Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Mechatronics - The Future is Now

Mechatronics is the combination of Mechanical engineering, Electronic engineering, Computer engineering, Control engineering, and Systems Design engineering in order to design, and manufacture useful products. Mechatronics is a multidisciplinary engineering system design, that is to say it rejects splitting engineering into separate disciplines.

French standard NF E 01-010 gives the following definition: “approach aiming at the synergistic integration of mechanics, electronics, control theory, and computer science within product design and manufacturing, in order to improve and/or optimize its functionality".

A mechatronics engineer unites the principles of mechanics, electronics, and computing to generate a simpler, more economical and reliable system. Mechatronics is centered on mechanics, electronics, computing, control engineering, molecular engineering (from nanochemistry and biology), and optical engineering, which, combined, make possible the generation of simpler, more economical, reliable and versatile systems. The portmanteau "mechatronics" was coined by Tetsuro Mori, the senior engineer of the Japanese company Yaskawa in 1969. An industrial robot is a prime example of a mechatronics system; it includes aspects of electronics, mechanics, and computing to do its day-to-day jobs.

Engineering cybernetics deals with the question of control engineering of mechatronic systems. It is used to control or regulate such a system (see control theory). Through collaboration, the mechatronic modules perform the production goals and inherit flexible and agile manufacturing properties in the production scheme. Modern production equipment consists of mechatronic modules that are integrated according to a control architecture. The most known architectures involve hierarchy, polyarchy, heterarchy, and hybrid. The methods for achieving a technical effect are described by control algorithms, which might or might not utilize formal methods in their design. Hybrid systems important to mechatronics include production systems, synergy drives, planetary exploration rovers, automotive subsystems such as anti-lock braking systems and spin-assist, and every-day equipment such as autofocus cameras, video, hard disks, and CD players.

Mechatronics has been commonly used in science fiction such as the popular Terminator movies.

Mechatronic students take courses from across the various fields listed below:
  • Mechanical engineering and materials science subjects
  • Electronic engineering subjects
  • Computer engineering subjects
  • Computer science subjects
  • Systems and control engineering subjects
  • Optomechanics (optical engineering) subjects
  • Robotics subjects


Physical implementations

For most mechatronic systems, the main issue is no more how to implement a control system, but how to implement actuators and what is the energy source. Within the mechatronic field, mainly two technologies are used to produce the movement: the piezo-electric actuators and motors, or the electromagnetic actuators and motors. Maybe the most famous mechatronics systems are the well known camera autofocus system or camera anti-shake systems.

Concerning the energy sources, most of the applications use batteries. But a new trend is arriving and is the energy harvesting, allowing transforming into electricity mechanical energy from shock, vibration, or thermal energy from thermal variation, and so on.

Variant of the field

An emerging variant of this field is biomechatronics, whose purpose is to integrate mechanical parts with a human being, usually in the form of removable gadgets such as an exoskeleton. Such an entity is often identified in science fiction as a cyborg. This is the "real-life" version of cyberware.

Another emerging variant is Electronical or electronics design centric ECAD/MCAD co-design. Electronical is where the integration and co-design between the design team and design tools of an electronics centric system and the design team and design tools of that systems physical/mechanical enclosure takes place.


Countries offering education in mechatronics are México[1][2][3][4],Chile[5], Japan, Malaysia[6], France[7], Germany[8], United States, UK[9], Sweden[10], Canada[11], Australia[12], Ireland[13] Singapore, and Hungary [14] among others.

See also

From Wikipedia


Pat B said...

Given the drop-out rate in conventional engineering courses, I can only imagine what it will be when this becomes the standard in education??

Steven Colyer said...

I haven't kept current on the Engineering drop-out rate, and wouldn't know where to look. Engineering was always a strange profession. The businesses that employ them usually hire for a set period of time, then lay them off. There's professorships, and consulting engineers, and of course the guys on the drafting boards they call engineers, but aren't. They're draftsmen with 2 semesters of mechanical drawing.

Well, that shows my age. Today they would be CAD programmers.

In any event, the USA corporations outsource Engineering jobs to India, and have for some time, since Indian engineers could be had for 1/5 the price of an American one. Not sure the 5:1 ratio still holds.

Which is good for the people of India. Good for them. Bad for American engineers however, at least in business.

On the other hand, there's always room at the top for the best, and as far as I know VP's of Engineering in America still have to live here, and Sales Engineers make calls to Purchasing departments so it's tough to outsource them.

But I bet they're working on it.

The bigger issue is how the computer has metricized everything, leading to the current situation. Computers and robots are great for the bottom line, but jobs are lost in the process. Jobs that in most cases won't be coming back.

It's a brave new world, eh Pat? I think you'll be retiring at the right time.

Brian Smith said...

Hy. I am doing a little research about mechanical systems. And I find one great new Open Access book ( free to download and share ) This book is intended for both mechanical and electronics engineers who wish to get some training in smart electronics devices embedded in mechanical systems. The book is partly a textbook and partly a monograph. I find it very useful, so I decide to share it with you. You can find “ Intelligent Mechatronics ” here: Cheers! :)

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