Due to the strong lead that the Japanese had in robotics research, development and commercialization in the 1980s, the original Japanese Technology Evaluation Program (JTECH)1 chose mechatronics to be one of the original four areas to be evaluated. The study was completed in March 1985. During the past 12 years, WTEC (JTECH's successor organization) has completed several studies in areas closely related to mechatronics. These include: Rapid Prototyping (1997); Human-Computer Interaction (1996); Optoelectronics (1996); Electronic Manufacturing and Packaging (1995); Microelectromechanical Systems (1994); Advanced Manufacturing Technology for Polymer Composite Structures (1994); Knowledge-Based Systems (1993); and Material Handling Technologies (1993).
Based on this pilot inquiry, the author believes a repeat ITRI study of all of "mechatronics" would be too broad, but a select set of subtopics from mechatronics could be chosen for full-scale studies. These could include: automation in the automobile industry, industrial machinery and numerically controlled (NC) systems, product integration and manufacturing in consumer electronics, and finally mechatronics as used by the semiconductor industry. Areas of investigation could include university/government/industry cooperation, social/cultural changing in manufacturing and the impact of information technology on mechatronics. Some potential sites for these studies to cover might include the following: