Mechatronics - more questions than answers
Since the introduction of mechatronics as an integrated and integrating approach to the design, development and operation of complex systems, there have been significant developments in technology, and in particular in processing power, which have changed the nature of a wide range of products and systems from domestic appliances and consumer goods to manufacturing systems and vehicles. In addition, the development and implementation of strategies such as those associated with concurrent engineering and the introduction of intelligent tools to support the design of complex products and systems has also changed the way in which such systems are conceived, implemented and manufactured. The aim of the paper is not however to attempt to address or answer specific questions as to the nature of mechatronics and its current and future standing as an approach to engineering design and development, but to initiate, provoke and stimulate debate and discussion on a range of mechatronics related issues, without necessarily attempting to provide answers or suggest new methods or approaches, relating to the future potential of and directions for mechatronics. In this respect therefore, while containing an element of review, the paper is intended as a discussion document structured around the author’s personal experience and perspective of mechatronics issues. Inherent to this questioning of the ways in which mechatronics may develop are the various attempts that have taken place over the years to provide a definition of mechatronics, either in the form of text or logo and whether these efforts have of themselves been a source of confusion as to both content and direction within mechatronics? In which case, might it be preferable for mechatronics practitioners to operate within their own particular context than to attempt to conform to a specific and overarching definition? Finally, it must also be made clear that in writing this paper that complete agreement with the reader as to the particular questions raised and comments made is neither sought nor intended.