What is Mechatronics?
The latest buzzword used within colleges and among many industry leaders is “mechatronics.” If one consults Wikipedia, the definition provided there is: “Mechatronics is a design process that includes a combination of mechanical engineering, electrical engineering, control engineering, and computer engineering. Mechatronics is a multidisciplinary field of engineering; that is to say, it rejects splitting engineering into separate disciplines. Originally, mechatronics just included the combination of mechanics and electronics, hence the word [itself] is a combination of mechanics and electronics; however, as technical systems have become more and more complex, the word has been ‘updated’ during recent years to include more technical areas.”
Given that Wikipedia is not a traditional encyclopedia, this source seems the perfect place to attempt to define this new and changing term. Mechatronics, as it is evolving, includes not only mechanics and electronics, but also such various disciplines as fluid power, control theory, and computer science.
Mr. Tetsuro Mori, a senior engineer at the Japanese company Yaskawa in 1969, came up with the original term “mechatronics.” He got the idea from combining the technologies that had been utilized in industrial robots. This included using mechanics, electronics, and computing to accomplish the robots’ day-to-day jobs.
Engineering cybernetics deals with questions of controls engineering within the mechatronic systems. This application of controls leads to collaboration, and most mechatronics modules are designed to perform the production goals, incorporate machine flexibility, and provide agile manufacturing properties within overall manufacturing systems. Thus, the application of mechatronics leads to what is known as “machine control architecture.”
Applications for implementing mechatronics in industry are many: automotive manufacturing, robotics, motion control, systems integration, intelligent control, systems modeling and design, vibration and noise control, packaging, medical technology, and servo-mechanics. These are just a few examples of where mechatronics can be used. Mechatronic systems may provide a complete production system or may only provide sub-components of that production system.
Students graduating with degrees in this area of study can select from a wide spectrum of industries for career choices. These engineers can choose either small or large companies, primary manufacturers, OEMs, or end users, and they may use their interdisciplinary backgrounds in mechanical, electrical, fluid power (hydraulics and pneumatics), computers, microcontrollers, programmable logic controllers, programming, industrial sensors, electrical drives, and engineering functions. The combination of system technologies and the interdisciplinary approach gives the students a broader vision and understanding of the entire production process.
Mechatronics is yet another avenue for students to gain the theoretical concepts coupled with hands-on applications for current and future global manufacturing arenas. These students can become qualified engineers, technicians, or mechanics—there is a widespread need for interdisciplinary understanding at all levels of industry. Now is the time to apply at your local community college or university for a rewarding future. Good Luck!
Editor’s Note: If you are an instructor at an educational institution or an industry professional involved in mechatronics, we invite you to contribute technical articles to our publication about this growing field. Please contact Kristine Coblitz at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
By Jimmy Simpson, CFPAI, AJPP, Chairman of Fluid Power Education Foundation (FPEF) and Adjunct Fluid Power Instructor at Northwest State Community College