78874 - Principles and Methods of Automatic Machines Design

Course Unit Page

  • Teacher Andrea Zucchelli

  • Credits 6

  • SSD ING-IND/14

  • Teaching Mode Traditional lectures

  • Language Italian

Academic Year 2018/2019

Learning outcomes

The student acquires a deep knowledge on automatic machines and robotic systems with regard to the functional architecture, the internal subsystems and components and with the general design criteria and their use.

Course contents

The course allows students to deepen the knowledge on the topics about the Machine Design which were introduced in previous exams; moreover, the course contextualize the topics on Machine Design in the field of the Design and Construction of Automatic Machines and Robots. In addition, the synthesis and application of machine design principles and methods to concrete case studies resulting from industrial issues is stimulated.

The course provides the methodological knowledge regarding the Design and the Construction of Automatic Machines and Robot, and in particular the following topics are treated:

  1. Methodologies for the Systematic Design (functional analysis, objectives tree, morphological matrix, design variants and selection criteria for design variants);

  2. methods and techniques for the analysis of scientific and technical literature and an introduction to patent law;

  3. Insights about the Automatic Machines Architectures (details of the main automated machine architectures and the interface and co-ordination problems of automatic machine lines are discussed; an in-depth analysis of the buffers is provided and in particular dynamic buffers are analyzed);

  4. Kineto-Elasto-Dynamic analysis methodologies for complex mechanisms and systems;

  5. Advanced Analysis of Web Handling Systems.

The industrial design projects are selected, year by year, by the teacher in agreement with the technical managers of the companies in the area of Bologna which agreed to participate to the initiative. The themes are chosen in such a way as to fulfill the following cultural needs:

  1. To study, in detail, the functional issues related to groups of an automatic machine (e.g. assembly of products, manipulation and transport, product transformation) or relative to robots (eg manipulation, transport and assembly)

  2. to study the issues of transport and installation of automatic machines and robots

  3. to analyze the costs and ergonomics of automated machines and robots

  4. design for maintenance

to apply in a real and complex context the concepts of machine design (e.g. dimensioning of machine elements, assembling of mechanical components, choice of motors and dimensioning of the connecting members)


1. Lectures notes

2. Luigi Biagiotti · Claudio Melchiorri, Trajectory Planning for Automatic Machines and Robots, Springer-Verlag, 2008

3. Geoffrey Boothroyd, Peter Dewhurst, Winston A. Knight, Product Design for Manufacture and Assembly, CRC Press, Taylor & Francis Group, 2011

4. Geoffrey Boothroyd, Assembly Automation and Product Design, CRC Press, Taylor & Francis Group, 2005

5. Robert C. Juvinall, Kurt M. Marshek, Fundamentals of Machine Component Design, John Wiley & Sons, 2012

6. Richard G. Budynas, J. Keith Nisbett, Shigley’s

Mechanical Engineering Design, McGraw-Hill, 2011

Teaching methods

Teaching is organized into two macro activities:

  1. The first activity concerns the theoretical knowledge completion about the methodologies related to the Design and the Construction of Automatic Machines and Robots;

  1. The second activity concerns the analysis and the development of concrete projects related to automatic machines or robotic systems.

The first activity is developed with frontal lectures in the classroom and covers about 30% of the total hours.

For the second activity the class is organized into groups made by 4 to 6 students for each group. The second activity is in turn organized into two phases:

  1. In the first phase, the duration of which is about 1 month, the student groups have to study a line of automatic machines assigned by the teacher (the purpose of the first phase is to put in practice the methodologies which are introduced during the course, to introduce the first issues related to the interfaces between automatic machines and the power systems and to develop students soft-skills with particular focus on team-working);

  2. In the second phase, which lasts approximately 2 months, each group faces a different project from industry; the projects are assigned by the lecturer in the classroom; each week, each group prepares a PowerPoint presentation to report about the progress and the technical issues to be faced in front of the class (each week a student for each group exhibits, in 15-20 minutes, the presentation to other students of the Course and to the teacher, during the weekly presentation the teacher intervenes on the technical and on organizational aspects of the project by providing also theoretical insights when needed, teacher also gives directions on how to continue the project); each week, the teacher becomes available to meet, outside of the lesson time, together with his collaborators or other faculty members of the degree programs in Mechanics or Automation engineering, student groups for on-the-job inquiries and to orientate their work; every 15 days each group meets the industrial referee to discuss the progress of their project.

As a whole, the second activity covers approximately 70% of the time allocated to the course.

Assessment methods

The exam consists of a presentation and discussion of the industrial project and the delivery of a report about the project. The report is done following a guideline provided by the teacher.

In particular, each group presents the company project within a Workshop that the teacher organizes each year at about one month after the end of the lessons. The Workshop is attended by Professors of the degree programs in Mechanical Engineering and Automation Engineering, the technical referees of the companies and technicians from other companies are invited to participate to the event (the invitation channel is based on the distribution lists of ASTER and two associations of companies and industries, CNA and UNINDUSTRIA, which are both supporter of the initiative). The individual student performance is verified as each student has to expose a part of the project and must be available for questions and clarifications from the Examination Committee at the Workshop.

Each group must prepare a global presentation of the project, based on a schema provided by the teacher, and each group has to prepare a structured technical report according to a schema provided by the teacher.

Teaching tools

  • PowerPoint presentations
  • Audiovisual
  • Commercial software, such as ANSYS and Matlab, are used to analyze complex systems

Office hours

See the website of Andrea Zucchelli