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17 comments

Mechatronics: Real or Marketing Hype

Posted February 12, 2009 8:15 AM

Look up a definition of mechatronics and you'll see something along the lines of: designing automation using mechanical and electrical engineering. Examples include aspects of nanotechnology, material science, and a host of other disciplines that further complicate an already complicated issue. Do you think the combination of mechanical and electronic design will ever be truly accomplished in one step (rather than one group designing around the other), taught as a single discipline in the classroom, enabled by new generations of engineering software, or ever really impact traditional manufacturing operations?

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#1

Re: Mechatronics: Real or Marketing Hype

02/12/2009 10:00 AM

Short answer, no.

In the process of taking two disciplines into one means that something has to be left out or you have to almost double the program length. In the end you get people who really do not know enough about either discipline to be creative enough to accomplish anything, but who will think they know it all...

Sad, but true.

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#4
In reply to #1

Re: Mechatronics: Real or Marketing Hype

02/12/2009 11:33 PM

Hi,

In response to 'Dances with Trees', I've just recently completed a degree in mechatronics and started work. I'm not suffering from delusions of grandure, thinking that I know it all, but am fully aware that my training in electronic and mechanical engineering disciplines is by no means comprehensive. The degree focused on the interface between and synegies of mechanical and electronic components, rather than attempting to cover all the mechanical and electronic principles presented in two degrees. Basically, if you want to control mechanical objects with electronic components, a mechatronic engineer will do the job. I've found that its given me a good base for further learning in mechanical and electrical disciplines. While we don't know as much about either single discipline when we leave uni, it gives us a good foundation to eventually understand both disciplines through learning undertaken in the workplace. Also I've found that we're generally the best choice for automatic control jobs, especially for small companies, as we have the basic training to model the mechanical dynamics of the plant (which electrical engineers don't generally know about), design an appropriate controller, then select and program the electronic harware to implement the control algorithms (which mechanical engineers don't generally know about).

So in summary, the course isn't designed to replace the individual disciplines, but occupy a niche between them, also giving the graduate more scope for a diverse career in the future (whether they prefer mechanical or electronic engineering later down the track).

If you're looking for a course to study at uni, mechatronics is a completely valid choice (which I thoroughly enjoyed).

Kind Regards,

Dave

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#2

Re: Mechatronics: Real or Marketing Hype

02/12/2009 11:14 PM

Short answer, yes.

In variable speed drive systems, if you want any performance at all, you need a sound understanding of electronics, mechanics, and software.

And most important, knowing your limitations and calling in help on the parts you are weak on. I often see the mechanical and electrical engineers working together to produce the best results.

Know your limitations!

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#3

Re: Mechatronics: Real or Marketing Hype

02/12/2009 11:19 PM

I didn't like the term when I first heard it. It seems like a bogus marketing ploy to me. I just don't see the need to group two areas that should already be taught and make up a new name for it as if it didn't exist before. There's nothing new there, we've been doing it for a very long time and nobody was confused because it didn't have a name. Or maybe it did, I mean what is lacking in the term ELECTROMECHANICAL?

So tell me, what about something mechatronic is different enough that electromechanical doesn't cover it? Oh, because we use electronics to control it, like we do with everything else in the world? The my refrigerator is regrigatronic? My camera is not optotronic and my automobile is automobilatronic? My washer and dryer are now laudrytronics. Yes, yes, we should give equal treatment to all these other surprisingly new disciplines we didn't realize existed. Just superfluous labels, surely we don't lack of those.

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#5
In reply to #3

Re: Mechatronics: Real or Marketing Hype

02/13/2009 12:02 AM

mmm, I hear where you're coming from 'rcapper'... electromechanical engineer is just as valid, if not intuitive. It is a bit frustrating having to explain to everyone who asks what you do exactly what a mechatronic engineer actually is. Though when you clarify the issue by saying; "i design robots" ...

it goes a long way towards making up for it! :D

For me, its definately a case of 'a rose by any other name'.

Kind Regards,

Dave

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#7
In reply to #3

Re: Mechatronics: Real or Marketing Hype

02/13/2009 5:44 AM

Not just a good answer...a great answer...(with a nice hint of grumpiness)
there is too much bigging up of our fine language (the 'bigging up' is joke folks)
Del

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#8
In reply to #7

Re: Mechatronics: Real or Marketing Hype

02/13/2009 7:18 AM

"there is too much bigging up of our fine language"

I like that answer too.

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#9
In reply to #3

Re: Mechatronics: Real or Marketing Hype

02/13/2009 8:46 AM

I also gave GA. Can only add that even here on cr4 this terminology issue had been raised twice (on my memory at least):

http://cr4.globalspec.com/blogentry/6983#newcomments

http://cr4.globalspec.com/blogentry/6983#newcomments

In my opinion it's not likely about to improve real quality of specialists but rather to make broader and attractively looked UNI's/colleges' curriculums.

This term-game had been played out as very widely scaled at past in my land when we'd been once inundated the avalanche of endless specializations based on electromech. I'm sure it was one of main reasons why ours educational system had ended up as simply plighted. Now we're trying get things back. I'm afraid too late.

