Manufacturer provides solutions for distance learning

16th July 2021 By: Cameron Mackay - Journalist

Educational engineering equipment manufacturer and importer Amtec Techniquip has developed new products to assist in local distance learning at a time when learners cannot physically access their engineering learning institutions.

“Two trends we’ve been adapting to are the integration of software, which enables us to use the hardware equipment that we are supplying, and virtual platforms, through which you can build and develop electrical, mechanical, hydraulic or pneumatic circuits on a software package, and add simulation to allow for fault finding,” explains Amtec sales manager Roger Forte.

He points out that these solutions have been tailored for the science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) curriculums.

As Amtec initially focused on electrical engineering as its main line of business when the company began, the majority of products the company develops and manufactures locally are related to electrical engineering.

On many of these local solutions, the company has partnered with energy management and automation solutions provider Schneider Electric to collaborate with the Schneider Electric University, which offers free electrical engineering courses online.

One of the solutions Amtec has developed this year is a programmable logic controller (PLC) software package, which enables a learner to remotely write a coded program and transfer it to the PLC. This PLC would be located in a laboratory at the relevant educational institution the learner is registered with one being Vuselela Technical and Vocational Education and Training College.

Learners can program this PLC remotely from home, and through a webcam, simulate and watch their coded program “in action”, says Forte.

Amtec has also developed a solution with variable-speed drives (VSDs) in partnership with Schneider Electric.

“Schneider Electric’s software enables us to do remote programming of VSDs from home. We’re using the software Schneider has in place, and we’ve developed learning material to allow them to distribute this to learners. As long as learners have an Internet connection, they can log onto their home computer and connect to the VSD in the laboratory on campus.”

Forte stresses that, while Amtec has developed and manufactured solutions locally, many of its STEM education solutions are imported, owing to the high cost of developing these solutions.

Amtec is supplying a range of software and hardware solutions, imported from European suppliers.

The virtual factory automation software package demonstrates Fourth Industrial Revolution processes and automated industrial environments, which enable learners to use it from the comfort and safety of their homes while building and writing code for a fully automated plant, says Forte.

He adds that knowledge gained from this software can be simulated by the learner on physical hardware provided by Amtec.

The electrical machines’ virtual software package enables learners to interchange between different machines when conducting testing.

“The learners can interchange between different types of motors on their virtual software and perform full-load and no-load tests. You have full instrumentation on the software to read off these parameters during tests. You can also data log and export the data, which can be transmitted back to the physical hardware.”

The process control virtual software allows for writing a code to control an instrumentation process, and to control parameters such as flow, pressure, temperature and level. This can also be simulated with hardware provided by Amtec in a laboratory environment.

With the advanced structural engineering software package, “a learner can build a structure on the hardware and then simulate the structure, applying a load to the structure as you would in a real-time environment,” adds Forte.

This package also provides about 16 different preset experiments, enabling learners to demonstrate applying different loads to a structure virtually.

Amtec also offers two electrical drawing offerings, the first of which is a paid-for software called Automation Studio, which allows for electrical automation, hydraulics, and pneumatic circuit simulations, and simulates real-time losses in the chosen network.

The second offering is a free electrical drawing package that enables learners to draw a circuit programme in any form of electrical engineering, whether an electronic process, machine or control circuit.

Forte states that, while some solutions, such as the two electrical drawing packages, have been available locally for the past ten years, the other solutions have been in development since March 2020 and released in early 2021. The solutions were developed for distance learning during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Forte enthuses that Amtec used its “downtime” during the local lockdown last year to improve a number of in-house processes to optimise customer experience through faster turnaround times on enquiries.

“We’re trying to implement new automated solutions in our manufacturing to speed up the manufacturing time and the delivery of our locally manufactured products.