My Mom used to say I had a lot of disappointed friends in elementary school. I would invite them to see my Lionel model-railroad setup only to show them a layout half assembled or disassembled. Mom said I’d tell the kids about all the “improvements” I planned to make after I got everything back together, which I eventually did. I learned a lot by taking things apart and in some cases putting them back together. This happened with lawnmowers, an outboard motor, a washing machine scavenged from the dump, and numerous discarded radios and TVs.
If you don’t have an opportunity to disassemble something to learn how it works (or worked), I recommend anyone interested in mechatronics take a look at the small book, “Five Hundred and Seven Mechanical Movements,” by Henry T. Brown. The Astragal Press publishes the book, which costs $US 14.95, ISBN: 978-1603863117. For more information, visit: http://www.astragalpress.com/507_mechanical_movements.htm. The book has a copyright date of 1868. That’s not a typographical error. The eighteenth edition that Astragal publishes has a 1896 copyright date. Amazon carries the reprinted book, which has a 4-star rating.
I opened my copy by chance this morning to the page that shows Samuel Colt’s mechanism for rotating the cylinder of a pistol by cocking the pistol’s hammer and C. R. Otis’ mechanism that revolutionized elevators. Prior to the use of Otis’ safety mechanism, when an elevator rope broke occupants often died. In the Otis mechanism, the lack of tension on a broken rope caused pins on a track to engage teeth, which stopped the elevator. Clever and effective.
Yes, the mechanisms might seem dated, but they provide a lot of ideas and food for thought. You might not find all mechanisms clever at a time when some engineers think a brushless-DC motor and a microcontroller can solve any motion problem, but you’re likely to better understand practical mechanics. And if you think such mechanical movements have become obsolete, take apart a DVD drive or a top-loading washing machine. –Jon Titus
Truchard will be presented the award at the 2014 Golden Mousetrap Awards ceremony during the co-located events Pacific Design & Manufacturing, MD&M West, WestPack, PLASTEC West, Electronics West, ATX West, and AeroCon.
Robots that walk have come a long way from simple barebones walking machines or pairs of legs without an upper body and head. Much of the research these days focuses on making more humanoid robots. But they are not all created equal.
The IEEE Computer Society has named the top 10 trends for 2014. You can expect the convergence of cloud computing and mobile devices, advances in health care data and devices, as well as privacy issues in social media to make the headlines. And 3D printing came out of nowhere to make a big splash.
For industrial control applications, or even a simple assembly line, that machine can go almost 24/7 without a break. But what happens when the task is a little more complex? That’s where the “smart” machine would come in. The smart machine is one that has some simple (or complex in some cases) processing capability to be able to adapt to changing conditions. Such machines are suited for a host of applications, including automotive, aerospace, defense, medical, computers and electronics, telecommunications, consumer goods, and so on. This discussion will examine what’s possible with smart machines, and what tradeoffs need to be made to implement such a solution.