Mechatronics is the synergistic and systemic real time combination of mechanics, electronics, automation and computing. The advantage of this multidisciplinary field of engineering is to design powerful automated systems and to allow control of complex systems.
The term « mechatronics » was created in 1969 by an engineer of the Japanese company « Yaskawa Electric Corporation ».
Understand how the mechatronics
The engineering of such mechatronic systems requires the simultaneous and multidisciplinary design of 3 subsystems:
– An operating section (skeleton and « muscular » part of the system dominated by mechanics and electromechanics)
– A command section (system on-board intelligence dominated by electronics and real-time computing)
– A human-machine interface (geometric shape and system window dominated by ergonomic and aesthetic).
A comprehensive approach also helps reduce costs, increase reliability and modularity.
Mechatronic devices are used to control systems and have a retroactive effect to adapt to varying operating condition, to monitor their state (stress, fatigue…), to carry out servicing… This wide filed is complex (access to information, expertise in electronics and mechanics, allocation of functions, reliability and security…). It requires significant resources and results in high costs.
The integration of these techniques started in aeronautics, followed by transport and now the automotive industry. In the future, this topic is also of interest to other mechanical engineering sectors such as machinery, lifting, etc. Industrial applications will eventually be part of the companies’ specific know-how, while the integration of sensors will remains the mechanic’s concern.
Although the electronics reliability and safety have improved, an overall assessment on the system or process is mandatory before integrating the technology and « business » specific requirements. Devices and systems must withstand electromagnetic interference in increasingly disturbed environments and their electromagnetic compatibility must be checked and validated to ensure safe and reliable operation. The system’s mechatronics software or user’s verification methods must be set up to ensure that the command matches the needs and does not cause hazardous situations.
System and automation simulation tools, including the manufacturing simulation software, are part of the solutions that allow defining an independent control strategy of mechanical, electronic or human failures.
Coming developments are heading to neural networks and control loops based on fuzzy logic.