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Mechatronics Engineering The Evolution,

the Needs and the Challenges


Salas, Esthefanny
jesalasp@utn.edu.ec
Universidad Técnica del Norte

Abstract - Mechatronics should be seen to represent a control methods. During this stage, technologies used in
synergy and fusion of technologies, and should be Mechatronics systems developed individually and
regarded as a philosophy supporting new way of independently of each other. With the development of
thinking and innovation. Thus, Mechatronics engineer ever more sophisticated technologies, the technology
identifies with systems thinking, and the philosophy know-how has become a primary competitive factor,
that lies behind it. Mechatronics represents a unifying and efficient technology management are extremely
important to keep track of the fast development in a
paradigm that integrates, permeates, and comprehends
large number of fields. The introduction of the
fundamental and modern engineering. It concentrates
microprocessor in the mid 1970’s has produced an
on achieving the necessary synergy right through from explosive development in new products that incorporate
the conceptual stages of the design process. The growth the technologies associated with mechanical
of interest in Mechatronics has identified a need for the engineering, electronics, and information processing.
provision of engineers whose education and training Hence, there has been an increasing need for a new
enables them to operate in an interdisciplinary manner. approach to engineering. During the second half of
Efficient structure of a Mechatronics engineering 1970s and early 1980s, Mechatronics engineers did not
degree program should integrate theory and practice of exist. It was wise to recognize that each engineer from
the unified paradigm of Mechatronics engineering. It the traditional engineering disciplines has their
should be designed to provide in-depth knowledge in strengths and weaknesses, and that when working in a
the fundamentals, design, and analysis. Furthermore, team, they can interact, constantly learn from each
implementing the engineering aspects related to other, facilitate concurrency and, can master the
utilization, operation, maintenance, management, challenges of developing and manufacturing new smart
products, processes, and systems. Mechatronics
personal and team based skills that are needed to design
concurrency is about efficient and optimized approach
and produce modern day in designing and manufacturing ‘Smart’ products. By
Mechatronical products and systems. ‘Smart’, I mean the degree of cleverness that can impart
to the functioning capabilities of the product. For this,
I. INTRODUCTION team based approach has been adopted to embody
personal and team skills that industry needs to reach
The portmanteau ‘Mechatronics’ was first coined by high standards of excellence while improving personal
Mr. Tetsuro Mori, CEO and president of Seibu Electric skills and quality of work. Such approach facilitates the
and Machinery Co Ltd. in 1969 when he worked for development of a practical base supported by traditional
Yaskawa Electric Corporation in Kitakyushu, Japan. At theory to cover the key areas of practical design.
this stage, the term Mechatronics used to reflect the Mechatronics evolves as a design philosophy and a
merging of mechanical and electrical engineering methodology used for the optimal design to raise
disciplines and it may alternatively be referred to as synergy and provide a catalytic effect for discovering
"electromechanical systems". The trademark rights of new and simpler solutions to traditionally complex
the term Mechatronics were granted to Yaskawa in problems. Such a methodology is a collection of
1971. Yaskawa elected to abandon its rights on the word practices, procedures, and rules used by those who work
in 1982. The word has since then taken a wider meaning in a particular branch of knowledge or discipline.
and is now being used widely to describe a philosophy Mechatronics emerged in Japan to describe the
in science and engineering supporting new way of Japanese practice of using fully integrated teams of
thinking and innovation. product designers and other members that represent
engineers with traditional engineering backgrounds,
manufacturing, purchasing, marketing personnel, etc. In
II. THE EVOLUTION OF MECHATRONICS addition, Mechatronics at this stage reflects the way
people work to design and implement high
During the 1970s, Mechatronics was concerned performance, simple and reliable solutions.
