Mechatronic systems are devices that have fewer mechanical parts because of the integration of sensors, circuits, and motion components such as actuators. Hydraulic servo motors, wire triggered transmissions, robots, and even washing machines controlled by logic circuits are examples of such devices. Mechatronics combines various disciplines in engineering, including mechanics, computing, control, and electronics, to build more reliable and less expensive machinery. Circuits and other information technology components often aid in the precise control of such products.
Companies that specialize in mechatronic systems often manufacture automation machinery and robotics. Some of them can build high-tech aviation systems or energy production systems on a small scale. Miniature motors and actuators that integrate into motion control systems are typically included in the category as well. Some magnetic actuators can produce motion on a microscopic scale, which is often useful in manufacturing integrated circuits or other small components.
Small motors are also mechatronic systems that can last a long time and be strong enough to be used in industrial environments. Some piezoelectric motors are suited for small medical devices and laboratory automation systems. Others can be built into microscopes, digital imaging systems, and machines used to manufacture circuits. Sensors made for cars are a form of mechatronics, and so are ultrasonic processors integrated into industrial cutting, welding, and dispersion applications.
Microcomputers are usually integrated into mechatronic systems, along with microprocessors and sensors. Most of the systems rely on signals to be transmitted, based on external feedback such as temperature or position, to a communications component. A central processing unit and software often use mathematical functions to create a signal that is output to a signal conditioner. In a feedback module, a signal proportional to the output can be produced, and passed on to a measurement unit where it is compared to the original external signals.
Mechatronic systems are typically those that can respond and react to the external environment on their own. They are sometimes expensive to manufacture and purchase, and the complex array of parts can lead to failures. The availability of mechatronics jobs is on the rise in many places, as of the early 21st century. Employment in the field usually requires knowledge in electronic, mechanical, and control engineering as well as information technology. Higher education, at the bachelor’s, master’s, or doctorate level, or a certificate is generally important; a career can focus on a specific aspect of engineering, management, or software development.