An expert in micromechatronic systems, Tai-Ran Hsu explains the components of micromechatronic systems and those of mechatronic systems and design considerations.
What is micromechatronics?
A mechatronics product is viewed as a smart device or engineering system that involves mechanical and electrical principles in design and performs hybrid mechanical and electrical functions. Micromechatronics is the technology that involves the design and manufacture of mechatronics products with dimensions in the range of 1 micrometer to 1 mm.
What are examples of micromechatronic products?
Sensors for air bag deployment systems for automobiles, inkjet printer heads and read/write heads in computer data storage systems.
In what industry is micromechatronics most applicable — who is using it most?
Micromechatronics applies to a variety of industries that include: automobile, aerospace, biomedical, chemical process, optical, communications, computers, flat panel display, pharmaceutical, etc. The automobile industry is the largest user of micromechatronics.
How do micromechatronics and mechatronics differ?
In addition to the difference in sizes, major differences are in design methodologies, fabrication techniques and packaging and testing. In micromechatronics, structural components are designed on the base of scaling laws and the laws of physics and quantum physics. Electromagnetic actions are replaced by thermal, piezoelectric and electrostatic forces in microactuators. Components are fabricated by chemical-physical processes but not by machine tools. Assembly, packaging and testing are radically different from those in macroscale mechatronics.
What is the difference between MST and NT?
MST stands for microsystems technology that handles devices in the size range of 1 micrometer to 1 mm, whereas NT designates nanotechnology. The technique that produces nanoproducts are of the size with three orders of magnitudes smaller than MST.
What are the main design challengesfor micromechatronic development? Manufacturing?
Scaling laws govern the design of micromechatronics systems. Manufacturing of these products is exclusively done by physical-chemical processes in tightly controlled environments in extremely clean rooms. Design of micromechatronic systems also need to deal with materials of unique characterizations and the packaging and testing techniques that are similar but different from that of IC production.
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Tai-Ran Hsu is a professor of Mechanical Engineering at San Jose State University and a fellow of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers.