Understanding Mechatronics

Mechatronics may be one of the most dynamically developing fields in recent years; a true blend of technology and science. But the term actually goes back decades.

The word mechatronics first appeared in Japan in 1969. It was used by the Yaskawa Elektric Corporation to describe how electronic components and mechanical systems were included in precision machines. The company filed for trademark protection for the use of the term in 1971. Roughly one decade later in 1982, the firm decided to stop trying to protect the term.

Interestingly, not much of the word's meaning has changed since then. It’s just taken on a broader connotation to include the important elements of today's science. Mechatronics today includes the design, testing and operation of machinery and equipment, in which mechanical systems, electronics, and computer control are highly integrated. Essentially, it’s the science that exists at the intersection of mechanics, electronics, informatics, automation and robotics.

Perhaps the best way to understand mechatronics is to give a few examples of the everyday uses of this rapidly developing field.

Take the autofocus camera. With software and sensors, it can set the focusing point of the lens on the subject and vary the exposure and other settings of the camera according to the users' requirements.

Other examples of mechatronics can be found in many systems in your car, including fuel injection systems and anti-lock braking systems. These are areas where software applied to control mechanisms, operates a cleaner and more powerful engine and a better way to control the vehicle when it's moving or stopping.

Take a look around and chances are, mechatronics will be found at work. And as technology advances, so mechatronics are also advancing, making things work a little more smoothly.

— Frank Graff

Frank Graff is a producer/reporter with UNC-TV, focusing on North Carolina Science Now, a weekly science series that airs Wednesdays, beginning in August 2013, as part of North Carolina Now on UNC-TV. In addition to producing these special segments, Frank will provide additional information related to his stories through this North Carolina Science Now Reporter's Blog! 

Related Resources: