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Tag Archives | engineering

When will we see more four-year U.S. degrees in automation engineering?

If Americans want to strengthen our manufacturing base, we need more engineering graduates who are focused on automation.

project-phasebIf Americans want to strengthen our manufacturing base, we need more engineering graduates who are focused on automation. Many schools have degrees that touch on the needs of manufacturing, but they don’t really do a deep dive into automation.

To give you a feel for the current state of affairs, when I typed into Google search “list of universities with automation degrees,” Google’s response was, “Did you mean ‘list of universities with automotive degrees?'” Then there were two ad links for automotive programs before an automation program was even listed. Not a good sign.

From my experience, many members of the higher education establishment view automation as an associate’s degree, technician-level program. They are underestimating the complexity of designing and integrating automated systems on a plant-wide basis. Automation is more than just programming or electrical engineering or mechanical engineering. It is all of these and more.

A couple of years ago, I attended a university dinner and was speaking to the dean of engineering at a major public university whose engineering program is highly regarded. I asked him why they haven’t added an automation engineering degree, or at least some related classes, to their undergraduate engineering program. He dismissively responded that automation was covered by the local community college, so the university didn’t need to provide that. What the local community college was offering was a program to train technicians to program and troubleshoot automated equipment. It wasn’t teaching how to design and integrate automation systems in a complex industrial environment.
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Concept Systems receives MECOP 10-year Sponsor Award

Ed Diehl, President and co-Founder of Concept Systems; Gary Petersen, MECOP Executive Director; Jamie Diehl, former VP of HR & Recruiting at Concept Systems and instrumental in forming our partnership with MECOP.

Ed Diehl, President and co-Founder of Concept Systems; Gary Petersen, MECOP Executive Director; Jamie Diehl, former VP of HR & Recruiting at Concept Systems and instrumental in forming our partnership with MECOP.

In Oregon, the Multiple-Engineering Cooperative offers students real-life experiences in an engineering environment before graduation. At the recent 38th Annual MECOP banquet, Concept Systems accepted the 10-year Sponsor Award.

MECOP is a cooperative between Oregon universities (Oregon State University, Portland State University, Oregon Tech and The University of Portland) and industry and provides the students work internships while they are finishing up their degrees.

Unique among cooperative programs, MECOP and the Civil Engineering Cooperative Program demonstrate the power of an effective business/education partnership. Member companies voluntarily assess themselves to support the programs that create opportunities for interaction between industry, the university and its students. Universities often adjust their curriculum based on recommendations made by the industry partners, which contributes to continual improvement. Continue Reading →

Process Control

An engineering discipline that deals with architectures, mechanisms and algorithms for maintaining the output of a specific process within a desired range. Process control enables automation, by which a small staff of operating personnel can operate a complex process from a central control room.

PFD (Process Flow Diagram)

A diagram commonly used in engineering to indicate the general flow of plant processes and equipment. The PFD displays the relationship between major equipment of a plant facility and does not show minor details such as piping details and designations. Another commonly used term for a PFD is a flowsheet. Typically, process flow diagrams of a single unit process will include the following: process piping; major bypass and recirculation lines; major equipment symbols; names and identification numbers; flow directions; control loops that affect operation of the system; interconnection with other systems; system ratings and operational values as minimum; normal and maximum flow; temperature and pressure and composition of fluids.

Function Block (FB)

Code that contains input, output, through and internal variables, and an internal behavior description of the function block. Function blocks are used primarily to specify the properties of a user function. Many software languages are based on function blocks.

Absolute Encoder

Maintains position information when power is removed from a system. Once power is restored the position of the encoder is available immediately. An absolute encoder has multiple code rings with various binary weightings which provide a data word representing the absolute position of the encoder within one revolution.