Nearly $700,000 worth of robotic tools donated to Fairfield University's School of Engineering by Boehringer Ingelheim to be used as teaching tools



Image: School of Engineering facultyFairfield University's School of Engineering has received a gift of nearly $700,000 worth of robotic tools enabling students to gain valuable, hands-on automation skills. The skill set students will acquire will be valuable for working in numerous industries, including aerospace, biomedical development and manufacturing.

The equipment was donated by Ridgefield, Connecticut-based Boehringer Ingelheim Pharmaceuticals, Inc., part of the Boehringer Ingelheim group of companies, the world's largest privately held pharmaceutical company. For 125 years this family-owned business has been committed to the research and development of innovative medicines that help improve the lives of patients and their families.

Jack Beal, Ph.D., dean of the School of Engineering, said the tools will provide  learning opportunities and lab experiences for undergraduates and graduate students in the Automation Engineering program. "Students will learn operational techniques to utilize these robotic tools for a wide variety of laboratory processes such as those found in pharmaceutical development industries... You would be surprised to learn how many processes in industry are still done by hand, so robotics are the key to the future growth and increased productivity of many industries. We are grateful to Boehringer Ingelheim for this generous gift. "

Robotics join together different engineering disciplines and skills. The equipment at Fairfield will provide laboratory experiences so as to complement theoretical courses in the overall curriculum. Although the robotic handling systems are designed for use in manipulating pharmaceutical materials, for Fairfield engineering students the ultimate purpose of using them is to master the mechanics behind how they work. The tools, essentially an integrated set of systems, have a lot of moving parts, so students will learn how to manipulate them and troubleshoot any glitches in their operation. From there, students can then apply that knowledge to mastering robotic tools and other engineering challenges.

"All of this is computer controlled," Beal said. "The trick here is to get it to all work together as an integrated system."

The Automation Engineering curriculum is constructed to include abundant experiential learning. This is accomplished through the integration of laboratory experiences within the framework of the theoretical courses in the basic curriculum, and by making use of well-equipped laboratories and computing facilities. Following courses in fundamental engineering knowledge, students learn how to apply sound scientific principles to solve practical problems in industry in the area of manufacturing engineering. The program emphasizes the application of computer systems to modern manufacturing processes by means of robotics, computer aided design (CAD), programmable logic control systems (PLC), and computer aided manufacturing (CAM).

The School's labs have state-of-the-art computer hardware, integrated into the School of Engineering network - separate from the University network. They include the microelectronics lab, the Rapid Prototyping lab, the Automated Manufacturing lab, and the materials testing lab. Such helpful teaching tools include an Objet Geometries' Eden 250 3-dimensional printing system to develop prototypes of students' engineering plans.

According to Dr. Paul Botosani, chair of Automation Engineering Department, the tools will help students learn about industrial robotics, automated work cells and CIM Systems, end-of-arm tooling, automation sensors, work-cell support systems, robot and system integration, safety, and work-cell programming, among others skills.

The new tools at Fairfield include:

Image: BI equipmentRobotic Plate Handlers that pick up laboratory micro plates and move them onto other micro plate based instruments including liquid handlers, pipettors, washers, incubators, bar code readers and similar instruments.

A Robotic Benchtop 12-Channel Dispensor provides automatic dispensing (pipetting) of up to 12 liquid samples at a time in a small tabletop configuration that can be used in conjunction with a wide variety of standard micro plates. Liquids can be dispensed in micro-liter volumes.

BioRad VersArray Chip Writer Pro can robotically handle glass, matrix, ceramic, and metal slides up to 1" x 3" sizes including various vendor supplied micro plates. The system can "write" the micro plates or "chip" by depositing a specified amount of a material on the plate.

Image: Nearly $700,000 worth of robotic tools from Boehringer Ingelheim Pharmaceuticals will enable Fairfield students to gain valuable, hands-on skills valuable for working in numerous industries, including aerospace, biomedical development and manufacturing. Pictured are (L-R) are instructor Christian Craciun, of the School of Engineering; Anthony Kronkaitis, a scientist with Boehringer Ingelheim, who is the father of a Fairfield freshman, Patrick Kronkaitis; Dr. Jack Beal, and Dr. Paul Botosani.

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Media Contact: Meg McCaffrey, (203) 254-4000, ext. 2726, mmccaffrey@fairfield.edu

Posted on December 6, 2010

Vol. 43, No. 142