mostly with servo technology used in products with
mechanism that is controlled electronically, such as,
automatic door openers, vending machines, and auto-
focus cameras. Simple in implementation, the new
approach encompassed the early use of advanced
In the 1980s, Mechatronics came to mean engineering. components and systems start to come out that combine an
The advances in digital electronics that have enabled the optimum blend of all available technologies featured by,
possibility to invent, create, and improve systems that rely innovation, shorter development cycles, better quality,
on mechanical components to perform their intended high reliability, better performance, compactness, and low
action. A synergistic integration of different technologies cost. In addition, the consideration of human factor during
started taking place, a notable example being in the design process led to ease of product use, safety and
optoelectronics (i.e., an integration of optics and increased benefits to the end user. Individual devices such
electronics). During this stage, the co-design concept of as sensors and actuators have built-in intelligence
hardware/software has been developed and used. requiring local computer-based signal processing and
Mechatronics technology development has been driven control functions. Engineers began to embed
initially by the explosive trend in automation within the microprocessors in mechanical systems to improve their
automobile industry and the increased electronics content performance. Embedded systems and real-time software
in the vehicle and control of system features via software, engineering are accomplished through various types of
such as electronic engine controls and antilock-braking embedded micro-controllers, which are an indispensable
systems. Industrial machinery and numerically controlled component of modern Mechatronic systems.
systems, product integration and manufacturing in The early part of 1990s, highlight the beginning of new
consumer electronics, and by the semiconductor industry. era that merges innovatively Mechatronics as a technology
During the second half of the 1980s Mechatronics quality with modern communication and information
product life cycles start to be compressed dramatically in technologies. Information technology through software
which new technology must be developed, manufactured, starts to become a more important part of their work than
and introduced to the marketplace, in cost effective electronics. Information and communications
approach and quickly ahead of the competition, as early technologies were added to yield intelligent products that
market entry for the product provides a critical are portable and could be connected within large
competitive edge. networks. This development made functions such as the
The adoption of Mechatronics design philosophy, and remote operation of robots, home appliances,
concurrent practices by the industries require engineers manufacturing, biomedical devices and health facilities
with a new range of skills, attitudes and abilities. Such possible. In addition, recent fundamental and applied
engineers are able to work across the boundaries of developments in mini-, micro- and nano-scale
constituent disciplines to identify and use the right electromechanics (especially micro scale
solution to the problem at hand. Engineer with good electromechanical systems (MEMS) and micro-opto-
management skills that enable them to work in and lead electromechanical systems (MOEMS)), control,
design teams. This eventually guided academic informatics, and power electronics have motivated and
institutions towards creating dedicated Mechatronics accelerated such growth and have found a wide range of
degree programs. They were aiming to develop applications. Microelectromechanical systems, such as the
interdisciplinary and integrated approach to problem tiny silicon accelerometers that trigger automotive air
solving where the most effective engineering solution can bags, are examples of the latter use. Furthermore, after mid
be reached without bias from any given traditional of the 1990s, Mechatronics has gained a tremendous
engineering discipline. Systems engineers were the first international attention and its importance was widely and
who had to deal with such technical and complex issues globally recognized.
raised by interactions between software, mechanical Since 2000, processor speed and advancements of
hardware and electronics. The relative complexity of building memory capacity predicated the boom in in-car
design had increased enormously with many thousands of navigation systems and other audio-visual consumer
engineers working on the same mega project. The question electronic products, as well as passive and active safety
that remains is how to develop a curriculum and teach such systems and more. Another important trend is the
different philosophy within traditional engineering increasing role that nanotechnology, and the incorporation
departments. of living and non-living molecules into processes and
With the beginning of the 1990s, Mechatronics came to products, has begun to have a recognizable role, given
mean education and research identity as it emerged as their value in improving strength, appearance, durability,
important engineering discipline. The most notable ability to be recycled and other functions.
features of the third stage are: the increased use of smart The start of the 21st century is marking the identity of
functions in Mechatronics products and systems; Mechatronics as an engineering and science discipline.
miniaturization of the product, enhance humancomputer- The interdisciplinary Mechatronics filed has experienced
interaction; shortening the development cycle time by phenomenal growth since the beginning more than 35
adopting the use of virtual prototyping and computer years ago due to the rapid advances in enabling
simulation. Closely related topics of development during technologies: actuators, sensors, power electronics,
the 1990s were: rapid prototyping; human-computer motion devices, solid state devices, integrated circuits,
interaction; optoelectronics, electronic manufacturing and microprocessors and microcontrollers, digital signal
packaging; micro-electromechanical systems, advanced processors, high performance computer aided design,
manufacturing technology for polymer composite system intelligence, and computation intelligence
structures, knowledge-based systems, material handling software and techniques. Today, the term Mechatronics
technologies, etc. Furthermore, a new breed of intelligent encompasses a large array of technologies and it
represents most of the research issues of modern design. together the more traditional view of Mechatronics, as the
The Mechatronics design methodology is not only integration of electromechanical systems, with the more
concerned with producing high quality products, but recent advances in intelligent paradigms. In addition,
maintaining these products as well. This area referred to utilizing the Internet and fusing Mechatronics with
as life cycle design consideration. The life cycle design information networks will end the geographic and
factors include delivery, reliability, maintainability, physical needs of the global corporation.
