Taiwan Tech Mechanical Engineering Dept.
Industry 4.0 Revolution on Campus
Taiwan Tech not only wants its students to know how to create, but that they also understand cross-domain integration, using Industry 4.0 thinking to advance traditional automation talent.
Industry 4.0 Revolution on CampusBy Jenny Cheng
From CommonWealth Magazine (vol. 617 )
Last year, the National Taiwan University of Science and Technology (Taiwan Tech) established the Industry 4.0 Center to great fanfare. Decorated with wooden flooring and warm colors, it was the first fully automated Industry 4.0 production line built to industry specs on a Taiwanese campus.
“The plant utilizes integrated hardware and software with Internet technology, this will definitely be the trend. If education doesn’t keep up, it will just get passed by,” says Chao-chang Chen, chair of the Department of Mechanical Engineering. Industry 4.0 goes well beyond automation, Chen says, comprising five main aspects including software and hardware integration, Cognitive Robotics, Internet of Things sensors, cloud computing and smart manufacturing. “The Internet of Machines offers excellent prospects for Taiwan to develop in the future, something we hope students will learn,” says Chen.
This means that, from faculty qualifications to curriculum and facilities, everything moves in sync with the prevailing trends. Last year, during the summer break, Taiwan Tech sent seven professors to the UK and Germany to study mechatronics to further Taiwan Tech’s efforts to design Industry 4.0 curriculum teaching materials and facilities operations. Inter-disciplinary innovation is the key, and teachers’ brains and curriculum alike must keep pace with the times.
Taiwan Tech offers over 50 courses in Industry 4.0, with the Department of Mechanical Engineering accounting for eight courses. “Industry 4.0 is a revolution in manufacturing culture, not a new technology. This is why we have isolated the Industry 4.0 concepts from the curriculum to design something new,” relates Industry 4.0 Center director Chung-hsien Kuo. The courses must be reviewed by a specialized Industry 4.0 working group. All curriculum combinations are consolidated into two separate programs, i.e. smart manufacturing and smart operations, with introductory courses on Industry 4.0 leading the way for students to become familiar with basic concepts before taking core specialized courses and finally taking on special projects.
Embracing the Cloud
Students engaging in special projects may seek counsel from advisors in different departments. Small groups also bridge different disciplines in order to incorporate technological thinking into various curriculums and foster cross-disciplinary capabilities. The mechanical engineering department steps outside of convention, requiring knowledge spanning electrical engineering, information management, and business management.
“This is the trend; I know I have to learn about it,” says Lu Chia-hung, a junior mechanical engineering student at Taiwan Tech who transferred from a conventional vocational college’s mechanical engineering department. Thinking back on the most traditional plant at which he had worked, he was struck at the magnitude of the transition.
The conventional mechatronics approach only covered hands-on practice and learning, whereas now, automatic control modules are uploading information directly to the cloud - using the cloud to communicate information. And the students can practice writing apps to remotely monitor the status of the machinery.
Chen relates that, although mechanical engineering students in the past also wrote programs, it was not taught systematically. Now, however, new simulation and systems integration software has been introduced.
Change always takes time, and Chen admits that, if policies or programs came to an end and funding was reduced, curriculum reform would have to come to a halt. Broad-scale adjustments would be difficult to accomplish, and only industry-academic cooperation would be feasible.
“Businesses always ask me, where are all the skilled people?” says Kuo with a laugh. As the Industry 4.0 trend ripples from industry to schools, mechanical engineering departments will transition from training conventional experts in automation to smart manufacturing professionals.
Translated from the Chinese by David Toman
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