Mechatronics Expo helps define the field, integrate engineering disciplines

Burlington, MA—More efficient multi-discipline systems-level engineering design is closer to reality for some, after discussions at a mechatronics event. Three Reed Business Information business-to-business publications (Design News, EDN, and Control Engineering) worked together to organize the first ever Mechatronics Expo, held at the Boston Marriott Burlington here on Oct. 9, 2007. The event included displays by a number of vendors and an all-day conference program.

10/12/2007


Burlington, MA —More efficient multi-discipline systems-level engineering design is closer to reality for some, after discussions at a mechatronics event.

Design News

,

EDN

, and

Control Engineering

) worked together to organize the first ever Mechatronics Expo, held at the Boston Marriott Burlington here on Oct. 9, 2007. The event included displays by a number of vendors and an all-day conference program.


Engineering with the mechatronics paradigm requires a balanced approach. Source: Kevin Craig and Control Engineering

In his keynote speech, Kevin Craig, professor of

Mechanical Engineering at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute

in Troy, NY, set the conference tone at a high level by discussing the problem engineers face designing today’s technically advanced systems. In more instances than not, devices now include mechanical, electrical, and electronic elements integrated by advanced computer-automated controls. Engineers traditionally trained within separate mechanical, electrical, computer science, and control disciplines lack the interdisciplinary backgrounds needed to integrate all of the technologies required efficiently. Craig suggested that the solution requires a new engineering curriculum that teaches a systems approach based on a balance between theory (modeling and analysis) and practice (experimental verification and hardware implementation) that cuts across traditional engineering disciplines. He said that academics need the help of industry leaders and practicing engineers to define this new curriculum.

During the breakout sessions, Nipun Mather and Brian MacCleery of

National Instruments

described efforts to integrate software tools for design, simulation, and manufacturing in mechanical, electronic, and control environments. They said some tools are working together well, but more work has to be done. Mark Sampson and Gerry Deren of Siemens/UGS talked about tools to help integrate design, manufacturing, and management activities across the product life cycle.

Microchip Technology

’s John Day teamed with Eric Larson of system integrator ITW Ark-Les to describe using mechatronic methods to develop small embedded systems, such as home thermostats for consumer applications. Razvan Panaitescu shared stories about how his Application Development and Mechatronic Support team within

Siemens Energy and Automation

have used mechatronic methods to help Siemens customers solve complex machine design problems that could not be tackled any other way.

The closing panel session, moderated by John Dodge, editor in chief of Design News, included the six mechatronics experts who led the breakout sessions. Panelists fielded questions from attendees in a free-form discussion. Both panelists and attendees reached a consensus that mechatronics still in an early stage of development and should grow to become the dominant method for product development, enveloping and integrating traditional separate engineering disciplines. One attending reminded all that the emphasis on mechanical, electrical, and control engineering disciplines must be expanded to include additional hard-science topics, such as materials and chemical engineering, if it is to achieve its full promise.

The discussion then turned to what factors may be holding back advancement of mechatronics adoption in large and small companies. A consensus arose that the dominant factors were cultural within companies and within society as a whole. Most importantly, a lack of positive role models was cited as the biggest factor preventing bright, energetic youngsters from seeking careers in engineering disciplines.

Also read, from Control Engineering :

Actuators: Choosing the right technology



4 tips for motion control

And, from Reed Business Information, visit the

MechatronicsZone

.

C.G. Masi, senior editor
Control Engineering Daily News Desk
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