serviceability, upgradeability, and disposability. Life Mechatronics is a way of thinking about designing
cycle factors should be considered during all stages of innovative systems, processes and products that teaches
Mechatronical product design and manufacturing, engineers to integrate computation, mechanization,
resulting in products that are designed from conception to actuation, sensing and control functions that are
retirement synergistically designed to achieve the improved quality
Due to the intensive demands for high performance and performance benefits of system level integration.
electromechanical systems, designers apply Mechatronics Mechatronics systems, processes, and products enable the
concept because the performance of such systems has been implementation of a scalable architecture in which
examined, assessed, and optimized. functional elements are equipped with local control,
Modern engineering encompasses diverse diagnostics, and communication features. This allows for
interdisciplinary areas, and accordingly it is critical to optimum freedom of mechanical design, energy savings,
identify new directions in research and engineering filed recycling capability, and lower overall system
that address, pursue, and implement interdisciplinary manufacturing costs. Mechatronics is essential in the
development. Mechatronics provides interdisciplinary design of intelligent products; it allows engineers to
leadership and support current gradual changes. transform their conceptions into reality.
Mechatronics represents a new philosophy to engineering Mechatronics has come to mean the synergetic and
design that is likely to be of increasing importance to the interdisciplinary field of engineering that successfully
success of a wide range of industries as well as academic fuses mechanics, electrical, electronics, and informatics
institutions. It became and remains a significant design and intelligent systems, control systems and advance
trend that has impacted the nature of both the modeling, optics, systems engineering, artificial
productdevelopment process and technological change, intelligence, intelligent computer control, precision
both in effect as well as pace. Mechatronics has a engineering, virtualization and virtual environments into a
significant and increasing impact upon engineering and unified framework that enhances the design of products
engineering education as a defining approach to the and manufacturing of processes. The synergies in
design, development, and new way of thinking. Hence, it Mechatronics engineering enables a higher level of
is important for both industry and academic institutions to productivity, precise performance, high functionality,
work together in order to tune the required infrastructures robustness, power efficiency, flexibility and modularity,
to support and enhance the identity of Mechatronics as improved quality and reliability, intelligence,
engineering science discipline and to help engineers maintainability, better spatial integration of subsystems
gaining the required skills. (embodied systems), miniaturized system size, life cycle
design consideration, shorten time for development,
dealing with complexity, and cost effectiveness for wide
III. MECHATRONICS: THE CONCEPT AND range of intelligent products and applications.
THE SYNERGY Mechatronics is a new philosophy to the design that is
inherently technology independent and which
concentrates on achieving the necessary integration from
The term Mechatronics has prompted many debates on
the earliest stages of the design process. The design of
its proper definition and scope. Mechatronics represents a
Mechatronical systems must ensure an effective transfer
synergy and fusion of technologies. It is a unifying
of complexity between individual technologies, both for
paradigm, which integrates, permeates, and comprehends
individual elements within the system and for the system
fundamental and modern engineering. Mechatronics has
as a whole. The adoption of such an integrated, inter or
evolved into a way of life in engineering practice, and
trans-disciplinary approach to engineering design implies
theory and design. It pervades virtually every aspect of the
a greater understanding of the design process.
modern world. As the new discipline is evolving, there is
no need in the time being to have a bounded definition, as Mechatronics methodology is the optimized collection of
this will hamper the progress and the evolution of practices, procedures, and rules.
Mechatronics.
It is important to note that the Mechatronics concept is IV. HUMAN FRIENDLY &
not just about achieving technological integration but it ADAPTIVE MECHATRONICS
involves aspects of organization, training, management
(projects, products, market demands, and administration), (HFAM)
recycling, and sustainable development. Therefore, while
emphasizing the integration at the system level of the core Researchers in the area of Mechatronics have stated
technologies, there is much in common with a concurrent that, the goal of modern technologies, is to have smart
engineering approach to product development. This brings living environment that facilitate better life and to assist
human well being while maximizing performance [8].
