The Industrial and Manufacturing Engineering program at Cal Poly Pomona supports 600 total students in two undergraduate and two master’s degrees. They train and educate students to become first day professional engineers. In addition to having a mandatory senior project conducted in industry most courses have corresponding labs and projects. Their undergraduate programs contain math and science courses for preparations, courses in engineering design and manufacturing processes to familiarize students with many common production processes, CAD-CAM, data gathering and statistical analysis, to be ready to perform quality control and reliability analysis and finally perform engineering design for incorporating and designing processes, including robotics and automation.
At Cal Poly Pomona, becoming a manufacturing engineer is more than just learning theories. It is about applying those models and equations into experimentations and projects. “We train students to be complete engineers,” tells Cal Poly Pomona’s Dr. Kamran Abedini, Professor and Department Chair. “Manufacturing engineers need to know what to expect from manufacturing machinery, why the machine does what it does, and how to design processes so that you get the most reliable operation and the highest quality part. The whole idea of being a manufacturing engineer is to use clever ideas of applying science. Simply put, if they know what the machines actually do, they can do better things with it. We had a tour with an industry representative from a bottling company. He saw our plastics extruding machine and said “I will hire any of your students who have touched this machine.” Well every one of the students had in fact done more than just touch the machine. Our faculty and our labs elevate us over similar programs at other universities said Dr. Abedini. For us the idea is not to just present a machine to students, but to have them work with it to gain an understanding of what the machine operators goes through. They can speak the language to better communicate, and by speaking the language they can also better create.”
Every student and every member of the faculty touted the hands-on experience in the labs as their favorite part of being part of the industrial manufacturing engineering program at Cal Poly Pomona. It is no wonder when labs include: manufacturing lab, manufacturing processes lab, automation lab, simulation lab, projects lab, welding and even their own foundry. The entire first floor of the new engineering building, building 17 is mostly made up of labs. Some large, and some small, but all have specific student goals in mind. The manufacturing lab alone is better equipped than most job shops in the area. Many universities are lucky to have a single CNC machine for demonstrative purposes only, and not for students to use, that is far from the case at Cal Poly Pomona. Along with manual machines, the recently renovated manufacturing lab has 10 new HAAS Mini Mills, four HAAS CNC lathes (TL-1) , and one each older models of HAAS TM-1P and TL-1 lathe of in addition to 16 Haas training stations. “All the CNC machine tools are being updated with cameras and viewing screens,” explains assistant professor, and alumnus of the manufacturing engineering program Dr. Dika Handayani. “With cameras mounted inside the machines it will allow better viewing by all the students as we demonstrate operations of the machine tool. Lurking over student’s shoulders is intimidating and they always assume they are doing something wrong, even when they are not. Once all the camera/viewing systems are installed we can easily monitor the entire class as we walk around without being as intrusive.”
A short trip down the hall you find the automation lab. It too is in a near constant state of being upgraded with technology. Inside are a dozen Siemens PLC trainers, robots, and a small-scale automation factory. The MFE 4501 course titled “Introduction to Integrated Manufacturing and Automation” course description is – Mechanization/automation/mechatronics. Problems and methods of mechanization. Material handling systems. Robotics. Elements of automation – sensors, analyzers, actuators, and drives. Control strategies – industrial control, discrete time/event driven systems, feed-back systems, and optimal control strategies. Robotic systems. NC machines. Automated inspection and identification techniques. Computer process control. Transfer lines. The newly acquired robots are the FESTO Robotino autonomous robot and Epson robot arms (T3-401S).
“Here in the automation lab we introduce students to Industry 4.0 through robotics and other programmable devices,” explains assistant professor Dr. Nicole Wagner. “From the Siemens touch screen simulators students control robot movements, motors, and sensors. As you see we have a small-scale automation conveyor system in place. Students program the systems to have robots lift and move parts, gates open and close and motors are timed and triggered with sensors.” The lab just acquired three Epson T compact SCARA robots and an unmanned robotic vehicle that are being integrated in to the curriculum. “We are replacing the older robotic systems with brand new systems that will be used for many years to come,” continues Dr. Wagner. “Our Epson SCARA robots have a full range of motion and a vision camera system that can see the part and take a photo. Besides verification of placement the image can be used for a variety of other aspects like part measurement.”
Cal Poly Pomona is one of only 20 Foundry Education Foundation (FEF) certified schools in the US that have their own foundry. It is a standout feature for those enrolled in Cal Poly Pomona’s Industrial and Manufacturing Engineering program. There are specific foundry-based courses where students take a mold of the shape they want to make, melt the metal, pour the metal, and then later on machine that metal in the manufacturing lab on the CNC machine tools. “It all starts here with green sand,” details Professor Victor Okhuysen. “It is called green because it has moisture in it like a green tree branch. It is mixed with clay and water which work as a binder. Most of our casts are made from aluminum like the truck projects you’ve already seen, but we also have steel capabilities when needed. The idea is that students get to see the progression of manufacturing from sand to finished part. We also teach them a little about fixtures and that they are not all just chucks and vises. We have pattern making capabilities for the advanced class where students must meet certain tolerances that have been engineered into the molds. The casting process is always discounted as being easy, but as you can see by the some of the truck bodies in the lab it is a lot harder do correctly than it looks.”
Time in the foundry is very valuable and because of student safety it is not an open lab. Student clubs can reserve time with instructors, but other than that you must be enrolled in a lab to utilize all it has to offer. “We encourage all our students to get involved with on campus clubs,” adds Dr. Handayani. “It is a way to enhance their education with added experience. The Manufacturing Student Club competes in casting competitions throughout the country with the skills they’ve acquired in our manufacturing engineering program. We take them to industry sponsored events hosted by the American Foundry Society and the California Metals Coalition. They love being a part of the IME program and representing it.”
Having a program this extensive is costly to maintain. As department chair Dr. Kamran Abedini knows all too well how important university support is at keeping programs funded. “Operations are very expensive,” describes Dr. Abedini. “Safety is a top priority so we have vast areas of real estate that are only occupied by a handful of students at a time. I can fit three times more students in a classroom than I can in a lab, but the lab is a critical part of the student’s education. The university knows how costly this program is, but they support us 100% because of our results, because of the quality of education that our students receive.”
An exit survey is given at commencement to all graduating students at the end of the academic year. It has two main questions on it. Do you have a job offer, and if so how much is your expected salary. In terms of employability and salary, the Industrial Manufacturing Engineering program is consistently rated one of the highest. “People talk about manufacturing leaving the country,” concludes Dr. Abedini. “That might be true in some areas, but manufacturing engineering is staying here. When our students graduate, they are true engineers who have fully realized system of manufacturing and production. They are job ready on day one. So much so that past alumni come to cherry pick students before graduation because they don’t want to work with graduates from other university programs. They know the value of their education, and that when we say you are an engineer, we mean it.”