BPX helps college future proof training for Industry 4.0

Smart manufacturing is on the increase, and with this comes the demand for engineers able to use the technology installed. Plant engineers need the skills and training to work with robotics, automation controls, networking and software.

Preparing students for careers in automated manufacturing is the responsibility of organisations like Redcar & Cleveland College. They aim to provide advanced technology skills to students using state-of-the-art automation equipment from Mitsubishi Electric.

Neil Bowen, Head of Department for Construction, Engineering and Service Industries explains. “We believe in the importance of developing pupil skills that will be relevant on the job. This means ‘industrialising the curriculum’ and ensuring students are proficient in Smart Manufacturing environments by giving them a deep understanding of the equipment that underpins Industry 4.0.”

“We also aim to provide the opportunity to interact with these technologies in a supportive and less time-pressured educational environment. This allows students to learn new skills at their own pace before entering the workplace.”

Moreover, it is important to replicate real-world industrial operating conditions, where modern automation products are in use. In particular, the college was looking for PLCs, HMIs and a robot to provide practical experience suitable for students on different courses.

A request went to Mitsubishi Electric’s factory automation division and Bowen comments. “The existing PLCs at our college belonged to Mitsubishi Electric’s FX3 series and they served us well for several years. Our employees were happy with them as they were long-lasting, high-quality pieces of equipment. Also, the GX Works software used to program them was particularly user friendly.”

Smart factory training in an industry-like setting

The automation specialist coordinated with the department to specify the most suitable controllers, HMIs and six-axis robotic arm. Importantly, Mitsubishi Electric suggested its collaborative robot system (cobot) to help students interact with industrial robotic set-ups.

This would allow the pupils to enjoy a system used across many factory environments and learn how to program different axes of motion. In addition, they would gain an understanding of how best to deploy and maintain the robot.

They also decided to replace the current PLCs with the latest Mitsubishi FX5UC controllers. The new controllers offer the students more advanced functionality and improved network communications.

Mitsubishi Electric then contacted its innovation partner BPX and Helios Precision Engineering to support the supply of compact, integrated modules enclosed in desktop panels. In this way, students could gain from an industry-like setup.

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