is a Professor of Manufacturing Engineering and Chair of the Engineering and Design Department at Western Washington University. He received his Ph.D. in Mechanical Engineering from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute.

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For many years the automobile industry was the home to more than half of the robots used in U.S. manufacturing. Recently, however, many other industries have been or are planning to introduce robots into their manufacturing processes. As such, an introduction to robotics in the context of manufacturing is becoming more important for students pursuing degrees in Manufacturing Engineering. There is, however, always a challenge when teaching robotics to find the correct balance between application and modeling. Many robotics courses taught in Electrical or Mechanical Engineering Departments have a tendency to emphasize modeling over application, but a well-prepared Manufacturing Engineer needs to understand where the challenges in robotics applications lie as well as understanding what is going on ‘under the hood’.

This paper describes a new Industrial Robotics course for Manufacturing Engineering students at Western Washington University. The new course is based upon a course that had been part of a Manufacturing Engineering Technology program that has recently transitioned to Manufacturing Engineering. The goals of the new course are to find the right balance between modeling and application and be true to the applied nature of the new Manufacturing Engineering program. Therefore, the course is lab intensive to provide students with multiple opportunities to work with industrial robots. Students complete thirteen structured and semi-structured lab activities that introduce them to different aspects of applied robotics, including the design of end-effector tooling and fixtures for different tasks. Students work with three different robot configurations and two different operating systems, so they are exposed to some of the different options available and get experience with different interfaces and design philosophies. Students also get a brief introduction to machine vision systems through lab activities. The lab experience culminates in an open-ended, industry-sponsored project that requires students to apply their knowledge from the lab activities to solve a real robotic automation problem, including the design of the appropriate fixtures and specification of the necessary equipment for a production cell. In addition to lab experiences that emphasize application, the course covers the fundamentals of robotic modeling, including kinematics, inverse kinematics, trajectory planning, and vision systems, with activities and exercises designed to tie the modeling to the applications.

As well as describing the labs and their progression and the industry-sponsored design project, this paper will also outline the basic course structure, the course learning outcomes, some of the active learning exercises used in the class, the methods used to tie the theoretical robot modeling topics to the lab activities, the assessment of students’ learning relative to the course learning outcomes, and future plans for the course.

Newcomer, J. L. (2016, June), An Industrial Robotics Course for Manufacturing Engineers Paper presented at 2016 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, New Orleans, Louisiana. 10.18260/p.26208

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