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 RF anechoic chamber, an electrically screened room plus an 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 20 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) 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.