WHAT IS MECHATRONICS?

Source: The Johannes-Kepler University in Linz, Austria

Theses on the Subject "Mechatronic"

The historical development of technical science has led to a specialization of teaching and research. Characteristic of this is the current course plans for the study of mechanical and electrical/electronic engineering. The extreme specialization in the education of mechanical, electrical and electronic engineers is reflected in the work methodologies of many project and construction departments: the planning and design occurs within strictly defined areas of specialization, not over the system as a whole, which consists of a collection of mechanical, hydraulic, electrical and electronic subsystems, bound together and controlled by some computational process. Innovations that extend the current technical possibilities are only achievable when:
- New inventions and developments are designed as comprehensive mechatronic systems which are then optimized, as a whole, using the most modern methods applicable;
- Specialized mechatronic components and subsystems are extensively used, and microelectronic components and subsystems (sensors, processors and actuators) are deployed throughout the system.
The Johannes-Kepler University in Linz has thus set up the course in Mechatronic, starting in 1990, so as to prepare industry to meet the requirements for placing new products and developments upon the world stage. The target of this new, very discriminating and demanding course, is to educate engineers who:
- can be professionally active at the junction of mechanical, electronic, electric and software engineering;
- can take on research and development projects in this interdisciplinary field;
- from the breadth of their education are always in the position to enter new fields of work.

What is to be understood by the term Mechatronic?

Mechatronic is the totality of fundamentals, procedures and techniques for the service, production and development of future-oriented machines, devices and installations. Mechatronic is thus an interdisciplinary technical discipline, built upon the basis of classical mechanical, electrical and electronic engineering, binding these sciences not only with one another, but also with computer science and software engineering. As a central focus is the integral development of systems from technical components ("Mecha''), which are to be intelligently controlled ("tronic''). A system composed of mechanical and electrical parts, overlaid with sensors, which record information, microprocessors, which interpret, process and analyse the information, and assemblies which then react upon this information, thus becomes a complete mechatronic system. The terminology "Mechatronic'' has existed since about 1980 in Japan, apparently the imprint of an employee of the Yasukawa Company. The actual collection of subjects and ideas that make up mechatronics, however, is not new: in the aerospace industries, for example, they have existed and been successful for quite some time. The development of economical computational power and intelligent power electronics is the main reason that this interdisciplinary point of view has been used for the development of new products outside the scope of aerospace. A range of examples might include automatic video cameras, the CD player, the modern photocopier, the user-friendly Fuzzy-logic washing machine, the car engine with emission sensors and computer controlled injection. Upon further investigation of these examples, one finds that the mutual penetration of these sciences in industrial applications does not simply bring about improvements in products, but actually leads to completely new solutions. It would be however false to believe that mechatronics is only for high tech products. Mechatronic solutions to problems are to be found throughout the spectrum of engineering fields.

Source: Institute for Mechatronics, University of Chemnitz, Germany.

What is Mechatronics

Interdisciplinary High Tech Research Field, that links the following Fields:

  • Mechanics
  • Electrics
  • Electronics
  • Hydraulics, Pneumatics
  • Control
  • Numeric Analysis, Software Engineering

Source: University of Sydney, Australia

What is Mechatronics, Anyway?

Mechatronics has been defined as the synergistic integration of mechanical devices, electronics and software. Mechatronics is viewed as encompassing topics ranging from embedded microprocessor control of "intelligent" products, to robotics and manufacturing automation. It is associated particularly with the enhancement of products, machinery and processes with electronics and computers. Mechatronics has allowed entirely new classes of machinery (such as photocopiers, car antiskid braking systems, etc.) to be created.

The addition of some inexpensive electronics and a simple computer can radically change the functionality of a machine. As an example, consider a mechatronic clothes dryer. What is the function of a clothers dryer? To dry clothes, of course. Then, instead of running the dryer for a set time, let the machine measure the moisture content of the exhaust air, and turn itself off as soon as the clothers are dry. The mechatronic dryer saves energy, and wear & tear on your clothes. As a further refinement, the dryer can turn the clothes over every few minutes so that they don't become creased before they can be removed.

Our undergraduate degree concentrates on educating young engineers to use existing and emerging technologies to solve practical problems.

In research, we are interested in areas that combine mechanics, electronics, control and software, and involve new theory, experimental work and/or hardware development. Of particular interest to us are the fields of autonomous robot vehicles, sensing and control, and the application of microprocessors in "intelligent" machinery (a large field!!).

Introduction

Mechatronics combines mechanical engineering, electronics and computing. It is the enabling technology of computer-automated manufacturing through the use of robots and automated machine tools. Mechatronics may concern individual machines such as robots, or manufacturing systems automated in their entirety.

Mechatronic engineers use computers and other digital control systems to control industrial processes. They bring electronic, material and mechanical sciences together with robotics, manufacturing and packaging techniques to create a diverse range of products.