I'm sure it does no matter how it'd been called if teachers' stuff is experienced, skilled and innovative when students are gifted and well motivated.

Nevertheless, have all respect to those who's been already graduated as mechatronic engineers and are doing their work honestly and good.

regards, caramba

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#10
In reply to #3

Re: Mechatronics: Real or Marketing Hype

02/13/2009 1:16 PM

Being a mindless drone, I'll follow along and give you a good answer, too. But I think it is a good answer mainly because I agree with your point of view and like your style. After all, in pursuit of a paradigm opportunity window in which we can team and innovate effectively while empowering our associates (who thankfully are no longer burdened with the unflattering "employee" label) it is triply essential, efficient and incumbent upon us to eschew obfuscation.

However, I think the question was more about the discipline than the word (which sucks.) And as I said above, I think there is some value in having, in one person, the ability to keep the smoke inside and also not strip the gears.

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#11
In reply to #10

Re: Mechatronics: Real or Marketing Hype

02/13/2009 1:38 PM

In a perfect world that would work, unfortunately as things evolve those who are responsible for filling positions will look to the new trend in order to impress their managers. Trendy names do that when the uninformed get involved. Instead of hiring people with one discipline and upgraded with continuing education fresh faces out of college will be chosen, because they hold that trendy degree, and it becomes a supply-demand thing. With the supply being small, collages simply churn out more bodies to meet the demand. I have no doubt that there will be many talented people holding this new degree, but like in any other situation that has arisen over the history of manufacturing that is a low number and the experienced people who do not posses the new 'title' get overlooked.

That is just the way of the world.

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#15
In reply to #11

Re: Mechatronics: Real or Marketing Hype

02/14/2009 8:04 PM

Trendy names do that when the uninformed get involved.

I could not agree more. Sometimes I'll read job listings, and practically puke. I feel a rant coming on, so I think I'll stop: But I often see job listings, and all sorts of other documents in the corporate world, that are like my sentence above that says essentially nothing in a lot of words.

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#16
In reply to #15

Re: Mechatronics: Real or Marketing Hype

02/15/2009 4:10 AM

Yeah, sometimes you can read a whole big job ad...get to end and think WTF ids that job actually for???
Del

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#17
In reply to #15

Re: Mechatronics: Real or Marketing Hype

02/15/2009 1:13 PM

I gave up counting the jobs I have not bothered to apply for because they want someone who can do literally everything and they only want to pay fresh grad type money. I read one from a government organization, looking for an Oracal DBA and only offering 60K a year, now the people I know who do this work would give them 100 hours for that money. What ever happened to experience being worth something?

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#6

Re: Mechatronics: Real or Marketing Hype

02/13/2009 1:46 AM

I've certainly met electrical engineers who are fairly clueless regarding mechanical engineering, and mechanical engineers who are clueless regarding electrical engineering. So I think there is a valid distinction to be made and a good niche to fill. Many years ago (when some new cars still had carburetors) I developed a training and education plan for Ford, who realized that their engineers would need to become less specialized (more broadly educated) to deal with the future integration of electronics into what had been purely mechanical systems. That future has, of course, arrived.

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#12

Re: Mechatronics: Real or Marketing Hype

02/13/2009 4:11 PM

I work in a small company, where all the repairs and maintenance of robots are carried out by a Mechatronic engineer (me). Without the wide range of the degree, I would have been unsuitable for this job.

In larger companies, it is probably possible to have a team which includes each separate type, but is the leader not usually the one with the widest ranging experience rather than deep knowledge of just one facet?

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#13
In reply to #12

Re: Mechatronics: Real or Marketing Hype

02/13/2009 9:39 PM

I really believe you and others mechatronic engineers are good and devoted. Agreed, working in small companies is the clue for truth testing of Who is Who.

But would you say: are just the same even "pure" mechanic engineers graduated for instance in 19s century, in 20s and right now in 21st one? Is actually "pure" mechanic engineer banned to be specialized in Uni either to study by one's own or employ those new nano-, bio-, IT- aspects of nowadays' plant environment?

I think leadership is about particular person's dignities it's not about what is written in diploma/certificate.

regards, caramba

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#14
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Re: Mechatronics: Real or Marketing Hype

02/14/2009 4:12 AM

In my experience, "pure" mechanical/electrical/electronic engineers are a thing of the past for anything other than static applications. As soon as something is driven, there must be a driver and a control system, so some experience of the other fields is essential.

To this end, the university I studied at used the same modules for all disciplines for first year, with a split towards the end of the second. This gave all students a grounding in the basics of each, and the opportunity to switch course where they had only a couple of modules to sit over the summer. These changes were made in response to employer requirements.

In most cases, those leaving uni with a single-discipline degree had little or no knowledge of the other disciplines - and as such were less likely to advance through a company's structure until the required knowledge was attained - whereas a multi-discipline degree gives that broad basis for a quicker understanding of the company's own products and systems.

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