Toyoda Gosei Corp., locally known as TGMissouri (TGMO) of Perryville, Missouri, partnered with Southeast Missouri State University in February with the donation of a collaborative robotic arm to its Automated Manufacturing Lab.
The Universal UR-5 robot with accompanying programmable logic controller unit and wrist camera joins five other robotic arms used to educate students in the Department of Polytechnic Studies in the Otto and Della Seabaugh Polytechnic Building. The gift from Toyoda Gosei Corp. includes equipment and a cash donation totaling $113,388, making the company a new lab sponsor.
On hand from TGMO were Todd Huber, president; Fred Ducharme, senior general manager; and Kent Nelson, Human Resources specialist, who met with and demonstrated the practical applications of the collaborative robotic arm with Dr. Carlos Vargas, president of Southeast Missouri State University; Dr. Chris McGowan, dean of the College of Science, Technology and Agriculture; and Dr. Brad Deken, chair of the Department of Polytechnic Studies.
“As a department, we do our best to make sure we are training students on equipment that is relevant to the industry. Unfortunately, this can be a difficult proposition,” Deken said. “It is so wonderful to have companies such as TG that not only advise us on the specific equipment that is important to them but also help us to acquire it.
“This specific robot is important for us because it represents a new trend in manufacturing,” Deken added. “Rather than isolating the industrial robot for safety reasons, the safety is engineered into the robot system so that the robot can work ‘side-by-side’ with the workers. This can result in improved efficiency since it can make the most of the inherent advantages of both the human and robot system. We definitely appreciate our partnership with TG and look forward to working with them for the improvement of manufacturing in the region.”
Deken says Southeast’s polytechnic studies students will be using the robotic arm this semester as part of a collaborative welding project in partnership with TGMO. Steve Hunn, TGMO engineer, is mentoring the students on the project which requires them to develop a solution, a parts list and budget for a real-life small welding process at TGMO.
The students have been challenged to use the robot to select a bracket from a bin, place it into a fixture and then pick and place two nuts into the same fixture. The brackets and nuts are bulk packed into a box. The challenge is in identifying the orientation of each individual part prior to it being picked up and then properly orienting the part in the fixture. The experiment with the nuts is similar as they also must be properly oriented in the fixture for the weld process to be successful.
At the end of the spring semester, the students will present their solution to the project to TGMO management at their facility in Perryville. TGMO will evaluate the cost of the project, adherence to the timeline, creativity, ease of maintenance and scalability.
“The purpose of this partnership is to help us to meet the demands of a changing and challenging automotive manufacturing industry,” Ducharme said. “The robotic arm will enable a group of students to design and develop applications using the same technology in an actual manufacturing environment. This technology is being used to provide an automated process that will be used at our facility.
The donations, he said, are an expansion of the partnership between TG and Southeast.
“Our partnership has also included providing internships, supporting student projects, assisting employees taking courses and students (including employees) pursuing degrees through SEMO. This partnership helps SEMO and TG Missouri to support technical growth in the region, along with the much needed technical skills to support the automotive industry,” Ducharme said. “Additionally, this will solidify our technical foundation for the projected growth.”
The donation of the collaborative robotic arm by TGMO comes as Southeast also announced this week the launch of a new Bachelor of Science in Industrial and Systems Engineering program which will begin in fall 2017. The program is expected to meet workforce demands and offer access to students seeking STEM education opportunities in southeast Missouri. University officials say the new program will provide much needed access to an affordable engineering program in this part of the state.
TGMO’s Ducharme said Southeast’s new program will attract and develop strong engineering candidates that will stay in and assist with growth in the region.
“TGMO will gain access to valuable engineering talent willing to stay employed in the region,” he said. “This is needed to stabilize our technical foundation for the growth yet to come.”