These range from everyday products such as washing machines, cameras, photocopiers and anti-lock car brakes, to miniaturised substitutes for human organs, to powerful and precise computer-controlled machine tools used in manufacturing.

This course was the first of its kind in Australia, and is in high demand by local and overseas students.

Major Subject Areas

Major subject areas in our Mechatronic Engineering degree are:
  • Mechanics - the study of force and motion: statics, kinematics and kinetics, together with applications to the analysis and design of structures and machines
  • System Dynamics and Control - kinematics and dynamics of mechanism, the modelling and dynamics of mechanical, electrical, pneumatic and hydraulic systems, classical and modern control theory
  • Computing - computer architecture, program design, FORTRAN & C programming, computer graphics, and problem solving with engineering software packages such as MATLAB
  • Electrical and Electronic Engineering - DC and AC circuit theory, magnetic circuits and electrical machines, semiconductor devices, operational amplifiers, introductory digital systems and microprocessor systems. circuit theory, electrical machine control and power semiconductors, and digital design
  • Digital Systems - programmable logic design, real-time computer systems, and advanced microprocessor systems and microcontrollers
  • Electronics - small-signal and power amplifiers using bipolar and field-effect transistors, passive and active filters, oscillators, transducers, signal conditioning and interfacing, optoelectronics, EMI control, and power supplies
  • Electrical Machines and Drives - electrical machines such as motors and generators, power semiconductors, and electronic control of AC and DC power
  • Applied Mechanics and Engineering Materials - the study of forces, and the internal stress that they place on machine elements, together with the science of materials that are able to resist applied loads
  • Mechanical and Mechatronic Design - the application of engineering knowledge to create practical devices, machines and products that incorporate mechanical and mechatronic technology
  • Manufacturing - traditional and modern manufacturing techniques, NC machine tools and industrial robotics
  • Engineering Management - an introduction to the management of engineering businesses in areas such as costing and pricing, problem resolution strategies and business planning
The final years emphasise professional development, refinement of skills that are directly useful in the workplace, and further development of problem solving abilities. Many elective subjects in the final year are project-based, leading to the development of planning and team-work skills.

Specialisation in the final years of the degree can involve:

  • Computers in Real Time Control - Design and implementation of multi-tasking systems for measurement and control applications
  • Design of Automatic Machinery - A study of the elements that comprise typical special-purpose automated machines that are used in manufacturing. The synthesis of machines from these elements is also studied
  • Robotic Systems - This subject concentrates on robot applications, programming, and on the integration of robots with other automated machinery
  • Microprocessors in Engineered Products - Students work in small groups to design, develop and commission realistic microprocessor-based products
  • Software Engineering - Software must be designed, not just written. This subject covers the analysis, design and maintainence of large software projects

Source: Politecnico di Torino, Italy

Mecha...what?

Recently a technical committee on mechatronics (R. Comerford, Mecha...what?, Spectrum, August 1994.) adopted the following definition:

Mechatronics is the synergistic combination of precision mechanical engineering, electronic control and system thinking in the design of products and manufacturing processes.

Pragmatically, japanese engineers call mechatronics:

The way of designing subsystems of electromechanical products to ensure optimum system performance.

For sure, mechatronics is an area where true concurrent engineering methodology can be fully exploited to guarantee the best final results.

Source: University of Darmstadt, Germany

Introduction

Today, innovations are evolving from combination of different technologies. Microelectronics, mechanics, optics and software interact when technical systems of our times become reality. Education and research at the Institute for Mechatronics are heeding these circumstances.

The Institute for Mechatronics is sited in the department of communication engineering at the Technische Hochschule Darmstadt. Research and education are tightly coupled as the students' projects are directly involved with research. Research work is done in the following fields:

  • knowlegde based systems for the optimization of designs in respect of assembly and environment
  • basic research on means of measurements for medical applications
  • systems for assembly of micro mechanical devices
  • ecologically beneficial individual transport
  • optimization of small electric drives
The study of mechatronics can be chosen by students in electrical engineering after their first degree, from then on the main part of then education will be carried out by the Institute for Mechatronics. According to the aim of an interdisciplinary and practical study, basic and professional knowledge in electronics, mechanics and mechanical design are taught. Along with the professional knowledge the education is heeding for the recognition of connections, cost management, environmental consciousness, and the overcoming of language-barriers.

A central point in the education are the "project-seminars" where teams of four students and a professional engineer are developing and realising a new device. Significant in the seminars is teamwork on solving scientific and technical projects, guide lining for design methodology, presentation and the documentation of the results. The themes for project-seminars and other projects are usually evolving from the research or industrial partners.

The students are allowed to set their own aspects in education, due to the flexibility of the study. After a given guideline almost two thirds of the courses can be chosen in the area of communication, control and mechanical engineering, physics and mathematics, economics and social science. The ability to break into new areas is improved by interdisciplinary courses.