University of Toronto:

Engineering Better Research.

University of Toronto Case Study Challenge: GETTING MORE BANG FOR RESEARCH BUCKS
His problem was three-fold. To conduct innovative control-based engineering research, Manfredi Maggiore’s department needed financial, intellectual and practical support.

Associate Professor with the Systems Controls Group in the University of Toronto's Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, Maggiore “wanted to create a high-precision device that is capable of positioning an object placed on a moving platform in three degrees of freedom with high accuracy.” Dr. Maggiore considered building and designing these experiments himself but too many engineering hours would be required.

There would be many benefits from research conducted with this technology. Industrial applications include disk drive head assembly systems, probing and inspection equipment, photolithographic positioning stages (microsteppers) in semiconductor manufacturing, and more. Dr. Maggiore knew that, “magnetic levitation is an excellent technology because there is no contact, so there is no wear of components. It's also good for very high accuracy because if there's something that is magnetically levitated - and if motion is not transmitted mechanically - then you can reject vibrations coming from the environment."

Dr. Maggiore and three colleagues applied for a grant from the Canada Foundation for Innovation (CFI). This government program helps Canadian universities conduct world-class research and technology development. Experts at assisting professors secure grants for research, Quanser was one of the industrial sponsors of the university’s application.

“We got the grant,” said Dr. Maggiore, “and with these funds we basically built a graduate research lab from scratch.” The equipment included computers and several Quanser control experiments: a Linear Position Servo using an Inverted Pendulum, Coupled Tanks and a 3 DOF Helicopter. Better still, Quanser contributed engineering time to build two custom experiments for Dr. Maggiore and his colleagues: the 5 DOF magnetic levitation device, and ten robots on wheels.

Quanser’s multi-level solution – from ensuring the grant money to supplying the equipment and engineering hours – enabled efficient controls research at the university. Dr. Maggiore told Quanser CEO Paul Gilbert: "You are the only people with enough expertise to be willing and able to do this kind of project… This was a partnership – a true research collaboration."

Quanser also provides ongoing support, saving the University of Toronto’s Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering valuable time and resources. Dr. Maggiore was concerned about the robustness and durability of the equipment. Beyond research, the university was still a teaching facility and some students are careless with lab equipment. So he’s glad they chose a partnership with Quanser instead of building the experiments in-house. "If something breaks down, and it's made by Quanser, we can get it fixed fast," Dr. Maggiore says. "But if it's custom made by us, and the builder's not around, then you have to find someone else with the same skill-set to repair it."

He quickly adds he's never had a serious problem with Quanser products. In fact the relationship goes far deeper than that of manufacturer/client. Dr. Maggiore trusts Quanser as a partner for all aspects of control-based research. "We work together, we publish papers together … there is always a continuous interchange of good ideas."

Collaboration: always a Quanser Solution!


Dr. Manfredi Maggiore is an Associate Professor at the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering , University of Toronto. He works in the area of nonlinear control, focusing on the basic open problems in this field. His research approach is mathematical in nature and relies on methods from dynamical systems theory and differential geometry. Recently, Dr. Maggiore is focusing on the set stabilization problem, and the investigation of its relation to path following.

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