It may look like a grown up Lego set, but to many in Tipton County, this machine is what the future of industrialization looks like.
At the Tennessee College of Applied Technology, the different Lego-type pieces come together to make a factory. The simulated singe-action cylinder consists of four different pieces: the body, piston, spring and cap. And what this simulator teaches at TCAT is how to work this machine in the industries in Tipton County and beyond.
The first thing that happens in this mini-factory is that the simulator tests to see if the body piece is the correct height. If so, it will be cleaned and sent to the conveyor. Conveyor belts have been set to provide solutions for material flow, however if a student is advanced, the system layout can be changed for additional problem-solving teachings. In fact, according to industrial maintenance instructor Tom Harvey, bugs can be built into the model to challenge students.
Next, the piece is sorted and then sent to the staging area. The robot identifies the color, and the conveyor sorts based on color.
In the factory, there are three colors: black, which denotes "out of spec;" red, which is regular and then silver, for "heavy duty."
The robot brings in the assorted colors and will assemble all if told or reject different colors, which is where a person comes in. The programmable logic controls have to tell the machine what to do.
The sensors are what make the automated controls work. As the mini assembly factory parts arrive, the ones that have been put together are off-loaded.
There are nine modulars at TCAT, which create the middle part of the factory. This middle part of the factory, which covers electric, pneumatic, hydraulic and pretty much everything, cost more than $250,000.
"The whole thing would cost three-quarters of a million dollars," said Harvey. "What we have is only $260,000, but we can add as one needs to."
The word mechatronics, according to TCAT, was created by combining the words mechanics and electronics and is the term for the training programs that help students learn project planning and information acquisition.
According to TCAT, more than 30 different combinations can be created using the system to help with understanding how to reduce set-up times and production planning.
The additional parts create an entire warehouse, including a shipping department, where the robot takes a stack out and replenishes.
"This is an integral part of teaching factory maintenance, you have to know where the bottlenecks may happen, what specs to meet, a plant manager has to know how important this is, and we're here to teach these students now."
Being able to move through the process gives these students a big advantage when they leave TCAT and are employed, hopefully by new industry.
For more information and to enroll, contact Glenn Baker at TCAT, 901-475-2526.