Evolution of Mechatronics
Mechanical engineering products and systems that employ some form of electrical engineering principles and devices have been developed and used since the early part of the 20th century. These systems included the automobile, electric typewriter, aircraft, and elevator. Some of the power sources used in these systems were not necessarily electrical, but there were batteries and/or the conversion of thermal power into electricity through generators. These electromechanical systems were not mechatronic systems because they did not use an integrated approach characterizing mechatronics for their analysis, design, development, and implementation.
Rapid advances in electromechanical devices and systems were possible particularly due to developments in control engineering, which began for the most part in the early 1950s, and still more rapid advances in digital computer and communication as a result of integrated circuit (IC) and microprocessor technologies, starting from the late 1960s. With these advances, engineers and scientists felt the need for an integrated multidisciplinary approach to design and hence a mechatronic approach. Yasakawa Electric in Japan was the first to coin the term mechatronics, for which the company obtained a trademark in 1972. Subsequently, in 1982, the company released the trademark rights. Even though a need for mechatronics was felt even in those early times, no formal discipline and educational programs existed for engineers to be educated and trained in this area. Research and development activities, mainly in automated transit systems and robotics in the 1970s and 1980s, undoubtedly paved the way for the evolution of the field of mechatronics. With today’s sophisticated technologies of mechanics and materials, analog and digital electronics, sensors, actuators, controllers, electromechanical design, and micro-electromechanical systems (MEMS) with embedded sensors, actuators, and microcontrollers, the field of mechatronics has attained a good degree of maturity. Now, many universities around the world offer undergraduate and graduate programs in mechatronic engineering, which have become highly effective and popular among students, instructors, employees, and employers alike.