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Published: Friday, 1/31/2014

Penta gets fancy new robot for its advanced manufacturing lab

BY MATT THOMPSON
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Donnie Hoffman, right, a Penta senior from Elmwood, and student Gary Warner from Rossford eyeball the new Fanuc robot.. Donnie Hoffman, right, a Penta senior from Elmwood, and student Gary Warner from Rossford eyeball the new Fanuc robot..
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Penta Career Center senior Donnie Hoffman was anxiously waiting in the school's Advanced Manufacturing Technologies lab Thursday to get his first look at the school's new 32,000-pound industrial robot.

"It's huge," he said, sporting a giant smile as he stepped outside the class to see it in a truck waiting for the fork lift.

The Fanuc robot and controller, which new costs about $100,000, was donated to Penta from First Solar Inc. in Perrysburg Township. It operated from 1999 to 2012 at First Solar picking up glass. Company Vice President of Operations Mike Koralewski said the firm had to replace the machine with faster ones and decided to donate it to Penta.

"It is a great asset," Mr. Koralewski said. "It is a real-life robot that you will see in any manufacturing environment."

Before the donation, the young Hoffman had only a table robot to work with. The senior from Elmwood said the machine had limited motions, speeds, and abilities.

"This is faster and more effective," he said. "It is like what I have seen in industry factories." 

The  new robot had four suction cups installed to its arm. But that can be switched out with welders, a spray gun, a vacuum, or some or device, said Mr. Koralewski. 

After the forklift dropped off the robot, the young Hoffman was able to circle it and ask Mr. Koralewski questions.

"When it has a setback, how much time does it take to fix it usually," he asked.

Mr. Koralewski explained how the robot works, what fixes it can need, and how important it is for his business to have people constantly monitoring and fixing the robots.

With an aging workforce, he said, giving the robot to Penta is an investment for First Solar. He said the company looks to Penta and two-year technical colleges to develop future employees who know how to work these machines.

"This robotic arm will prepare the students to program and troubleshoot problems with robotics which can lead to increased productivity for industry," said Bob Golden, instructor of Advanced Manufacturing Technologies at Penta.

Contact Matt Thompson at: mthompson@theblade.com, 419-356-8786, or on Twitter at @mthompson25.



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