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Communication Needs In Collaborative Automated System Design

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2010 Annual Conference & Exposition


Louisville, Kentucky

Publication Date

June 20, 2010

Start Date

June 20, 2010

End Date

June 23, 2010



Conference Session

Automation Subjects in Manufacturing Education I

Tagged Division


Page Count


Page Numbers

15.291.1 - 15.291.11



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Paper Authors


Sheng-Jen Hsieh Texas A&M University

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Dr. Sheng-Jen (“Tony”) Hsieh is an Associate Professor in the Dwight Look College of Engineering at Texas A&M University. He holds a joint appointment with the Department of Engineering Technology and the Department of Mechanical Engineering. His research interests include engineering education, cognitive task analysis, automation, robotics and control, intelligent manufacturing system design, and micro/nano manufacturing. He is also the Director of the Rockwell Automation laboratory at Texas A&M University, a state-of-the-art facility for education and research in the areas of automation, control, and automated system integration.

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Albert Sun St. Mary's University

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Dr. Albert Sun is Associate Professor of Industrial Engineering at St. Mary's University in San Antonio, Texas. He is also the Director of St. Mary's University’s Automated Manufacturing & Robotics Laboratory, which is dedicated to industrial automation education and research. Dr. Sun teaches courses on industrial automation and control and computer aided manufacturing (CAM) and robotics. His research interests include CAD/CAM/CAE education, quantitative analysis for small manufacturing enterprises (SMEs) critical success factors when implementing enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems, and bioinformatics and automation.

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

Communication Needs in Collaborative Automated System Design


Design of automated manufacturing systems is a highly collaborative endeavor, requiring constant communication between a customer (typically a manufacturer), a team of system integration engineers, and suppliers. There are three layers of activities involved in designing an automated manufacturing system. First, the engineers need to capture what the customer wants. Second, the engineers need to know about the various mechanical and electrical devices that make up the system and the control programs needed to orchestrate and synchronize the process being automated. Third, the engineers need to identify vendors and equipment for the system.

Web-based instructional materials and problem-solving environments are being built to help engineering students and new engineers to acquire the subject knowledge and skills needed to contribute to these activities. However, the focus of these tools thus far has been on educating individual learners. Needed are instructional tools that can allow engineering students to collaborate with other students and industry engineers to solve realistic problems in a realistic way, and thereby better prepare them for industry jobs. The recent surge in use of Web 2.0 tools (such as social networking, blogs, wikis, web conferencing, and shared applications) suggests that these technologies are now mature and well-established enough to become a regular part of engineering education.

This paper describes developments in an ongoing NSF project that aims to combine instructional materials for system integration problem-solving with Web 2.0 tools to create collaborative learning environments that allow teams to work and learn together in solving system integration problems. The first stage in this project involves the following steps: 1) identify what modes of communication are currently being used to facilitate collaboration within the system integration industry; 2) determine how this communication culture be translated into a virtual collaborative problem-solving environment; and 3) summarize constraints, needs, goals, and factors affecting the success of system deployment. Results from this stage will be used in identifying and designing the tools that should be made available in a collaborative environment for learning automated system design.


System integration refers to all the tasks related to designing, building, testing and fielding an automated manufacturing system. An automated manufacturing system generally consists of processing equipment, material handling devices, and material transfer equipment. The processing equipment can be a computer numerical control (CNC) milling, lathe, turning machine or any other type of equipment that changes or alters a property of the work piece. Material handling devices include industrial robots, actuators, and others devices that handle the work-in-process work-piece at the workstations. Material transfer equipment, such as conveyors, is often used to move raw materials from bins to a destination where they can be picked up by material handling devices. A system controller, such as a programmable logic controller (PLC), works behind the scenes to orchestrate and synchronize the operations performed by the

Hsieh, S., & Sun, A. (2010, June), Communication Needs In Collaborative Automated System Design Paper presented at 2010 Annual Conference & Exposition, Louisville, Kentucky. 10.18260/1-2--15963

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