Back to school for LCR 4.0 partner

Earlier this year, engineering, IT and gaming students at the City of Liverpool College embarked on a special project to help put them at the forefront of Industry 4.0 (4IR) technologies.

The project, which is backed by Siemens and LCR 4.0 partner, the Liverpool City Region Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP), is allowing a select group of students, aged 16-19, to explore technologies that are revolutionising the manufacturing industry.

Now that the students are more than half way through the project, Simon Reid from the Liverpool City Region LEP and Alan Norbury from Siemens visited the college to see the progress so far.

The main focus of the project is a robot arm and conveyor system, built by the engineering students, which has been programmed to carry out some basic commands to enable the arm to take products from a rack and lift them on to the conveyor. Sensors have also been added in to the process which monitors temperatures and humidity with the information sent to a cloud based platform that the IT students have built. These students then work on interpreting the data to create diagnostics to help improve efficiency and reduce downtime.

Meanwhile the gaming students have taken the CAD file from the robot and conveyor which allowed them to create a digital version and build a 3D environment for it. Through the creation of an immersive virtual reality (VR) environment, Simon was then able to wear a VR headset and manipulate the robot.

During the visit, Alan also set the students additional challenges using Siemens software to try and control a physical robot from the virtual and vice versa.

Commenting on his experience at the college Simon, said: “Alan and I were extremely impressed with the students and the enthusiasm from the college which sees this as year one of an ongoing 4IR journey.

“The creativity of the gaming students is incredible as they approach engineering with an entirely different mindset. The blend of this creative thought, with the problem-solving methodology of the engineering students, and the analytics of the IT students offers a major boost for any companies involved in 4IR.

“If we can encourage more colleges across the UK to start running similar projects, we can start to plug the skills gap by giving youngsters the experience they need to join a 4IR workforce.”