Mechatronics 101

Mechatronics 101

If you have ever wondered about the technology behind your smart phone or other device, you may not have heard the term mechatronics. As the age of technology rolls on, more and more fields are created to meet the demands of consumers and various industries. Technology causes fields of engineering to reshape and creates new fields. Mechatronics is one of these new fields. The word mechatronics was first coined in Japan in 1969. This word combines the words mechanics and electronics. Today, mechatronics is a rapidly growing and dynamic field of study within the fields of science and technology. In fact, it is now a popular field of study in many colleges and universities throughout America. It is also sometimes referred to as Asset Management.

The Birth of Mechatronics Technologies

The Yaskawa Electric Corporation, founded in 1915, was the first company to begin using the term mechatronics. Although, Japanese-English engineer, Tetsuro-Mori, an engineer at the company created the term. In 1971, this company obtained a protected trade name patent on the term. At this time, it was a term used to describe design and construction activities that used electronic components and various precision mechanisms. Thankfully, in 1982, the Yaskawa Electric Company changed their minds and removed their patent protection of the word mechatronics and now we can all use the term. Mechatronics is now a global term.

Today mechatronics is an interdisciplinary field, combining the traditional knowledge of mechanical and industrial engineering, such as pneumatics, electronics, optics, and hydraulics with computer science. The goal of mechatronics is to create new types of machinery and equipment with built-in artificial intelligence. It can improve the functionality of many technical systems. It is important to note that the study and developing field of mechatronics relies heavily on the functional integration of mechanical actuators with computer control and electronics. Mechatronics marries the disciplines of computer science, mechanics, and electronics in order to create innovative devices and technologies. The robot is an effective, yet simple, example of the technology of mechatronics.

In fact, many household appliances today came to fruition thanks to the field of mechatronics, such as the coffeemaker, computer hard drives, and washing machines. Mechatronics are responsible for many mechanisms in the modern automobile; they help manage anti-lock brakes, stability control, and even memory adjustable seats and climate control. Life as we know it, from home to car, car to work, and everything in between would be much different if it weren’t for the innovative technologies related to mechatronics.

Benefits of Mechatronics

When engineers found that the mechanical answers for solving design problems left them lacking to meet the opportunities and expectations of automation and robotics, they turned to mechatronics. Mechatronics offers many benefits that mechanical engineering or computer science cannot offer alone. Mechatronics provides the ability to use information with precision that comes in different forms, such as chemical, biological, optical, pneumatic, electrical, hydraulic, and mechanical. When this happens, a mechatronic device allows the user to focus on its higher-order function, while the device itself focuses on the lower level functions.

Mechatronics Engineers

The demand for electrical engineers who specialize in mechatronics is expected to grow rapidly over the next decade. Engineers will be needed to help design, build, and operate products and systems that have onboard intelligence. It is expected that more and more industries will want to apply mechatronics to their fields to improve their own products and services.

Electrical engineers, as well as mechanical engineers are in high demand within the mechatronics field. Electrical engineers bring a lot to the field of mechatronics, as without the electrical portion, the technology would not be what it is. Without the electronic drives and motion control platforms designed by electrical engineers, mechanical engineers would not have the tools and systems they need to improve their design accuracy and performance. Electronic engineers help create a virtual electronic line shaft that can be used to synchronize all drives and motors of a machine. This ability makes the need for a mechanical line shaft obsolete. The electrical component of mechatronics improves synchronization and accuracy; from 1/16 or 1/32 of an inch with a mechanical line shaft, down to hundredths or thousandths of an inch with an electrical line shaft. This would not be possible without the technology of electronics within mechatronics.

Many graduates in the field of mechatronics will go on to form their own companies or find research opportunities in the fields of nanotechnology, bioengineering, robotics, or by-wire technologies for motor vehicles. Engineers in the field of mechatronics have many different fields they can choose to work in, such as aerospace and defense, mining, forestry, manufacturing, product development, government, or industry research. Mechatronics engineers may work in a laboratory, a processing plant, or even an engineering office. Electrical engineers need to be prepared to work as a team in order to contribute to the multi-functional design world.

The field of mechatronics has allowed us many modern day luxuries and conveniences. It will allow us many more in the years to come, provided there are engineers willing to step up to the challenges that mechatronics presents.