Some observers claim there's "nothing new" about mechatronics. "It's just another name for electromechanical technology," they say.
Those who really know design, however, realize mechatronics is much more than simply adding a microcontroller to a mechanical actuator. It's a whole new way of approaching design that goes well beyond using trial and error iterations.
Not only does mechatronics harness the latest mechanical, electronic
and control components in a design, it also relies on the latest
software tools to model and simulate the system from the earliest
stages. The result? Superior engineering solutions that not only test
the extreme limits of performance, but also save money and trim cycle
times in the process.
Yet, many engineers still balk at embracing this multidisciplinary
approach, especially the basic mathematical and physical modeling that
needs to occur at the outset. "Many engineers still use a
seat-of-the-pants approach to design or rely on their vendor companies
for solutions," says Kevin Craig, professor of mechanical engineering at Marquette University and a Design News'
columnist. Embracing mechatronics becomes essential when engineers must
tackle projects that demand revolutionary thinking, adds Craig.
In other words, mechatronics can help engineers escape the
boundaries that have limited their designs in the past and help them
achieve new heights in product performance. Moreover, the areas of
application for mechatronics span virtually every industry. Among
examples described by Design News in recent months:
· A training simulator that accurately replicates the physical and operating characteristics of a crane.
·Wafer-handling robots that can change tasks quickly, thanks to a novel control scheme and a suite of kinematic programs.
· Simulation of system dynamics of rudder control to avoid flight problems in an unmanned aerial vehicle.
• The world's most advanced prosthetic limbs, designed to duplicate the range of motion in a human arm.
Such examples of mechatronics victories are limitless. As the
stories in this special supplement show, mechatronics can deliver
design excellence in applications ranging from high-performance submarines to automation systems.
Is it time to harness this design approach on your own projects?