Essential to industrial enterprise, mechanical engineering is versatile and continuously evolving. Mechanical engineers use their knowledge of design, energy and materials to ensure that objects function more efficiently to conserve resources.
Motion Control Lab upgrades offer enhanced learning
From the construction equipment that builds cities to the shock absorbers that keep automobiles on the road, fluid power technology is everywhere. MSOE mechanical engineering students stay on top of cutting edge fluid power developments through experiential learning in spaces like the university’s recently upgraded Motion Control Lab.
“Modern advances in sensors and electronic controls have enabled fluid power systems to evolve, becoming more effective at what they do and more efficient in how they do it,” said Dr. Daniel Williams, associate professor, Mechanical Engineering Department. Williams, whose resume includes John Deere and Snap-on Tools, brings 20 years of industry experience to his post. “In the Motion Control Lab, students learn about the challenges involved in employing a real-world fluid power system and the opportunities to overcome those challenges with state-of-the-art computer control.”
The Motion Control Laboratory underwent a complete system upgrade and facility renovation over the summer. The lab houses a variety of industrial level hydraulic pumps, valves and sensors, as well as linear and rotational hydraulic equipment.
“Students have the opportunity to design both closed-loop feedback controllers as well as reference signals to meet real-world design constraints on three different mechanical systems,” said Dr. Michael Cook, assistant professor, Mechanical Engineering Department.
All components were upgraded, as well as control systems and software. Six lab stations in the room accommodate two to three students at a time.
“The renovation has expanded the capabilities of the laboratory,” said Dr. Matthew Panhans, Mechanical Engineering Department chairperson.
All mechanical engineering students will have an opportunity to use the lab when they take the required senior level course Automatic Control Systems. The lab will also be used to support capstone senior projects, elective courses and undergraduate research. One of these undergraduate research opportunities is the Research Experience for Undergraduates program, which focuses on understanding and utilizing additive manufacturing and fluid power technology that cuts across many disciplines while developing skills in research methodology and communication.
“It’s equipped with a real-time control system that can be used to explore various control strategies as research projects,” said Dr. Luis A. Rodriguez, assistant professor of mechanical engineering and REU advisor. “The lab also provides the capability to power external modular hydraulic experiments that can be used to explore system characteristics or other research topics.”
The laboratory upgrade was made possible through a National Fluid Power Association Education and Technology Foundation Grant and the Otto Maha Endowment Fund, along with equipment donations from industry partners Parker Hannifin, ifm efector, Controlled Dynamics, Sun Hydraulics, Yaskawa and Thermal Transfer Products.