Mechatronics is an energizing, multi-disciplinary field of engineering that incorporates a blend of system engineering, mechanical engineering, electrical engineering, telecommunications engineering, control engineering and computer engineering.
It includes the research, design, implementation, and maintenance of intelligent engineered products and processes enabled by the reconciliation of mechanical, electronic, computer and software engineering technologies. Examples of mechatronic systems are antilock braking systems (ABS), robots, digitally controlled combustion engines, machine tools with self-adaptive tools, contact-free magnetic bearings and automated guided vehicles.
System Engineering coordinates all the disciplines and specialty groups into a team effort forming a structured development process that proceeds from concept to production to operation. System Engineering considers both the business and the technical needs of all clients with the objective of giving a quality item that meets the client needs.
Technical systems, be they customer items or industrial systems for process and production control, have an expanding requirement for intelligent control. By extending mechanical solutions with sensors and electronics there are conceivable outcomes to create not only new functions but also make these new solutions viable and applies to quality and safety requirements, cost reductions and environmental demands. The challenge lies in making the control of these systems accurate (precise), fast and yet robust and flexible.
A microcontroller is the focal point of a Mechatronics system. The cost of the controller is directly proportional to its capabilities such as clock speed, number of I/O pins, physical size, RAM, and memory. Many of the microcontrollers in the market have to be programmed with a low-level language such as Assembly programming.
- Smart Consumer Products: home security, camera, microwave oven, toaster, dishwasher, laundry washer-dryer, climate control units, etc.
- Medical: implant-devices, assisted surgery, haptic, etc.
- Defense: unmanned air, ground, and underwater vehicles, smart munitions, jet engines, etc.
- Manufacturing: robotics, machines, processes, etc.
- Automotive: climate control, antilock brake, active suspension, cruise control, airbags, engine management, safety, etc.
- Network-centric, Distributed Systems: distributed robotics, telerobotics, intelligent highways, etc.
With today’s integration of IoT processes and equipment, traditional disciplines are merging and the benefits are seen throughout the machine life cycle. The design phase is shortened with cross-discipline communication, design development, and project management tools. Procurement and build cycles are shortened due to the need for fewer components along with the use of online configuration and purchasing tools. With IoT connected programming and real-time analytics, ease of use, maintenance, and overall life are increased for the user. All of these things combine adding to the bottom line, creating more opportunity and increasing financial returns.
In order to build autonomous robots that can carry out useful work in unstructured environments, new approaches have been developed for building intelligent systems. The relationship to traditional academic robotics and traditional artificial intelligence is examined. In the new approaches, a tight coupling of sensing to action produces architectures for intelligence that are networks of simple computational elements which are quite broad, but not very deep. Recent work within this approach has demonstrated the use of representations, expectations, plans, goals, and learning, but without resorting to the traditional uses of central, abstractly manipulable or symbolic representations. The perception within these systems is often an active process, and the dynamics of the interactions with the world are extremely important. The question of how to evaluate and compare the new to traditional work still provokes vigorous discussion.
Autonomous technology is a class of technology that can respond to real-world conditions without help. By definition, robots are autonomous or semi-autonomous. As such, the term autonomous technology is often applied to things that are technically robots but don't look like robots. The following are illustrative examples of autonomous technology.
- Space: A space probe that is able to deal with the surface of a planet to collect samples. For example, if the ground is too hard for digging, the probe will decide to move an area that looks softer.
- Infrastructure: A dam that can autonomously respond to conditions to maintain water levels in reservoirs and prevent flooding.
- Transportation: A small cart that is able to navigate sidewalks, people, and traffic to make a last mile package delivery to a customer.
- Agriculture: A vertical garden system that can handle variable conditions. For example, if a plant looks like its unhealthy the system might try a variety of things to try to save it.
- Automation: An artificial intelligence that resembles a conveyor belt that can automatically find reusable and recyclable materials in the garbage.
- Home Automation: A vacuum cleaner that can navigate irregular spaces, people, and pets to clean a floor.
- Architecture: Windows that autonomously adapt to light levels to achieve goals such as heating, cooling, growing plants or achieving indoor light parameters set by users.
A machine vision system (MVS) is a type of technology that enables a computing device to inspect, evaluate and identify still or moving images. It is a field in computer vision and is quite similar to surveillance cameras, but provides the automatic image capturing, evaluation and processing capabilities.
Sensors represent an indispensable element in modern mechatronic systems. Convergence of enabling technologies such as the Internet, communications, information technology and miniaturization technology combined with broadening applications arc driving vigorous research and development of new sensors. New sensor technologies bring paradigm shifts in the way we design engineering and mechatronic systems.
Biomechatronics is the science concerned with the internal and external forces acting on the human body and the effects produced by these forces. More specifically, Biomechatronics is the study of human movement and describes the forces which cause this movement.
Biomechatronics is closely related to engineering, because it often uses traditional engineering sciences to analyse biological systems.
Applied mechanics, most notably mechanical engineering disciplines such as continuum mechanics, mechanism analysis, structural analysis, kinematics and dynamics play prominent roles in the study of biomechatronics.
Opto-Mechatronics is a specialized field combining many expertise areas and is widely present in the High-Tech industry. This track is an excellent start to becoming a multi-disciplinary researcher or system designer in opto-mechatronics.
In recent years, optical technology has been incorporated into mechatronic systems at an accelerated rate, and as a result, a great number of machines/systems with smart optical components have been introduced. This integrated technology is termed optomechatronics.
The potential for generating added value in industrial manufacturing is moving increasingly in the direction of electronics and software development. The specialization in Electrical Engineering accordingly has a focus on electrodynamics and electromechanical simulation in addition to such fields as industrial electronics, drive systems, and programming.
Some electrical engineers design complex power systems on a macroscopic level. Electrical engineers also design microscopic electronic devices and electronic circuitry, which achieved the record-setting length of 1 nanometre for a single logic gate.
The specialization in Mechanical Engineering prepares graduates for the challenges of modern mechanical engineering. The focus here is on simulation, hydraulics, pneumatics and material sciences, and also on mechanics, machine dynamics and handling technology.
The engineering field requires an understanding of core concepts including mechanics, kinematics, thermodynamics, materials science, and structural analysis. Mechanical engineers use these core principles along with tools like computer-aided engineering and product lifecycle management to design and analyse manufacturing plants, industrial equipment and machinery, heating and cooling systems, transport systems, aircraft, watercraft, robotics, medical devices and more.