What is Mechatronics ?
Mechatronics is a blend of mechanical engineering, electrical engineering, computer control and information technology. Mechatronics is a design process to create more functional and adaptable products. The word was first coined in Japan in the 1960s to refer to the synergistic blend of mechanics and electronics. But over the years mechatronics has come to mean a methodology for designing products that exhibit fast, precise performance. These characteristics can be achieved by considering not only the mechanical design, but also the use of servo controls, sensors, and electronics.
Mechatronics was first used in terms of the computer control of electric motors by an engineer at Japan’s Yaskawa Electric Co. Many engineers contend that mechatronics grew out of robotics. Early robotic arms, then unable to coordinate their movements without sensory feedback, benefited greatly from advances in kinematics, dynamics, controls, sensor technology, and high-level programming. During the 1970s, mechatronics was concerned with servo technology used in products such as automatic door openers, vending machines, and autofocus cameras. In the 1980s, as information technology was introduced, engineers began to embed microprocessors in mechanical systems to improve their performance. The 1990s saw the full arrival of the mechatronic age because of the increased use of computational intelligence in mechatronic products and systems.
Why Study Mechatronics?
Mechatronics has been popular in Japan and Europe for many years but has been slow to gain industrial and academic acceptance as a field and practice in Great Britain and the United States. In the past, machine and product design has been the domain of mechanical engineers. After the machine was designed by mechanical engineers, solutions to control and programming problems were added by software and computer engineers. This sequential-engineering approach usually resulted in less-than-optimal designs and is now recognized as less than optimal itself.
The prime role of mechatronics is one of initiation and integration throughout the entire design process, with the mechatronics engineer as the leader. Experts in the interdisciplinary mechatronics field must acquire general knowledge of various techniques and be able to master the entire design process. They must be able to use the special knowledge resources of other people and the particular blend of technologies that will provide the most economic, innovative, elegant and appropriate solution to the problem at hand. Industry needs mechatronics engineers to continue to rapidly develop innovative products with performance, quality and low cost.
Where do Mechatronic Engineers work?
Mechatronic devices or "smart" devices have become common in our technologically advanced society. Mechatronics engineers can work in any company that develops, designs or manufactures and markets "smart" devices. Opportunities exist in manufacturing, sales as well as research. Mechatronic devices have crept into everyday life.
- Anti-lock brakes
- A sophisticated control system takes over the braking function when the sensors recognize one or more wheels are locking up.
- Computer disk drives
- Humidity sensitive clothes dryers and windshield wipers
- How do these devices "know" if clothes are still damp or drizzle is hitting the windshield? Sensors, that's how.
Mechatronic devices can be found in medicine and surgery, agriculture, buildings, homes, automobiles, the toy and entertainment industry, intelligent aids for the elderly and disabled. For more information