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Old September 18th, 2003, 11:44 AM   #1
Justin Lane
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Senior Design Project Suggestions......

Senior year has finally arrived and it is time to get cracking on coming up with a "Senior Design Project". The situation is as follows, a group of engineers (3 controls track EE, 1 controls CE) are looking to come up with a project realative to industry. If we go with faculty suggested ideas or projects, we will probably end up using one of the many esoteric control methods we have learned which are not used readily if at all in industry, interfaced through Matlab/Simulink (also not readily used in industrial settings) for control. We would like to learn something from this project that could usable in our future careers if possible, so we are trying to avoid this route.

As far as experience, I have done work on GE Series 90 and AB Control Logix PLC, ABB MOD300 DCS, as well as HMI design in Wonderware and RSView. A couple of the other guys in my group also have experience using AB ControlLogix, GE Series 90, and AB SLC500 PLC. None of us consider ourselves experts by any stretch, but between us all, we should be able to handle the logic/design for whatever the project may be.

For our project we do not have to re-create the wheel, but instead just need a working "system" of some sort. Any number of control applications/problems could be tackled, as long as we have a goal and then meet that goal with a finished "product" of some kind. The time constraints are about 9 months to create the finished project (including an extensive final report, various proposals/budget write-ups, and whatever we may fabricate).

To finally get to the point, we are looking for a contemporary controls related problem/project that we could solve/design using a PLC or another industrial micro-controller. If anyone has any relevant ideas or problems they always were looking to tackle but never had the time, it would be greatly appreciated.

Thanks alot,

Justin
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Old September 18th, 2003, 01:29 PM   #2
Allen Nelson
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Justin:

Where are you located geographically?

Where I went to college, the Engineering Department sollicited real projects from industry (often where alumni worked) for their students' Senior Projects. It was (and is) a fantastic program, giving the students that taste of the real-world (which you, very correctly, are looking for). Some other schools have copied it; they invented it.

Since your department doesn't have it, perhaps you can create it. That sounds like what you are asking to do. It won't be easy (I listen to our own sales department trying to locate companies which have projects in need of doing). But if you can find a company willing, it's a win-win situation for both sides.

You and your fellow proto-engineers finally get a problem that no one knows the answer to. And the school doesn't have to buy PLCs or even an RSLogix license.

The company gets a project done for little more that the cost of the parts. (I say "little more". The company will need to commit a "Liason" for your group, to offer technical advice, and to monitor your progress. Ideally, the liason is the guy who would do the project himself, if he wasn't so darned busy with 3 other projects.) The company can probably deduct his salary for the hours on the project as "contribution to education".

You'll want to phone up as many good-sized manufacturing firms in your area and try to talk to the engineering manager. There's almost always some project that everyone would like to get done, but there's no budget for it (or more accurately, not enough budget for it). With you supplying "free" labor, the budget may suddenly be there.

In fact, that may wind up being the first thing you do - price out the job. Just make sure that the company has a commitment to you to do at least some portion of it before proceeding. You don't have the time to provide "free quotations"

Also watch the time/effort commitment that they will expect from you. A "four-man, six-month project" is considered to be pretty good sized. But the four of you will be each working only about 10-15 hours/week (assuming a 4-credit course), making it closer to a "2-man, 2-month" project.

Good luck!
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Old September 18th, 2003, 02:05 PM   #3
Justin Lane
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Thanks for the reply Allen.

Geographically, I am located in the Philadelphia area (attending Drexel University). It is actually surprising that Drexel does not have such a program like the University you attended, seeing Co-op employment is a major portion of the education curriculum. There are faculty proposed projects involving controls, but they are usually along the lines of "Develop a model to control breathing passageways using Matlab/Simulink"....may be interesting subject material, but not really useful as far as industry goes.

We have actually solicited a couple companies, but the ideas so far have been slightly underwhelming.

One project involved developing a java app/web page to relay plant information from an AB PLC for remote display. The company would supply the necessary harware and licences to create such a beast, in return for our final product. I think this project may be too simplistic, and more of an exercise in web design, but I will have to check into it further.

I will work my contacts in the local ISA where I am a member and webmaster for the local section.

Thanks again and any more suggestions/ideas are welcomed.

J
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Old September 18th, 2003, 09:51 PM   #4
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How about a traffic light that really works intelligently.

The world is still in the waiting for one of those.
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Old September 18th, 2003, 09:55 PM   #5
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How much time?

I have a project in the works that I can offer y'all to work with. Its using a GE Fanuc type plc, not GE though, its an OCS from http://www.heapg.com The software is on that site and is free.

