What is mechatronics?
Mechatronics, also called mechatronic engineering, is a multidisciplinary branch of engineering that focuses on the engineering of both electrical and mechanical systems, and also includes a combination of robotics, electronics, computer, systems, control, and product engineering.
Some of our students get access to mechatronics equipment through the Integrating Studies modules as part of their undergraduate degree. Other students will also come into contact with mechatronics when developing a product and require assistance from our technicians to understand how their product can work electronically and what options they have. Our technicians can provide support with developing students skills in programming and robotics.
A multipurpose power soldering device designed for electronic components soldering. This type of equipment is mostly used in electronics and electrical engineering. Our equipment below includes an extraction for solder fumes, a digital multimeter, wire cutter and wire stripper, solder, de-solder tool and a soldering iron.
Student projects - Buggy race
An example of a project which gives students access to gaining mechatronic skills is within their first year Integrating Studies module. The brief is for each team to make a buggy which they think will be the fastest and most creative, which fits over the same electronic base (for consistency between teams) with the aim to win in a competitive race against all of the other student teams. The first semester provides students with access to all of the workshops to machine and manufacture their buggy. Semester two is for body work and electronics before the final competition. Below is an example from 2019 which shows the controller and electronic base each team have to work with, and the final images show one teams final racing entrant.
Student projects - Storm the Castle
Another example where our students integrate mechatronics into their studies is during 'Storm the Castle' a game within our third year Integrating Studies module where students work in teams and have to build a machine which they programme to register and follow certain markings along the ground to make its way around the arena, knocking down the correct staff members for points. It is a great experience for our students and gains real team spirit!
Our department is also home to the Space Mechatronic Systems Technology Laboratory (SMeSTech).
Work in this field advances research in space related robotic, vision, and mechatronic technology and systems development.
This is achieved by generating novel conceptual solutions for space exploitation which require high-level intelligence, fast response and efficiency.
Research expertise includes:
- model based decision making
- operations planning
- visual object recognition & tracking
- the design of novel & smart mechanisms for space mechatronic systems
Design and development tools include the GeMoCure modular design tool, the 3 pillars of mechatronic design, the DeCoSolver constraint-based multidisciplinary design tool, and the ProConDes and Schemebuilder function modelling systems.
SMeSTech also uses an Ethernet and EtherCAT network of three industrial robots, several embedded processors, and 2-D and 3-D cameras including a stereo Random Point Projection system for identifying and interacting with objects in real time.
These components are used in concert for development of intelligent automated systems, visual and sensory navigation and docking systems, and manipulation tasks. Machine shop facilities and rapid-prototyping laboratories provide a variety of fabrication and testing options for prototype hardware.
Fun robotics project
One of our projects involved helping a local cake making business revolutionise their production line, by building them a robot that could consistently shape their cakes and move them down the production line.
Other DMEM mechatronics equipment
Other equipment in our mechatronics facilities include:
- Haptic Robotic Arm
- Scanning Laser Rangefinder