TUSCALOOSA, Ala. – With an increasing need in the manufacturing world, The University of Alabama has expanded resources and experiences to its students to create a more prepared industrial workforce.
The UA College of Engineering’s Alabama Initiative on Manufacturing Development and Education, or Alabama IMaDE, had its grand opening ceremony Sept. 30. Alabama IMaDE is part of the new manufacturing program at the College of Engineering, which also includes a new bachelor’s degree in manufacturing systems engineering housed in the mechanical engineering department.
“This new manufacturing facility is part of an initiative oriented to develop a premier hub for multidisciplinary research and education in intelligent and advanced manufacturing systems and processes,” said Dr. Nader Jalili, mechanical engineering department head and director of Alabama IMaDE.
Located on the first floor of Paty Hall, Alabama IMaDE was established to address future industrial problems through education and research on advanced manufacturing technologies and industry collaboration using newly renovated classroom and laboratory facilities. With high-end technology and materials, like industrial robot manipulators and advanced software, this center is equipped to provide real-world experience and advanced engineering at UA through project-based learning.
Elements of the facility aid individuals in programming, operating and implementing automation systems such as programmable logic controllers, automated robotics and manufacturing.
Alabama IMaDE is composed of four different sections: the advanced manufacturing facility; robotics and programmable logic controller, teaching lab; advanced and intelligent manufacturing, or AIMS, lab; and the innovation incubator, all compatible for university students, industries, the current regional workforce and the future workforce.
With a focus on workforce development, this facility is available for non-degree-seeking students and individuals looking for industry-level certificates in robotic manufacturing, automated manufacturing and intelligent manufacturing systems.
“The state must have an adequately trained engineering workforce that is knowledgeable in advanced manufacturing and materials scientific principles as well as in cutting-edge manufacturing processes and systems in order to ensure the manufacturing sector continues to be a driving force for economic development in Alabama,” Jalili said.
The five industrial robots are each located in a cell equipped with safety precautions in the advanced manufacturing facility. Each cell will be used for different activities, including spot welding, stud welding, sealant dispensing, metal inert gas welding, and perception inspection.
The AIMS lab has a more interactive approach to learning. Within the lab, there are small, more flexible and safe robots. These machines are not confined to cells and are programmed to work on an assembly line to put parts on a conveyor. In addition to the flexibility, individuals can move the robot manually and create paths using “teach pendant” features and self-learning capabilities.
The innovation incubator is an office-like space for students, entrepreneurs and industrial partners to drive increased readiness levels of new technologies.
The new degree is planned to be available in fall 2022 and is designed for engineering students. The program will prepare students for the workforce with manufacturing systems training through a tailored engineering curriculum with 15 innovative technical elective classes.
“The proposed manufacturing systems engineering B.S. program will provide graduates with skills and knowledge for successful careers in manufacturing systems and processes, which include practical applications ranging from manufacturing processes to cyber-physical systems,” Jalili said.
This was written by Abby Woodruff, a student writer in College of Engineering External Affairs and Development.