Conestoga news

September 18, 2022 5:22 PM

Robotics and automation students recycle plastic into coasters

A team of final-year students in Conestoga’s Mechanical Engineering Technology - Robotics and Automation program designed and built an automated manufacturing cell with a focus on environmental sustainability.

Team Stacked_Conestoga College.jpg
Team Stacked developed an automated manufacturing cell that recycles plastic into drink coasters for their Mechanical Engineering Technology - Robotics and Automation program capstone project.

Team Stacked developed a fully-functioning assembly line to recycle high-density polyethylene (HDPE) plastic into drink coasters. The capstone project represented the culmination of skills and knowledge students learned over the length of the program.

“The industry right now is focused on sustainability,” said Stacked team member Sherry Dai. “We wanted to reflect that in our capstone project and offer a solution.”

The system melts pre-shredded HDPE plastic in a heating tunnel before pressing and cutting to size. The coasters are then passed through a quality check and packaged. The team sourced plastic from Concord Blow Molding and collaborated with Conestoga’s Packaging Engineering Technician program for a custom box design and materials. The team won Best in Program for their system.

“We experienced a steep learning curve throughout the build phase. We were constantly getting hit with things we weren’t expecting and had to address quickly,” said Stacked team member Melissa Broda. “It was a challenge, but we got to see everything that goes into developing and building an automated system and it provided a well-rounded view of what to expect when we get into industry.”

Working in large teams over two terms for their final project, students in the program are required to create and present assembly lines that demonstrate key deliverables, including project management, work cell design, programming, quality assurance, safety and final product design.

Students this year were grouped into three teams after pitching ideas and deciding as a class which ones to move forward. In addition to Stacked, team Work from Home designed a process to manufacture, assemble, and package wooden ping pong paddles, also working with the Packaging Engineering Technician program for custom packaging; 6 Axis assembled fasteners to steel brackets used for automobile assembly in collaboration with an industry partner.

“The program and the capstone provide us with really valuable tools we get to walk away with and take to industry,” said Stacked team leader Andrew Knowles. “We were exposed to all aspects of building an automated system, including working in a large team, and going from the design phase to the build phase and working through the challenges provided great experience.”

Conestoga’s Mechanical Engineering Technology - Robotics and Automation advanced diploma program combines theoretical knowledge with applied skills in the control of robotic and automated equipment using electronics, programmable automation controllers, computers, hydraulics and pneumatics. Emphasis is placed on effective techniques for designing, modifying, installing, testing, maintaining, repairing, and troubleshooting equipment and systems.