In the words of one of my favorite bands, “What a Long, Strange, Trip it’s been.” Having been elected to serve as the 2014 president of the International Fluid Power Society (IFPS), I can pause and reflect on just how I arrived at this point. Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine this day when I first heard of the organization so many years ago. This is truly an honor, and I am humbled.
There have been a lot of very smart people in this industry with whom I have had the pleasure of becoming acquainted with over the course of my career, and many of them have served a number of roles to help get me where I am today. Some of those roles were as mentors, teachers, peers, co-workers, and students. Yes, I have learned a great deal from my teaching experiences over the years, and I have had the privilege of knowing some of the legendary teachers in the industry, such as George Altland of Vickers. In fact, that is really what I want to focus my comments on—education in our industry.
I’m sure I am preaching to the choir when I say that education is extremely important in any professional field, but in some aspects, it is uniquely so in the fluid power industry because there is not a widely accepted and consistent set of standards that exist for educating students in the technologies of fluid power. Unlike ABET, which is the accreditation body for engineering and technology degree programs, there are no specific standards that are universally adopted and accepted to ensure that those working within the industry at various levels have consistent core knowledge and skill levels. The closest the fluid power industry has are the various certifications offered through the IFPS.
What is lacking is a consistent and agreed-upon set of teaching standards to ensure that everyone attains at least the same foundational levels of knowledge. A lot of different sources offer hydraulic training with a wide and varied level of instruction. There are programs that propose to teach basic hydraulics in as little as a day to well-structured associate degree programs lasting for two years. A disturbing trend over the past few years is that many of the individuals who say they are seeking knowledge aren’t as concerned about the quality of the instruction and the depth as they are about the length of time they have to lose from “work” and corresponding cost to obtain a “certificate.” As a result, those individuals who take the shortcuts don’t possess enough knowledge to perform optimally.
Because of this, I am a firm believer in IFPS certifications. They offer the best tool currently available to evaluate and substantiate an existing knowledge and skill set. It is a shame that companies within the industry don’t as a whole actively embrace and seek certification for their employees. Certification provides a mechanism of validating that those responsible for the operation, maintenance, and selection of fluid power components and systems have met at least some minimum established standard of knowledge. I encourage all professionals in the industry to take a positive step forward and attain certification at whatever level is appropriate for their job functions. This would go a long way to help improve safety, reduce energy waste, enhance productivity, and promote the professionalism of those within our industry.
By Tom Blansett, CFPAI, CFPS, CFPIHT, CFPCC, Manager of Hydraulics Training Services at Eaton Corp. and 2014 IFPS President
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
This November, the three leading fluid power organizations—The International Fluid Power Society (IFPS), the FPDA Motion and Control Network (FPDA), and the National Fluid Power Association (NFPA)—will once again embark on a mission of education and training to ensure fluid power is a more competitive and logical technology choice now and for the future. Based on industry feedback from the last two conferences, the curriculum development team (led by Jon Jensen, CFPAI, SMC Corp. of America; Pat Maluso, CPFAI, Western Hydrostatics; Rance Herren, CFPAI, National Oilwell Varco; and Mark Perry, CFPHS, Fitzsimmons Hydraulics) secured top-notch speakers for this year’s topics.
The Fluid Power Systems Conference (formerly known as the Energy Efficient Hydraulic and Pneumatic Conference) is being held from November 19-21, 2013 at the Doubletree Hotel in Rosemont, Ill. This successful conference will provide a dynamic, interactive environment where industry engineers and technicians can learn design concepts critical to developing efficient fluid power systems along with the diagnostic and maintenance techniques essential to keeping those systems operating at peak efficiency.
With fluid power used in dozens of industries and hundreds of applications to precisely control movement of machinery and material, the conference will provide an optimum setting to fortify the professional’s skill set. Included in this powerhouse symposium will be hands-on instruction, facilitated roundtables, and networking events designed to augment the participants’ knowledge base of the newest, cutting-edge developments in energy-efficient and reliable hydraulics and pneumatics.
Highlighting the conference’s agenda will be the keynote lecture by Gary W. Rogers, president and CEO of FEV, Inc. Mr. Rogers currently sits on the National Academy of Sciences’ (NAS) Board on Energy and Environmental Systems and on the Medium and Heavy-Duty Truck CO2 and Fuel Economy Phase 2 committee for the NAS. His address, “Reducing Energy and Expenses Utilizing Hydraulic Hybrid Waste Trucks, Transit Buses, and Delivery Vehicles,” will focus on the state of development of hydraulic hybrid systems with respect to commercial vehicles, including factors such as efficiency, commonality of infrastructure, and the total cost of ownership. The technology will be paralleled to hybrid electric and CNG-fueled alternatives.
The Fluid Power Systems Conference is your vehicle to enhancing your educational prowess, both for yourself and your organization. The key to maximizing gains from this three-day program is taking advantage of each instructional opportunity available. In today’s competitive marketplace, success depends on persuading potential customers that your company is the business of choice. How effectively and cost-efficiently you provide the positive-end results clients want depends on a vast array of expertise, good references, and rock-solid reputation.
Make the most of your experience at the conference, and if you have not already done so, consider certification in your respective discipline. This will reflect your dedication to the highest standards in the fluid power industry while acting as a conduit of satisfaction to customers, ensuring improved safety, reliability, and greater efficiency.
A host of educational opportunities are at your fingertips within the conference; don’t pass up this chance. For complete details and to register for the conference, go to www.ifps.org.
Donna Pollander, ACA, IFPS Executive Director