Laboratory Facilities in the Department of Electronic and Computer Engineering

The department of Electronic and Computer Engineering (ECE) has an extensive range of state of the art fully equipped laboratory facilities and technical resources at it's disposal including networked computer laboratories, electronic hardware, control, test and instrumentation facilities. These facilities are fully supported and continually reviewed by a team of highly qualified Technical staff to ensure that they meet the highest international standards and under go regular refurbishment and equipment replacement.

The facilities available to ECE students are second to none and supplement lectures by extensive practical laboratories in computing, data communications, electronics and robotics which combine to form the ECE department Undergraduate BSC and BE courses plus Postgraduate courses.

The ECE department state of the art computing facilities include wireless access points throughout the department, networked computing laboratories with the latest software and Data Communications laboratory incorporating Cisco Academy. This enables ECE students to access on line teaching material and the remote submission of coursework.

The ECE department electronic hardware facilities incorporate up to date test equipment, a Projects laboratory with extensive component store and professional PCB production facilities. The electronic hardware facilities are supported by a mechanical workshop with modern production facilities to enable the construction of electromechanical projects and prototypes for both undergraduate and postgraduate research.

In addition to these general computing and electronic hardware facilities the department also boasts a number of specialist facilities including an acoustic anechoic chamber, an RF anechoic chamber plus a shielded room and ASIC Design laboratory.

All laboratories are equipped with the latest multimedia equipment to enable lectures, tutorials and practical laboratory sessions to take place in state of the art facilities which gives students a unique educational experience. These department facilities are for the use of ECE students and are in addition to University facilities.

Laboratory Room Numbers and Function

A2-004

ASIC Design Lab

B2-022

Machine Workshop

A2-011

Digital Electronics Laboratory

B2-041

Computing Tutorial Laboratory

B2-005

Data Communications

B2-042

BE UG Computing Laboratory

B2-006

Projects Laboratory

B2-043

BSc UG Computing Laboratory

B2-006c

Soldering Area

C0-046

Anechoic Chamber

B2-006d

Component Store

C2-046

Semiconductor Clean Room

B2-007

SMT Production

C2-061

ECE Student Support Centre

B2-008

Drill/PCB Production

D2-021

Graduate Computing Laboratory

B2-011

Control Test and Instrumentation

E2-005

Electrically Screened Test Laboratory

Laboratory Details

A2-004 - ASIC Design Laboratory

The Application Specific Integrated Circuit (ASIC) design laboratory is equipped with 20 Workstations and server running IC design software based on Cadence Design Systems EDA tools such as: Altera, Cadence, CoWare, Synopsys. The workstations are also interfaced to field programmable gate array (FPGA) kits running Xilinx.

The ASIC laboratory is also equipped with a multimedia projector for the presentation of course material. This facility is used to teach modules in ASICS, VLSI design, Artificial Intelligence and to facilitate hands-on education of undergraduate and postgraduate students in all aspects of IC design.

The ASIC laboratory is also integral to other ECE undergraduate and taught postgraduate courses and an experimental officer is permanently assigned to supervise practical laboratory sessions and to offer technical assistance where required.

 

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A2-011 - Analogue and Digital Electronics Laboratory.

ECE UG students undertaking either analogue or digital electronic modules use the Digital Electronics and Analogue Electronics laboratory. The laboratory can cater for 64 students working at state of the art workstations. Each workstation is equipped with standard equipment including:

Function Generator, Multimeter, Oscilloscope, Digital Designer, Fixed and Variable Power Supplies, Dell Pentium PC (2005).

The hardware experiments can also be simulated on PC's using a variety of software packages, e.g. Pspice, MathCAD, Matlab and Electronics Workbench. The laboratory is also equipped with a multimedia projector for the presentation of course material.

The laboratory has technical staff permanently assigned to supervise the practical laboratory sessions and to offer technical assistance where required.

 

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B2-005 - Data Communications Laboratory

The Data Communications laboratory can cater for up to 64 students and is equipped with specialist multiple networks connected to Dell PC's. Each PC can be connected to either an internal or external network. The internal network is based on Cisco equipment including:

Routers, Switches and Simulated telephony networks

This laboratory is used for data communications and networking modules that are based on the Cisco CCNA curriculum. Students are taught how to configure networking equipment for any perceived network layout, plus network administration, network design, fault finding using network analysis equipment, and how to implement a network design in a manufacturing environment. This laboratory is also equipped with a multimedia projector for the presentation of course material.

Another subject taught in the laboratory is the manufacturing and fault finding of patch leads, this familiarizes students with basic networking standards as well as with test equipment.

