April 2017 Digital Issue: Effects of PID and machine parameters on positioning system performance + more

In this issue:

46 Fighting Cancer with precision motion control
54 Effects of PID and machine parameters on positioning system performance
82 Making WirelessHART truly wireless
94 6 bearing killers and how to stop them



Making technical education more local

Talk to many component manufacturers and you’ll hear the phrase “local for local,” meaning that they’re strategically placing facilities near their customers. So, instead of one manufacturing plant in China, they may have one in China, one in the U.S., one in Brazil and one in the Czech Republic. Now, the University of Florida is developing a plan in the sunshine state that might be education’s version of local for local.

Allen Carlson, the retired CEO of Sun Hydraulics, is now working with the University at their Innovation Station-Sarasota County, to assist with this project. Allen told me that he and his staff connect the local needs and opportunities of engineering and tech companies with the assets of the university. Carlson interviews local companies to determine what their needs are—typically around capability and capacity. The other side of the project is that they’re connecting the infrastructure of the local colleges to teach engineering classes for University of Florida College of Engineering.

So a high school senior could apply directly to the University of Florida—and be accepted but opt to take classes at a local institution such as State College of Florida or Santa Fe Community College. Core classes, like calculus, would be taken locally. It may take a student one or two years to complete those core classes. At the end of the classes, they automatically transfer to the University of Florida’s main campus in Gainesville (about a three hour drive from Sarasota).

“At the end, you complete their engineering program at the University of Florida Gainesville, and end up with a University of Florida engineering degree with no asterisk. You’re a full University of Florida engineering graduate,” Carlson said.

So is this an approach for all land grant institutions across the U.S.? Carlson said that he thinks each community, each state, has a different need or requirement.

Paul Heney“Programs in each state are going to be a little bit different because they’re going to be tailored to the local community, the businesses in the community, and the assets of the university,” he said. “It’s not a cookie cutter approach—it’s what’s needed.”

Other institutions, such as the University of Texas in Austin are doing a lot of work in this area, and I expect that we’ll see this educational model grow in the coming years, to combat the soaring costs of higher education. Local for local can make a lot of sense, whether in making goods or making future engineers.


  1. The article shows Bode plots. Where do the Bode plots come from? I am a controls guy and I have NEVER seen a machine come with documentation on what the transfer function is for that machine. Bode plots and transfer functions are like unicorns in the real world. Where do the machine parameters come from?
    If the mechanical ‘designers’ don’t have a transfer function for their machine then how do they know it is controllable?

    BTW, if the open loop transfer function is known it is easy to CALCULATE the controller gains to provide the desired response.
    It is possible to generate formulas for the controller gains in terms of the spring constant, damping, and mass, force and closed loop poles. Now this is handy because NOW the designers can see how the machine parameters affect the controller gains as well as the overall performance.
    Bode plots aren’t needed but Bode plots are good for sanity checking results. Closed loop pole/zero plots are good too.

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