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UOIT professor awarded prestigious Tier 2 Canada Research Chair in Robotics and Automation

Advanced systems poised to benefit the automotive and aerospace sectors

OSHAWA, ON. - The University of Ontario Institute of Technology (UOIT) has been recognized for its innovative research in the area of advanced manufacturing robotic systems with today's announcement of a $500,000 Tier 2 Canada Research Chair in Robotics and Automation. The chair has been awarded to Dr. Dan Zhang to further develop his parallel robot design, which has the great potential to reinvent manufacturing capabilities, particularly in the automotive and aerospace sectors.

Dr. Zhang, director of the Automotive, Manufacturing and Mechanical Engineering programs and a professor in the Faculty of Engineering and Applied Science at UOIT, will continue his robotic systems research and further advance the flexibility, resiliency, reliability and precision of parallel robot systems. In addition, the Canada Foundation for Innovation (CFI) has provided $87,091 in additional funding to upgrade Dr. Zhang's research equipment, including the acquisition of an additional parallel robot, laser tracker, sensors and several modular actuators.

"I am extremely honoured to be awarded this chair," said Dr. Zhang. "This is an incredible opportunity to further advance current robotic technology systems and improve their reliability and accuracy. This research has vast potential to provide sustainability in a turbulent market through cost-effective measures, and improve productivity for the manufacturing sector. I look forward to working towards innovative solutions and advancements in the technology."

The parallel robot, which is currently not widely used in manufacturing in Canada, has a greater advantage over its counterpart, the serial robot that is utilized in most manufacturing plants, because of its multi-leg design. Parallel robots usually feature two to six legs, permitting loads to be distributed evenly and allowing for quicker movements. Dr. Zhang has invented one prototype that has the ability to reach five different sides of an object, which works efficiently with contours and allows for precision surface polishing and finishing. With two different dimensions, the prototype offers a macro model used for manufacturing and a micro model that can be used for biomedical and semiconductor applications.

Currently the use of a manufacturing robot is limited with respect to performance capabilities for machine tools. Dr. Zhang's work will develop a general design methodology for optimizing the performance of parallel robotic systems, leading to improved manufacturing capabilities, and resulting in higher efficiencies and cost savings for manufacturing industries. Improved methodologies and processes for robots are essential to realizing the full potential of this technology.

"For a young institution, our success in attracting such prestigious chairs is a testament to UOIT's world-class professors and is a key reason why we have established a national reputation as a research-intensive university in such a short period of time," said Dr. Kamiel Gabriel, associate provost, Research. "Dr. Zhang's innovative research will play a significant role in advancing technology and improving quality and productivity in two strategic areas of the manufacturing sector in Ontario and Canada. It's also aligned with key research priorities at UOIT, as well as provincially and nationally."

In November 2008, UOIT was named one of the top 50 research universities in the country by Research Infosource Inc., Canada's leading provider of research intelligence for business and higher education. UOIT ranked 48th in total research income and Number 32 in research intensity. The national list ranks universities based on gross research income, as reported by the Canadian Association of University Business Officers (CAUBO), and research intensity, as determined by research funding per full-time faculty.

The Canada Research Chairs (CRC) program is designed to help attract and retain the world's most accomplished and promising minds. Chairholders advance the frontiers of knowledge in their fields through their work, and by teaching and supervising students and co-ordinating the work of other researchers. UOIT has received five chairs from the federal program.

"Our government recognizes the important role that research excellence plays in furthering innovation and competitiveness, two main elements in our science and technology strategy," noted Minister of State Gary Goodyear. "This is why we announced a $5.1-billion investment in science and technology in Budget 2009 - Canada's Economic Action Plan. The Canada Research Chairs Program helps universities attract and retain the best researchers in the world, which promotes job creation, enhances the quality of life of Canadians and strengthens the economy for future generations."

Dr. Zhang completed his Bachelor and Master of Applied Science in Mechanical Engineering degrees in 1986 and 1994, respectively, from Donghua University in Shanghai, China. He spent the early part of his career in China, specializing in robotics technology in aerospace and manufacturing industries. In 2000, he obtained his PhD in Mechanical Engineering from Laval University in Quebec City, Quebec, Canada. He was a post-doctoral fellow and then a research scientist from 2000 to 2004 at the National Research Council of Canada. He joined UOIT's Faculty of Engineering and Applied Science as a professor in 2004. Dr. Zhang has published over 86 papers in refereed journals and conference proceedings in the areas of robotics and automation.

About UOIT
As an innovative university, UOIT delivers a leading-edge learning environment that uniquely combines academic knowledge, research opportunities, hands-on skills and a vibrant student life. UOIT's more than 5,500 students are taught by professors who are experts in their fields from around the world. As Ontario's first laptop-based university, the university offers a diverse array of challenging undergraduate and graduate degree programs through its faculties of Business and Information Technology; Criminology, Justice and Policy Studies; Education; Energy Systems and Nuclear Science; Engineering and Applied Science; Health Sciences; and Science. UOIT's commitment to research excellence has resulted in millions of dollars in grants and awards, including five Canada Research Chairs. To find out more, visit or call 905.721.8668.

About Ontario Tech University
A modern, forwarding-thinking university, Ontario Tech advances the discovery and application of knowledge to accelerate economic growth, regional development and social innovation. We inspire and equip our students and our graduates to make a positive impact in a tech-focused world. For us, it’s not only about developing the next tech breakthrough. Understanding and integrating the social and ethical implications of technology differentiates us as university. Learn more at

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