A technician is permanently assigned to supervise the practical laboratory sessions and to offer technical assistance where required.

 

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B2-006 - Projects Laboratory Suite

The Projects laboratory is interconnected to additional laboratory facilities providing specialist services including Soldering room with fume extraction, SMT and production room, sound proofed Drill and PCB production room, Specialist equipment store, electronic component store.

In addition to these facilities, the main laboratory area is equipped with 44 workstations comprised of general electronic equipment and PC's to enable students to undertake both hardware and software project work, especially final year projects (FYP's) in both the BE and BSc. programmes. The projects laboratory is also equipped with a multimedia projector for the presentation of course material.

Also available to ECE students, especially final year project (FYP) students are the RF Anechoic Chamber (C0-046), the Acoustic Anechoic Chamber (C0-051), the Clean room Suite (C2-049) and the Electrically Screened room (E2-005).

A technician is permanently assigned to supervise the practical laboratory sessions and to offer technical assistance where required.

 

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B2-006c Soldering Room

The soldering room contains state of the art soldering and de-soldering facilities with individual workstation fume extraction. The soldering irons are Weller temperature controlled units as are the de-soldering and rework stations with a maximum operating temperature of 400 degrees centigrade. The de-soldering station uses a vacuum to remove individual solder joints automatically. The rework station uses a hot air interchangeable head to remove ICs in one step.

 

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B2-006d Electronic Component Store

The ECE department has an up to date electronic component store containing a comprehensive range of Resisters, Capacitors, Transistors, TTL ICs, CMOS ICs, Inductors, Switches, Connectors, Diodes plus various cables and wire. These electronic components are utilised in both the department electronic hardware laboratories and also by project students when constructing prototype electronic experimental circuits. The stock of components is continually replenished as they become depleted and more specialist components are purchased on a day to day basis by students who can select components from a number of proprietary suppliers such as Radionics, Farnell, and Maplin.

The students also have access to technical data sheets from a number of sources including a technical reference library, technical reference CDs or on line.

 

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B2-007 SMT Production Room

To enable ECE students to construct surface mount Surface Mount (SM) prototype circuit boards the department has a dedicated Surface Mount Technology (SMT) production facility. The SMT process requires solder paste to be dispensed onto the pcb utilising a digital solder paste dispenser, this is followed by the accurate positioning of miniature components onto the solder paste with the aid of the Manual Pick and Place unit. The pcb, solder paste and component assembly is inserted into the Infrared (IR) oven which causes the solder paste to flow and solder the components to the pcb. The quality of the soldered assembly can be checked under an illuminated microscope.

 

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B2-008 Drill / PCB Production Room

B2-008 is a sound proofed room which allows the use of drills without interfering with adjoining laboratory facilities. The drills range from standard pillar drill to high speed printed circuit board (PCB) drills. The pillar drill can be used with the accompanying metric and imperial drill bits in the 1.5mm to 10mm range up to about 2000 rpm.

The specialist PCB drills are used with tungsten carbide drill bits in the 0.8mm to 1.3mm range with a maximum speed of 40,000 rpm. Both ear and eye protection is supplied.

This room also houses state of the art pcb production facilities for developing, etching and tin plating prototype pcbs. The self contained pcb production unit is coupled to a fume extraction hood.

 

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B2-011 - Control, Test and Instrumentation

This laboratory caters for all of the ECE departments laboratory based modules in control, test and instrumentation. The basic laboratory workstation equipment includes:

Function Generators, Programmable Multimeters, Oscilloscopes, Power Supplies and Dell PC's fitted with Data Acquisition Cards.

This laboratory is also equipped with multimedia projectors for the presentation of course material. In addition, the Control, Test and Instrumentation laboratory is also equipped with a selection of specialist equipment including:

Feedback Process Control Simulator, Process Trainer, AC Modular Servo Units. LabVolt Base Station /Power Supply fitted with Motors, Generators, Control Modules and Transducer Fundamentals Modules. National Instruments Integrated 2 Axis Servo and 2 Axis Stepper Motor drives plus associated software. Various PLC's including Industrial Control PLC Trainer.

Transducer Systems Laboratory, comprising Vibrating Beam bed and Flow Transducer bed. Pneumatic Training Rig. A technician is permanently assigned to supervise the practical laboratory sessions and to offer technical assistance where required.

 

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B2-022 - Mechanical workshop

The workshop is equipped with a large range of hand and power tools to allow students to undertake a large variety of prototyping project work utilising timber, metal or plastics. This work is undertaken under the supervision of a technician.