The system will be kind of simple...kind of not. Naturally you will have the basic start/stop procedure for the machine. The plc has a built in HMI (not sure which will be used...text or graphical) which will be used to control things. The system has 7 stations that have to be positioned for the product used, each station will have an AC drive that will turn a screw to position the station. The plc will communicate with the drives via Devicenet. There will be encoders used to provide speed and position feedback.

This will be a real world application and I can provide pictures and info on what works or doesnt work.

I asked about time because I am waiting on parts that wont be here for another week or 2. I am also in the info gathering stage, except for the fact I know what the machine looks like and what is being used...y'all know as much as I do.

Email me if interested. If time is an issue I can not make promises, this is a ongoing project that thousands of dollars have been spent for motors and gearboxes but when it will be implemented I am not sure at this time. I think within next 2 months, maybe less. I have a test bench and can setup a "system" to kind of act like the real one. The software can be tested on many parts of the system before the actual install.
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Old September 19th, 2003, 02:12 AM   #6
Justin Lane
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Thanks for the feedback rsdoran. Your project actually sounds interesting, and right up our alley except that we have to make this project last until next May

The whole "design" process is a bit convoluted. We have to make up fictional proposals selling ourselves as a design group bidding on a project, gantt charts with timelines we are supposed to meet, as well as some other non-relevnat work. They are trying to teach us the design process as would be seen in business, which I suppose is a good thing.

Thanks again,

Justin
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Old September 19th, 2003, 02:12 AM   #7
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Justin wrote:
Quote:
One project involved developing a java app/web page to relay plant information from an AB PLC for remote display. The company would supply the necessary harware and licences to create such a beast, in return for our final product. I think this project may be too simplistic, and more of an exercise in web design, but I will have to check into it further.
Here in Belgium it's customary that every senior student from the bachelor programme presents a Senior Project in his/her last year. It's also customary to get the industry involved. Only where no company is found willing to cooperate, the school defines a project.

Don't underestimate the complexity of this kind of project. Last year I had a student working out a project as mentioned, but with a Siemens PLC. Siemens has an Ethernet communication card with an integrated webserver for the S7 series, which we used for this project. The student put a lot of effort in it and in the end came up with a working project in which he could graphically present the position of a lorry and a presentation of the state the machine was in at any give time. This was possible because the program was designed using the grafcet methodology. The student has worked on this project for about 8 months, of which one month full-time when he was working in my company. He did a great job, because we learned the limits and the possibilities of this kind of system. I for one would already have been glad if he was able to present the information in a textual way, but he was eager to do it graphically.

So as a conclusion, I would say: go for the Java project. I feel it's a very interesting evolution, mainly because Java is platform independent and therefor not restricted to one manufacturer. You'll be able to use this kind of experience, no matter where you end up.

Kind regards,
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Old September 19th, 2003, 03:02 AM   #8
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Hello !
Why don't you make and automated tractor that drives around on the field according to the mapsettings/path you have given from your HMI system. The machine could get the position from the GPS system and you could see the machine moving in the screen. This project would have real world use also (OK some machines already exicts).
Then the farmer could sit on his porch and drink eg. beer when the machine does all the work.
You would be loved by all the "rednecks" if you get the system working
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Old September 19th, 2003, 10:28 AM   #9
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The key word here is DESIGN

Design something like this:

A High speed analog input / output module that communicates over Profibus DP or DeviceNet. Analog input boards can be quite challenging. Try to get 16 bits plus or minus 1 count. Use the microcontroller to add extra value such as adding alarm limits and filtering.


A USB to DeviceNet or Profibus DP converter.

A high speed counter or timer that uses Profibus DP or DeviceNet.
Again, use the microcontroller to add intelligent features such as being able to detect pulse rates, duty cycles etc.


If that is too easy then try to get the design certified UL, CSA or CE. It would also be good to get the DeviveNet or Profibus certification. This last part is the difference between hobbie designs and real industrial designs.
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Old September 19th, 2003, 10:29 AM   #10
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We have an engineer here who built a home brewery and used a PLC to control it. That was his senior project. Could be popular with the classmates and teacher. Of course, this is Wisconsin, where beer is a way of life for vast majority of the population.
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Old September 19th, 2003, 12:03 PM   #11
Peter Nachtwey
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DESIGN NOT USE!!

If Justin wants to be a real engineer, he should learn how to design things as his subject suggest. The world has plenty of users and not enough inspired designers.

I do think the designers should 'walk a mile' in the users shoes every once in a while just so they know what is important to the users.

Justin, few engineers really get to be designers or have a chance to design anything. Don't short change yourself. We had a college student work here for three summers. The last two summers we had the student do real engineering projects. One, that is now in production, used a MSP430 chip. It is a fancy voltmeter that is used by linemen for the BPA. The other is a color scanner that can identify colors and relay that data back using digitial I/O or DF1. We plan to add DeviceNet to it.
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