Have you ever heard the word “mechatronics”?
If yes, you are a genius!
Let me explain one more time.
The origin of this word is Japan in 1971. The word mechatronics is the combination of two words ‘Mechanical’ and ‘Electronics’.
What!! Just two words!!
What does it mean?
Relax! Don’t be in a hurry. I am Telling you!
It is the combination of two technologies namely Mechanical and Electronics.
Oh really! The word is introducing itself. But what does it mean? Why we combine them. What is the purpose behind this?
Yes! Yes! I am coming to the point. It is a long and really interesting story. If you really want to know, keep reading.
Hand production to the machines:
In the middle of the 18th century, water wheels and steam engines were introduced in the manufacturing industry. These techniques were used to give the power to provide motion to the entire machinery in the plants.
Before that time all the works were being done manually or with the help of animal power.
Hard Automation; SPM:
But, this automation was fully mechanical, known as hard automation. It means the automation system which was designed for a particular type of task would not be able to be changed if required due to the change in product configuration.
These kinds of automatic machines are known as the “special purpose machine”, in short SPM.
Have you got it? Good.
Ok, let’s dive into the deep.
Now suppose, there is a demand to change in product configuration. Then what they had to do with SPM? It was very difficult to do changes in the machine set-up as per the requirement, sometimes impossible.
Entire setups were needed to be replaced if the changes in the product were required. That was a very hard process. That’s why the product evolution used to take a long time.
Now you can understand how earlier people keep their stuff for a long time. Am I right?
Anyway, continue reading!!
Now let’s talk about Electric motors. In the middle of the 19th century, electric motors were invented, to provide motions to the machinery of the plants.
This technology replaced bulky and slow-motion providers i.e. steam engines. Because it takes a long time to start a boiler to be fully functional, but electric motors don’t need to be a wait to start. Just press a button, the motor starts.
This system was so popular that it revolutionized the manufacturing sector. It is known as the 2nd industrial revolution i.e. Industry 2.0. It means that the system was electrified totally. Assembly line and conveyor systems were also introduced in this era.
During the decade of 70 in the 20th century, microcontrollers, i.e. dedicated computers, were introduced to the electrified machinery to make them automatic.
The microcontroller is an electronic device that can be programmed to control the processes of any machine which is a mechanical system.
In simple words, we can say that for an automatic machine or plant there is a need for an electronic controller beside the electrical prime movers. The microcontrollers control all the activity of the machine or the plants.
The microcontroller is said to be the mind of the machine. Which receives the signal from the field with the help of field sensors and gives instructions accordingly. And the machine or plant works in autonomous mode.
This technology is simply known as mechatronics. And this era is known as the third industrial revolution, i.e. Industry 3.0.
And the branch of engineering in which we study the above technology is called mechatronics engineering. Most of the automatic machines we see today are the example of a mechatronics system. Like Robots, escalators, automatic washing machines, AC, Refrigerators, Industrial Automation equipment, etc.
Types of Mechatronics system:
There are two types of mechatronics systems, the first one is open-loop and the second one is a closed-loop.
Open-loop and Closed-loop system:
This feedback mechanism is nothing but the arrangement of the various sensors in the field. These sensors detect the actual conditions of the field and pass this information to the controller.
Then the controller processes this information and takes the decision and gives instructions to the machine to take appropriate action.
Let us take an example of an air cooler, it has a fan speed controller. If we adjust it to a particular position, it actuates the fan to rotate at a particular speed irrespective of cooling and the conditions of the room.
Because there is no feedback mechanism. It will rotate at the same speed whether the temperature of the room is high or low.
But in the AC we have a feedback mechanism in the form of the thermometer, which is the temperature sensor.
When we adjust the AC at a particular temperature, the controller activates the AC motor when the temperature rises and stops or slows down the motor when the temperature falls below the set point.
This is because the AC has a feedback mechanism to give information about the condition of the room. So this is the example of the closed-loop system.
Now the technology becomes more advanced. Now we are going through the fourth industrial revolution, i.e. Industry 4.0. In this technology, the machines are able to communicate with each other by sharing their data.
These machines are also able to communicate with the products. This system is known as a smart production system. The factories who adopt this kind of system are said to be “smart factories” and the products made through these factories are said to be “smart products”.
Communication between machines? It means they can talk to each other like humans!
Yes! They can, even with the products too.
But, in which language?
For your information, the language through which the machines communicate is known as “machine language”
This machine to machine communication is possible with the help of IoT. IoT stands for “Internet of things”. This is the technology by which a communication is established between the things.
This communication may be wireless communication i.e Bluetooth and wifi etc. or wired communication. Click here to purchase a DIY kit to learn IoT technology.
When this technology is used in industries with robustness, it becomes IIoT, which means “Industrial Internet of things”.
This is concise information regarding Mechatronics and related technologies. This is a good area of technology from a career point of view.
An engineer, nowadays, must have the knowledge of the latest technologies, irrespective of their branches or domain.
I think now you have an idea about the mechatronics system and its type and related technologies.
I hope you enjoyed the article.