Mechatronic Research and Development

(combinations of "mechanical" and "electronics")

mechatronics (pl) (used in the singular) (noun)
A blend of mechanics and electronics, mechatronics has come to mean the combined use of precision engineering, control theory, computer science, and sensor and actuator technology to design and to improve products and processes.

The word was first coined by a senior engineer of a Japanese company; Yaskawa, in 1969, as a combination of mecha of "mechanisms" and tronics of "electronics" and the company was granted the trademark rights to the word in 1971.

The word soon received broad acceptance in industry and, in order to allow its free use, Yaskawa elected to abandon its rights to the word in 1982.

Mechatronics has taken a wider meaning since then and is now being widely used as a technical jargon to describe a philosophy in engineering technology, more than the technology itself.

For this wider concept of mechatronics, a number of definitions has been proposed, differing in the particular characteristics that the definition is intended to emphasize.

The most commonly used term emphasizes synergy: "Mechatronics is the synergistic integration of mechanical engineering with electronics and intelligent computer control in the design and manufacture of products and processes."

Detailed Explanations of Mechatronics

Mechatronics is nothing new; it is simply the application of the latest techniques in precision mechanical engineering, controls theory, computer science, and electronics to the design process to create more functional and adaptable products.

This, of course, is something many forward-thinking designers and engineers have been doing for years.

The vaguely awkward word was first coined in Japan some 30 years ago. Since then, mechatronics has come to denote a synergistic blend of mechanics and electronics.

The word's meaning is somewhat broader than the traditional term electromechanics, which to many connotes the use of electrostatic or electromagnetic devices.

It is also a continually evolving concept with 1,001 definitions, many of which are so broad or so narrow to be of seemingly marginal use.

Mechatronics is more than semantics. It's a significant design trend that has a marked influence on the product-development process, international competition in manufactured goods, the nature of mechanical engineering education in coming years, and quite probably the success mechanical engineers will have in becoming team leaders or engineering managers.

The Roots of Mechatronics

Mechatronics was first used in terms of the computer control of electric motors by an engineer at Japan's Yaskawa Electric Co. in the late 1960s.

The word has remained popular in Japan, and has been in general use in Europe for many years. Although mechatronics has been slow to gain industrial and academic acceptance as a field of study and practice in Great Britain and the United States, its increasingly prominent place worldwide is shown by the growing number of undergraduate and postgraduate mechatronics courses now being offered by educational institutions.

Many engineers are convinced that mechatronics grew out of robotics. Early robotic arms, then unable to coordinate their movements and without sensory feedback, benefited greatly from advances in kinematics, dynamics, controls, sensor technology, and high-level programming.

The same battery of modern technologies that made robots more flexible and thus more useful was then brought to bear on the design of new generations of high-performance, adaptable machinery of all kinds.

  • In the 1970s, mechatronics was concerned mostly with servo technology used in products such as automatic door openers, vending machines, and autofocus cameras.
  • Simple in implementation, the approach encompassed the early use of advanced control methods.
  • In the 1980s, as information technology was introduced, engineers began to embed microprocessors in mechanical systems to improve their performance.
  • Numerically controlled machines and robots became more compact, while automotive applications such as electronic engine controls and antilock-braking systems became widespread.
  • By the 1990s, communications technology was added to the mix, yielding products that could be connected in large networks.
  • This development made functions such as the remote operation of robotic manipulator arms possible.
  • At the same time, new, smaller (even microscale) sensor and actuator technologies are being used increasingly in new products.
  • Microelectromechanical systems; such as, the tiny silicon accelerometers that trigger automotive air bags, are examples of the latter use.
—Compiled from information located at
"Getting a hold on mechatronics" by Steven Ashley, Associate Editor;
The American Society of Mechanical Engineers; May 1, 1997.

Arrow pointing to words and info sections Also see this new related field of technology currently identified as: biomechatronics.

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A cross reference of word units that are related, directly and/or indirectly, with "electricity": electro-; galvano-; hodo-; ion-; piezo-; -tron; volt; biomechatronics, info.