Manufacturing the Future: Robert Morris University Manufacturing the Future | Robert Morris University

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Manufacturing is increasingly computer-based and environmentally friendly. RMU’s manufacturing engineering degree provides students with the technical, entrepreneurial, and technical skills needed to work in a rapidly changing industry. That’s one reason we were selected to participate in the federally funded National Additive Manufacturing Innovation Institute, the subject of the accompanying video.

Manufacturing has long been a male dominated field, and President Dell’Omo was eager to highlight the achievements of a female RMU graduate who was making an impact in this industry. I couldn’t think of a better example than Sana Ali, who you can read about below, excerpted from our summer Foundations magazine.

Maria Kalevitch, Dean
School of Engineering, Mathematics and Science

Sana ali M'10 is an applications engineer at Seegrid, a Carnegie Mellon University spinoff. The company's robotic industrial trucks are revolutionizing how inventory moves across floors at manufacturing and distribution sites.

The typical unmanned industrial vehicle requires floor magnets, buried wires, or costly lasers to pick up and move materials in a warehouse. But Seegrid's two robotic stars – a pallet truck that lifts 8,000 pounds and a tow tractor that hauls 10,000 pounds – incorporate state-of-the-art vision technology that saves businesses time and money.

Cameras mounted on a robot take pictures of the environment. The images are recorded in the robot's memory, and converted into maps made up of 3-D grids. The robot is able to see the grid and understand where it is at all times as it moves heavy loads. If someone or something gets in its way, the robot stops or slows down until the obstacle moves.

"No other company has this technological ability to move from point A to point B using cameras," says Ali, who received her master's in engineering management from RMU. "The robot remembers, 'I am going to make that turn and follow that path.'"

Ali visits customers to see how many robots a business needs and if the facility is compatible for motorized co-workers. Saving companies money – not to mention workers' feet and knees – drive Seegrid's success in a torpid economy. Seegrid has doubled its staff to 67 employees and expanded its headquarters at RIDC Park West in Findlay Township. Customers include Giant Eagle, Genco Supply Chain Solutions, and Daimler Trucks.

In time, Ali sees Seegrid's vision-guided solutions adapted for various industries, including defense and medicine, and she recognizes concerns about what happens when mechanical workers replace real people on the job. But if robots can handle monotonous, time-consuming, and dangerous jobs, companies can allow employees to focus on other, higher value tasks. "We're not about replacing people, but at the end of the day, what is your goal?" Ali asks. "To be the most productive using minimal costs."