LTU dedicates one-of-a-kind new factory automation lab

SOUTHFIELD—Lawrence Technological University cut the ribbon Wednesday on a new robotics and factory automation laboratory that the companies that helped create it say is unique anywhere in the United States.

“What you’re about to see behind that door is state of the art technology: world class control architecture, controller based safety, mechatronics, and the list goes on and on,” said Tim Mulcahy, recently retired engineering manager for the Michigan region of Madison Heights-based McNaughton-McKay Electric Co.

And Larry Smentowski, global automotive director of Rockwell Automation, said: “This lab is a beacon for your educational students and a vehicle for your students and the larger community to understand what the future will be like…This is something no other university, no other campus, has done.”

LTU Engineering Dean Nabil Grace thanks the 30-plus people who attended the dedication.

Smentowski and Mulcahy, an LTU graduate, were speaking of the Rockwell Automation/McNaughton-McKay Electric Co. I4.0 Robotics and Industrial Automation Laboratory. It’s a million-dollar-plus investment by LTU and its industry partners in training LTU industrial engineering and computer science students how the factories of tomorrow will be designed, optimized, and run.

Added Michael Brennan, engineering manager at McNaughton-McKay: “I look at LTU as an important educational institution for our future and our partners. The great thing about this lab is that it has all the different trends in industry today. This will help us create future members of our automation community.”

LTU President Tarek Sobh praised “the amazing work that Rockwell and McNaughton-McKay did with our staff.” And Nabil Grace, dean of the LTU College of Engineering, said the new lab is all about “our students having the latest, state-of-the-art equipment in the industry.”

While visitors look on, robots in the new Rockwell Automation/McNaughton McKay Electric lab are hard at work.

Inside a steel safety cage, Kuka industrial robots grab items and place them in boxes that are on moving “pucks,” which move around an automated assembly line to the next station for more alterations. The lab can simulate assembly line and warehouse packing operations, all controlled by Rockwell software and programmable logic controllers installed by McNaughton-McKay. Also in the lab is machine vision and inspection technology from Oak Park-based Detect-It and Rochester-based Deepview.

Smentowski said the lab was designed with strict safety protocols while still allowing students to work on actual factory robots. The lab also uses Rockwell virtual reality software called Emulate 3D, creating a virtual twin of the lab, where students can test out their manufacturing simulations before trying them in the physical assembly line.

The lab will be used by several LTU engineering and computer science programs.

Lawrence Technological University is one of only 13 private, technological, comprehensive doctoral universities in the United States. Located in Southfield, Mich., LTU was founded in 1932, and offers more than 100 programs through its Colleges of Architecture and Design, Arts and Sciences, Business and Information Technology, and Engineering. PayScale lists Lawrence Tech among the nation’s top 11 percent of universities for alumni salaries. Forbes and The Wall Street Journal rank LTU among the nation’s top 10 percent. U.S. News and World Report lists it in the top tier of best in the Midwest colleges. Students benefit from small class sizes and a real-world, hands-on, “theory and practice” education with an emphasis on leadership. Activities on Lawrence Tech’s 107-acre campus include more than 60 student organizations and NAIA varsity sports.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.