This will lead to have human friendly and environmently designed university programs. Creative response to the
conscious Mechatronic technology that work coopeatively need to provide education and training for a new breed of
with human being. To have intelligent mechanical systems engineers who are proficient in the combined application
that can adapt themselves to the level of the skills or of systems design as well as mechanical, electronic and
dexterity of human user, assist to improve the user's skills, computer-based control to managing sophisticated
and help the human-machine system to achieve best manufacturing processes and technology-intensive
performance. It appear natural to design machines that can operations; developing high value-added products of
cooperate in an intelligent way with their human users, Mechatronics nature, and providing quality
thus enable human to make bes use of the machine interdisciplinary engineering services. Mechatronics
capabilities. Such human oriented machinary will have discipline is attracting students to be part of the new era of
novel features in their behavior relevant to their interaction industrialization to support advanced product
with humans [9]. This implies that the enabling development, and to enable the interdisciplinary engineer
Mechatronics systems have to understand human behavior to look forward to a high quality of job satisfaction with
and interact intelligently, adaptively, seamlessly and enhanced employment prospects. This new concept
mutually for the sake to optimize the performance. This requires strong scientific background and experimental
will be achieved by using new methods and techniques techniques as well as a broad knowledge in engineering.
with learning and adaptive properties that reflect the This trend enhances the need for Mechatronical
complexity of the working environment and the design professionals. Mechatronics is hence the word that means
requirements for the interactive cooperation between to open a new road toward the bright future.
human and machine. There is a need to produce engineers who can engage a
Therefore, the design of such products and processes challenging problems and complex tasks with initiation
has to be the outcome of interdisciplinary activities and and enthusiasm. Produce engineers that can reason
embodied with personal and team technical competence effectively, accurately, and creatively using an integrated,
needed for high class standards of excellence. An flexible and usable knowledge base. Produce engineers
important characteristic of Mechatronic devices and that have the skills of free inquiry, able to solve complex
systems is their built-in-intelligence functionalities and and large-scale problems from a system perspective. Have
flexibility. The increased functionality and smartness engineers that can monitor and asses their own adequacy
mean the ability to identify and respond to changes in the to achieve a desirable outcome given a challenge; address
environment and user's needs. The new flexibility in their own perceived inadequacies in knowledge and skills
Mechatronics design is based upon a number of design efficiently and effectively as a member on a team; be
choices with respect to the way to partition the design into knowledgeable of computer and information tools used in
core functionalities, select the suitable technology, and the industry and communicate well. The aim is to develop
way to implement it. The solution of tasks for designing those precious synthesis skills that would enable the
Mechatronic products and systems should be performed student to consider information from many sources and
on every technological level that takes part in that design. assimilate, and convert them to useful and tangible
Herewith, the interrelations during the design process play product blueprints.
an important role because of the interrelated influence The growth of interest in Mechatronics has identified a
from each technological level [10]. This means that need for the provision of engineers whose education and
simultaneous engineering has to take place with the goal training enables them to operate in an interdisciplinary
to create synergetic effects. In addition, In order to manner. Mechatronics engineering represents a
improve this situation, there is an urgent need for theories, fundamental shift away from the engineering specialist to
models and tools, which facilitate modeling, analysis, an engineer with expectation to solve openended problems
synthesis, simulation and prototyping of while fusing mechanical, electronic and computer
multitechnological systems both at the sub-systems level technologies. The need for Mechatronic education has
and at the system level as a whole. The key to an integrated grown due to the increase in the number and importance
Mechatronics design methodology is modeling and of such systems and devices. Structure of the
simulation. Mechatronics program should provide synthesis
experiences and motivation, and integrate theoretical and
V. MECHATRONICS AS ENGINEERING practical skills. The Mechatronics engineering program
should be designed to provide in-depth knowledge in the
DISCIPLINE fundamentals, design and analysis, along with
implementing the engineering aspects related to
We are living in a modern world where consumer and utilization, operation, maintenance and management of
engineering products as well as services are getting more Mechatronic systems, processes and devices.