More sophisticated mechanical work can be farmed out to the technicians in the Mechanical departments.

 

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B2-041 - Computing Tutorial Laboratory

The computer based tutorial laboratory contains 22 networked Dell Optiplex PCs and with modern multimedia projection equipment installed this laboratory is used for both lectures and tutorials on both the Undergraduate and taught Postgraduate courses.

The extensive software list for the computing laboratories includes electronic and computer applications specific to the BE and BSc courses including Protel, OrCad, MatLab, Microchip, LabView, Java, MathCad, TurboC, EasyPC, Electronic Workbench and Xilinx. In addition to these specific software applications the following general applications are also available in the computing laboratories, Microsoft Outlook, Microsoft Office, Paintshop, Adobe Acrobat, Visual Studio, Photoeditor and Ghostscript.

 

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B2-042 - BE Undergraduate Computing Laboratory

The computing modules on the department Bachelor of Engineering (BE) courses are assigned to the BE UG computing laboratory with 35 networked Dell PCs loaded with the most up to date software that is specific to ECE department computing requirements on both the undergraduate and postgraduate courses. With modern multimedia projection equipment installed this laboratory also doubles up as a lecture room for BE course modules to give ECE students a unique learning experience. Technical assistance is on hand during normal working hours but 24 hour access is available to ECE students.

 

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B2-043 - BSc Under Graduate Computing Laboratory

Modules from both the Electronics and Mobile and Communications Security BSc courses are assigned to this computing laboratory and utilise 30 networked Dell PCs. The software is specific to ECE department computing requirements on both the undergraduate and postgraduate courses. With modern multimedia projection equipment installed this laboratory also doubles up as a lecture room for BSc course modules to give students a unique learning experience.

 

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C0-046 RF Anechoic Chamber

The Radio Frequency (RF) anechoic chamber is covered with pyramidal radiation absorbent material (RAM). The RF anechoic chamber is typically used to house the equipment for performing measurements of antenna radiation patterns and electromagnetic compatibility (EMC)

The RAM is designed and shaped to absorb incident RF radiation, the more effective the RAM is the less will be the level of reflected RF radiation. The RF anechoic chamber is built into a screened room, designed using the Faraday cage principle.

 

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C2-046 Semiconductor Clean Room

The department of Electronic and Computer Engineering (ECE) cleanroom is a Class 100 facility. Cleanrooms are classified according to the number and size of particles permitted per volume of air. The air entering the cleanroom from outside is filtered to exclude dust, and the air inside is constantly re-circulated through high efficiency HEPA air filters. Both humidity and temperature are controlled by the heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) system. The cleanroom is kept at a positive pressure so that if there are any leaks, air leaks out of the chamber instead of unfiltered air coming in.

Students on semiconductor modules and staff undertaking scientific research enter and leave through an airlock and wear protective clothing called a cleanroom suit. The semiconductor modules for students deal with the fabrication of simple devices such as capacitors and transistors utilising facilities such as photoresist spinner, convectional oven, wet and dry etching, Ion etching, wet and dry silicon oxidation and HP impedance analyser. Research undertaken in the cleanroom is in the area of 'thick film','thin Polymer films' and 'sensor fabrication'. Specialist cleanroom equipment required to undertake research in these areas includes Lithography facilities including a Mask Aligner, IVR Profiler, RF sputtering and BioForce NanoNabler system.      

 

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C2-061 - Student Support Centre

The student supports centre was set up as a learning resource centre for all of the students in the Department of Electronic and Computer Engineering. It provides the following services: Laboratory with networked PC's, Peer-supported learning group (PSLG) sessions, Training sessions on study skills, PC skills and Study room.

This centre is equipped with PC's and multimedia teaching facilities to allow both module lectures and laboratory sessions to take place in the same room.

The centre is supervised and is open at specified times and for more information go to www.ece.ul.ie/ssc

 

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E2-005 Electrically Screened Room

Also known as a Faraday cage, the metal enclosure blocks out external static electrical fields. An external static electrical field will cause the electrical charges within the conducting material to redistribute so as to cancel the field's effects in the cage's interior. Faraday cages also shield the interior from external electromagnetic radiation.

An everyday example of a Faraday cages are microwave ovens, the metal shell of a microwave oven also acts as a Faraday cage and traps the microwaves inside the oven. The Faraday cage can be used where equipment requires isolation from external magnetic fields in an environment devoid of electromagnetic interference. This is important in the testing of sensitive wireless receiving equipment conducted within a so-called screen room.

 

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