Tom Watson, one of the top engineers behind Ford Motor Co.'s Escape hybrid, has a word of advice for prospective designers: mechatronics.
Watson, Design News' Engineer of the Year in 2006, says a blend of mechanical and electronic knowledge is going to be important for future powertrain engineers, who will need to find ways to control internal combustion engines, electric traction motors and generator motors. "Mechanical and electronics engineers need to understand how all the systems fit together," Watson says.
If Watson is right, then all of us had better start brushing up on our electronics. Most automotive sub-systems — from engines and transmissions to windows and seats — are now electronically controlled. Inside our homes, it's not much different. Washing machines, refrigerators, cell phones, stereos, radios, furnaces, water heaters and myriad other products incorporate microcontrollers.
Moreover, the task of learning electronics is not getting easier. A few years ago, someone proclaimed that we're bumping up against the limits of Moore's Law. So what happened? Microprocessor vendors introduced the dual-core processor, then the quad-core. Earlier this year, Intel said it will have 80 cores in five years.
So, now we've got that to deal with.
To help you, we've rounded up a comprehensive collection of the latest in electronic components. We've covered DSPs, analog ICs, power management devices, RF transceivers, dc/dc converters, batteries, electromechanical switches, software operating systems and a multitude of other products.
The idea is to keep you on top of the rapid changes in the electronics' industry. So, if you're a designer looking for a specific product or an engineer trolling for new ideas, try paging through this supplement. We hope it will help you deal with that brave new world of mechatronics.