diverse in nature. Time and economy are the essence, Mechatronics engineering degree program should be
particularly in the high-tech environment where designed to incorporate foundational subjects in physics,
integration of expertise, knowledge, and exploitation of mathematics and statistics, computation and IT, static and
technology must be carried out at a rapid pace. In order to dynamic, fluid power, electrical and electronics,
achieve the needed operational quality and efficiency, measurements, and materials. With core subjects in
current and future engineering workplace requires skills of modeling and simulation, control systems and analysis,
graduates that go beyond those taught in traditionally embedded systems and microcontrollers, sensors and
perception, real-time and intelligent systems, engineering i. Transport new ideas accurately and convincingly by
design and smart products, robotics, and computational strengthening the ability to communicate technical
intelligence. In addition, it should include supporting results to specialists and non-specialists, intercultural
subjects in management, product development and communication techniques and building up
marketing, and engineering practices. The supporting confidence in negotiation and presentation.
subjects have are designed to provide graduates with the j. Understand of design management process with
unique skills required to tackle problems that span the full particular emphasis on product quality, reliability and
electro-mechanical spectrum integrated with information economic aspects. Understanding manufacturing
and communication technologies. A strong feature of the technology and its influence on product design,
course should emphasis on practical and project work that k. Develop student’s confidence in addressing
allows students to consolidate their learning and develop openended problems while exposing them to
planning and communication skills that are considered an Mechatronic principles of product design.
integral part of the engineering profession. The aim is to l. Supporting student initiatives and motivate them to
equip the students with a broad foundation and the develop teamwork, design, communication, time and
learning skills and then to build on that foundation on their cost management skills, to work and think in a
own as they may have to in their professional future. These pragmatic goal-oriented and methodical manner, and
objectives have to be enhanced by: achieving professional and leadership skills,
a. Enable students to comprehend fundamental concepts m. Provide students with experience in a variety of
of Mechatronics design through various stages of the dynamic processes of Mechatronics engineering by
development process. This includes problem giving them the necessary tools and techniques, and
formulation and structuring, problem solving and encourage students to gain a deeper understanding of
ideation, analysis, ergonomic and economic factors, engineering processes while developing an attitude of
appraisal of benefit and cost, uncertainty and self-learning amongst students while appreciating the
assessment of risk, decision making and life-long learning paradigm, i.e., developing attitude
communication. Developing an awareness of the of reflective practice and life long leaning,
integrative nature of Mechatronics design through the n. Create and use methods of student assessment and
experience of balancing range of factors; program evaluation, and provide the structure to
b. Integrating theoretical and practical knowledge skills support these activities. Engineering curricula
through think and learn approach while encouraging requires new and unfamiliar approaches to teaching,
active education attitude. training and assessment. This requires staff that can
c. Developing essential managerial personal skills lead and motivate their students
needed to design and produce modern day o. In-depth understanding of the practice of product
Mechatronic artifacts. design or the utilization, operations and maintenance
of modern engineering equipment in manufacturing,
d. Coordinate interdisciplinary projects, to make
tradeoffs among the available technology options through appropriate optional subjects; and
with respect to reliability, performance, cost, p. Keep constant contact with industry and public
schedule, and risk, Enabling student to carry out institutions in order to ensure that the degree program
subjectspecific and interdisciplinary projects, and continuing education courses remain up-to-date
e. Supporting and enhancing innovative and creative and future oriented. Close links with industry is
especially important for an engineering discipline in
design abilities to conceive and develop new ideas
general and Mechatronics Engineering in particular.
and a practical appreciation of the product
development process through appropriate q. Develop a framework for sustainability in terms of
group/individual activities. Students should be trained achieving a long-term balance between competing
to have a leading role in initiating ideas and teaching economic, social and environmental needs by leaning
them strategies for synthesis and decisionmaking. the environmental, sociological, economic impacts of
engineering work to lead engineers into the
f. Showing by example that a teamwork approach can
often synergistically improve overall group formulation and management of an interdisciplinary
team as a normal part of their project planning, design
performance. Enhance the ability to work as an
and implementation activity.
