Gadget Freak James Kinney was looking for a way to take the pressure off the back end of a tow truck when it’s carrying a heavy load. If you can equalize the pressure of the truck bed so all the weight is not on the back end, there will be less stress to the truck’s suspension system. Kinney developed the air suspension system, called the Mechatronic Microcontroller, in his mechatronics’ class at Colorado State University. The gadget uses a resistive touchscreen from an electronic Sudoku game to select the ride height of the tow truck’s bed to make it level, thus spreading the stress of the towing weight evenly across the truck’s suspension.
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.