WHAT IS MECHATRONICS?

A Japanese engineer from Yasukawa Electric Company coined the term "mechatronics" in 1969 to reflect the merging of mechanical and electrical engineering disciplines. Until the early 1980s, mechatronics meant a mechanism that is electrified. In the mid-1980s, mechatronics came to mean engineering that is the boundary between mechanics and electronics. Today, the term encompasses a large array of technologies, many of which have become well known in their own right. Each technology still has the basic element of the merging of mechanics and electronics but now also may involve much more, particularly software and information technology.

For example, many early robots resulted from mechatronics development. As robot systems became smarter, software development, in addition to the mechanical and electrical systems, became central to mechatronics.

Mechatronics gained legitimacy in academic circles in 1996 with the publication of the first refereed journal: IEEE/ASME Transactions on Mechatronics. In the premier issue, the authors worked to define mechatronics. After acknowledging that many definitions have circulated, they selected the following for articles to be included in Transactions: "The synergistic integration of mechanical engineering with electronics and intelligent computer control in the design and manufacturing of industrial products and processes."1 The authors suggested 11 topics that should fall, at least in part, under the general category of mechatronics:

Despite the growth of interest in mechatronics, the field faces several dilemmas. For example, while interest in mechatronics is on the rise, many younger people in Japan's engineering community have never heard the term used. Also, a thorough study of all areas under mechatronics as defined in that initial issue of Transactions would be very broad, and would include topics that have very little in common.


1 IEEE/ASME Transactions on Mechatronics, Volume 1, Number 1, March 1996.
Published: September 1998; WTEC Hyper-Librarian