Mechatronics is a relatively new field that combines mechanical engineering, robotics, electronics, computer engineering, telecommunications engineering, systems engineering and control engineering. Australia has already witnessed the rollout of mechatronic automation throughout the mining sector.
Mechatronic engineers work in all aspects of the development of smart robotic machines – from design, testing, building, implementation, integration, and training. This could be in industries like robotic assembly-line manufacturing, medical assistive technology, human-machine interaction, domestic labour-saving appliances, ore extraction, oil prospecting, and unmanned aerial and ground vehicles.
Some of the various aspects of mechatronics include:
- Developing solutions to industrial problems using CAD, and mechanical and electronic processes.
- Designing and building completely new vehicles by integrating various technologies, for example, developing unmanned robotic vehicles for aerial or underwater exploration or automated driver-less freight trains that can deliver ore to ports.
- Building and testing automated manufacturing and warehousing processes to improve efficiency.
- Programming software to control new mechatronic products.
Mechatronic engineers can work in companies, laboratories, processing plants, defence departments or engineering offices. They are highly skilled and must keep abreast of the latest developments in emerging fields like bioengineering, nanotechnology, artificial intelligence, materials science, and robotics.
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Expertise in Action
Experts in the field of mechatronics are required in cases and insurance claims involving accidents that involve an autonomous machine or vehicle. The mechanical designs and engineering parts may be a major factor in the cause of such accidents and experts are experienced in using their knowledge to determine the cause of such accidents. There are profound ethical dilemmas to be understood when, for example, a driver-less car causes an accident. Is the software programmer to blame or the vehicle manufacturer or the GPS data the navigation computers relied upon or the driver that assumed responsibility by entering the vehicle or the government authorities that allowed autonomous vehicles onto existing roads?
Experts in mechatronics may also be asked to offer their opinion on patent disputes in intellectual property cases.
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The overall cost of expert opinion depends on the services required. Some of the key factors that affect the cost of advice include:
- The need for a view or inspection of a location
- The quantity of documentary material to be reviewed
- Whether there are reports of other experts to be reviewed and commented on in detail
- Whether there is a need for conferences with the expert either in person or by telephone/Skype