According to an ARC Advisory Group report released this
month, the general motion control (GMC) market reached nearly $6
billion in 2007 and will grow to more than $8.2 billion in 2012. What's
driving this growth? According to senior analyst Himanshu Shah, the
biggest thrust comes from globalization.
"While there has been a steady demand for machinery in the highly
developed regions," Shah wrote in the report, "many machinery builders
are experiencing unprecedented demand from developing countries,
including China, India, as well as the countries of Eastern Europe."
But the increasing attention designers are paying mechatronics also contributes to this growth, Shah told Mechatronics Zone.
"Manufacturers face a lot of global challenges and mechatronics offers
the advantage of creating a new design that optimizes the performance
of the entire system," he says. "Rather than optimize components
individually, mechatronics helps you increase performance and reduce
the cost of the overall system."
Rather than mechanical engineers and electrical engineers working
separately, he says, they can gain insight into how devices can be
designed more efficiently. "Maybe you mount the motor directly on the
machine and eliminate the mechanical transmission component," he says,
adding while it may not be possible to solve every design issue,
mechatronics offers the opportunity to design devices differently.
Shah cites as an example the consumer packaged goods industry, where
companies are wrangling with varying packaging and products to
accommodate consumer demand. With the software capabilities within
mechatronics, he says, "it's already easy to make mechanical
adjustments so a machine can adapt to different sizes and shapes of the
packaging. But if you work from a mechatronics point of view, you can
design the electronics, the mechanics and the software in such a manner
so that instead of having a lever that pushes in or out, you can adjust
the stepper-motors automatically and with multiple axes." According to
Shah, that increases options for packaging but reduces the time it
takes to make the changes.
But Shah also believes mechatronics is driving growth because of its
ability to help engineers see - and improve - holistic designs prior to
manufacture. "Mechatronics forces you to design with a more
comprehensive and integrated view. Because they're forced to work
together, engineers are now able to simulate all the mechanical,
electrical and software elements and come up with a design that is very
well synchronized." Being able to prototype devices earlier reduces the
risk of investment as well.
Shah says the worldwide market for GMC is only expected to grow at a
compounded annual growth rate (CAGR) of 6.7 percent over the next five
years. But two things are clear in this economic environment: Increases
are better than decreases and mechatronics will contribute to that
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