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Development of a Low-cost Electromechanical Elevator for Programmable Logic and Embedded Controls Training

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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

Division Experimentation & Lab-oriented Studies: Electrical and Computer Engineering Labs

Tagged Division

Division Experimentation & Lab-Oriented Studies

Page Count


Page Numbers

26.521.1 - 26.521.10



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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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Wesley B. Williams P.E. University of North Carolina, Charlotte

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Dr. Williams is an assistant professor in the department of Engineering Technology and Construction Management, where he teaches courses in the areas of instrumentation and controls, technical programming, and mechanical design. He is active in the area of robotics, serving for three years as a faculty mentor for the UNC Charlotte Astrobotics team competing in the NASA Robotic Mining Competition.

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Keith Loftus University of North Carolina, Charlotte

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Keith is currently pursuing a B.S. in Electrical Engineering Technology at UNCC. In addition, Keith has been admitted to an early entry program to work towards a M.S. in Applied Energy and Electromechanical Systems at UNCC.

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Christopher Benfield

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Development of a Low-cost Electromechanical Elevator for Programmable Logic and Embedded Controls TrainingAn interdisciplinary team of electrical and mechanical students has designed anelectromechanical lab setup that is suitable for a variety of exercises based around controlling atwo-car, three-floor elevator system. While straddling the electrical and mechanical curriculum,electromechanical systems are ubiquitous in industries from canning facilities to nuclear powerplants and are something that graduates of either discipline are likely to encounter in theworkplace. As such, it is important that students get hands on exposure to the programming andcontrol of electromechanical systems that are using industrially relevant equipment andtechniques.Many such training systems exist, but tend to be at price points that can make them prohibitive tomany programs. To maximize general availability, the design goals of this system were to have itbuilt around commercially available parts, be accessible by a remote student with live videofeeds, and have an overall materials budget of $12,000 for the complete setup. Another keycriteria for the design was that the overall control of the setup be selectable between twodifferent control modalities; in this case, a National Instruments embedded controller and anAllen-Bradley PLC.The system designed is a two-car three-floor elevator system containing 8 actuators, 22 sensors,14 switch inputs and 14 indicators. A design intent was to showcase a variety of differenttechnologies with the sensor and actuator selection. As an example, the final design includes aircylinders controlled by solenoid valves for door movement, and DC motors with encoderfeedback for achieving linear motion of the elevator cars. Similarly, the position of the cars anddoors are determined through a combination of encoders, light gates, proximity switches, andtouch sensors to broaden the student’s experience with available technologies. As a protectivefeature, all commands from either the embedded controller or PLC are routed through asupervisory controller to limit the speeds and travel of the elevator cars.

Browne, A. F., & Williams, W. B., & Loftus, K., & Benfield, C. (2015, June), Development of a Low-cost Electromechanical Elevator for Programmable Logic and Embedded Controls Training Paper presented at 2015 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Seattle, Washington. 10.18260/p.23860

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