Why should you care? Because whatever the term “mechatronics” might mean to you, it affects so many aspects of our daily life.
We’ve all seen commercials with a production floor full of welding robots making automobiles. Certainly automotive manufacturing would not be possible without numerically controlled machine tools, robots and much more. And the automotive manufacturers continue to advance the field of automated manufacturing resulting in higher quality products at lower costs.
The mundane washing machine is, nowadays, a very high tech piece of equipment. Fuzzy logic controls and “transmissionless” electric motor drive systems are part of the solution for lower energy costs, reduced water consumption, making them lower energy cost to operate.
How else could you get a can of beer or soda prepared, packaged, and delivered to your grocery store for pennies per can? It couldn’t happen without an intimate understanding of all the equipment needed to formulate the drinks, forming machines to make cans and lids, machines to clean, fill and seal, and finally packaging machines to put the cans in packages. All mechatronic equipment triumphs.
Hard disk drives that store hundreds of gigabytes of information are among the most demanding applications ever. Imagine designing a motor and drive circuit that will accurately start and stop the platter in 2ms. At 10,000 rpm, the disk drive platter edge speed is 105 mph, so just starting and stopping is no small feat. The system has to run synchronously with the read/write mechanism that is flying a few millionths of an inch above the platter, and the spindle motor has to be the size of a #2 pencil.
All of this performance has to be packaged in the disk drive, and, oh yes, we can only afford to pay about $5 for it. Luckily, people smarter than me have been at work on this stuff for years, which is especially important because US companies make tens of millions of disk drives a year. Many of the advances that have migrated into the industrial motion control and mechatronics world have been the result of pioneering advances in hard disk drive technology.
Whether the goal is meeting ever-increasing productivity for production machinery or making ever-higher precision equipment for the semiconductor industry, mechatronics is the key to these improvements.
Just as 3D design tools for the computer have revolutionized engineering, more powerful design tools will reduce new product development times and improve the accuracy of its results. Better mechatronic design work will continue to drive innovations in all fields by lowering costs and reducing risks to delivering these innovations.
Every time a company improves its performance, we gain a competitive edge in the world market for goods and services. Everybody wins.
Keep those innovations coming!
President, Solid Technologies