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FANUC America donates robotics equipment to OU Engineering programs

Tuesday, November 18, 2014
FANUC America donates robotics equipment to OU Engineering programs
Equipped with vision technology, the machines can “see” the pieces they are working with, making them useful in a wide spectrum of industries like pharmaceutical, agricultural, small-part assembly and automotive. 
FANUC America Corporation of Rochester Hills, Mich., recently made a substantial gift-in-kind donation of cutting-edge equipment to Oakland University that company leaders said will help boost OU’s impact on the regional economy.

The robotics supplier’s donation of robots, software and 2D iRVision will support development of an Industrial Robotics and Automation program within OU’s Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering.

Engineering students will be trained for high-demand jobs, many of which are in metro Detroit, home to world-class robotics and automation companies.

FANUC America General Manager Mick Estes says the company is excited to expand its longstanding support for similar programs.

“Working together and sharing industry-leading innovative technology is what will make the difference in narrowing the skills gap in manufacturing,” Estes says. “The staff at the OU School of Engineering and Computer Science (SECS) brings the highest degree of professionalism and tremendous personal passion to the task.

“They provide students the opportunity to learn and apply their knowledge and skills using the latest innovations in engineering and manufacturing technology, and we are pleased to be a part of this effort.”

Some of that industry technology includes the FANUC M-1 robot. Equipped with vision technology, the machines can “see” the pieces they are working with, making them useful in a wide spectrum of industries like pharmaceutical, agricultural, small-part assembly and automotive. They will be used by engineering students in the brand new Industrial Robotics Lab, preparing them with not only hands-on training, but the skills to design applications and understand modern technology.

"There is a spectrum of applications for these type(s) of robots, from picking up a car to sorting pills," adds Estes. And the controller, called the teach pendant, is universal across all FANUC robots. So once students learn on the M-1, the smallest FANUC robot, they can apply those skills to any application.

According to Khalid Mirza, Ph.D., visiting assistant professor of engineering, learning the tools is the easy part. Middle school students touring SECS labs will pick up the teach pendant and start maneuvering the robot like it is any old video game, he says. “It’s how you design the engineering solution.”

Employers don’t simply want the engineer, however, shares Paul Aiello, director of certified education training at FANUC America Corporation, "…they want somebody who can look at a problem and can think of a way to manufacture that part.”

Noting the trend to "re-shore" manufacturing jobs back to the United States and large percentage of skilled engineers nearing retirement, Aiello asks "who's going to fill these jobs?"

But he answers his own question: "That's what got FANUC to partner with Oakland University."

SECS Dean Louay Chamra, Ph.D., said the school looks forward to showcasing state-of-the-art equipment in its robotics labs.

“The donated equipment will educate the next generation of engineers in order to provide the talent needed in industrial robotics and advanced manufacturing,” Dean Chamra says.

Oakland’s partnership with FANUC America — the world’s largest manufacturer of industrial robotics — is a “win-win” for industry and academia, adds Mirza.

“Our School of Engineering and Computer Science is committed to building a strong and relevant program in Industrial Robotics and Automation,” he says. “We have formed an advisory board so that industries can directly provide us expertise and support for curriculum development, program development and strategic planning.

“We are proud to have FANUC America join the board and look forward to a successful and mutually beneficial relationship. The FANUC America headquarters in Rochester Hills is located right next to OU and gives us a unique opportunity to work closely with them.”
FANUC America is the leading supplier of robotic automation in the Americas.