effective member of a design team, i.e., to learn
teamwork skills, r. Observe the close interrelation between the properties
g. Building up student confident by enabling them to and performance of engineering materials and the
design process. To expose to new generation
take responsibility in making decisions through out
materials exhibiting smartness, and the selection of
the development process
materials based on properties needed. The
h. Prepare students to work in a high technology
theoretical and practical components of the
environment, and emphasizing on real world hands on
curriculum should be integrated so that the topics for
experience rather than idealized abstractions. This
the lectures emerge from the direction that the (small,
should be reflected by the use of some of the widely
medium, and large) projects are taking. The projects
available software and hardware at industry. It is
should be designed to lead students to develop a
aimed that graduates be immediately useful to their
greater interest in engineering and the teaching, and
employers and to boost their confident at early stages
reflects more closely real needs. Progress and
of employment.
diversity are featured the projects. This enables the Conference on Systems, Man and Cybernetics
student to build upon the knowledge and skills that (SMC’97), 1997, pp. 2063-2068.
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subjecting them to new challenges through diversity. in Engineering Programs”, Proceedings of First Baltic
There was a significant evidence of the educational Sea Workshop on Education in Mechatronics.
and motivational benefits of incorporating projects Fachhochschule Kiel, 2001.
into earlier years of degree programs. This increases [3] G. G. Rgers, and L. Morgan, “A Four Year
students’ curiosity, physical understanding and Mechatronic Engineering Degree Program“,
insight. It is important to strengthen and sustain the Proceedings of Fourth Annual Conference on
quality and integrity of a targeted Mechatronic Mechatronics and Machine Vision in Practice,
program by having a peer review and professional Toowoomba, Australia, 1997, pp. 26-30.
self-regulation. At the same time, an internal review [4] V. Giurgiutiu and S. E. Lyshevski,
process presents an invaluable opportunity to analyze “Micromechatronics: Modeling, Analysis, and Design
how to conduct affairs and where to improve, where with Matlab“, CRC Press LLC, US, 2004.
necessary, the ways things been done. [5] J. Wikander and M. Törngren, “Mechatronics as an
Engineering Science”, Proceedings of International
VI. CONCLUSIONS Conference on Mechatronics, Elsevier Science , 1998.
[6] Klein, Julie Thompson and William H. Newell.
"Advancing Interdisciplinary Studies." in
Mechatronics is engineering science discipline that is Interdisciplinarity: Essays from the Literature,
opening new roads toward bright future. In reality, William H. Newell, editor. New York: College
Mechatronics opens up enormous technological Entrance Examination Board, 1998, pp. 3-22.
possibilities that would never be possible by adopting a [7] M., Stember, "Advancing the Social Sciences
traditional single disciplinary or classical sub-system Through the Interdisciplinary Enterprise", Social
based approach. Mechatronics describes the process by its Science Journal, Vol.28, No.1, 1991, pp. 1-14.
outcome, and this insight naturally lends itself to the [8] G. Schweitzer, “Mechatronics for the Design of
concept of total quality. Human-Oriented Machines”, IEEE-ASME
Mechatronics realizes the potential for new devices that Transactions on Mechatronics, Vol. 1, No. 2, June
became possible by synergizing new and different 1996, pp. 120-126.
technologies. Mechatronics is not just about achieving [9] F., Harashima,“Human Adaptive Mechatronics“, The
technological integration but it involves aspects of 10th IEEE International Conference on Emerging
organization, training, management, and developing Technologies and Factory Automation, Italy, 2005.
personal skills. The industry is now demanding engineers [10] R., Isermann, “Mechatronics Systems – A Challenge
with great deep and wide range of knowledge, properly for Control Engineering”, Proceedings of the
trained and supported by concurrent practices through American Control Conference, 1997, pp.2617-2632.
problem and project based curriculum to meet the
challenges of interdisciplinary demand. Accordingly,
there is a critical need to identify new directions in
Mechatronics engineering education, evaluate its
curriculum, as well as to address and implement new
initiatives. Mechatronics education should be given a
significant attention, with focus on the importance of
Mechatronics approach as a philosophy and practices to
the design and development process strengthened by
balanced basic and applied theories. This will help to
formulate Mechatronics as engineering science discipline
and enhance the way in which Mechatronic paradigm can
be used to coherently solve specialized and complex
problems.
Finally, adopting and understanding the philosophy of
Mechatronics as a way of thinking in solving complex,
problems, developing effective solutions and design, and
managing resources should be considered by other
engineering and non-engineering curriculums too.

VII. REFERENCES

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