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Mechanical Engineering. 2008;130(06):24-29. doi:10.1115/1.2008-JUN-1.
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This paper explains the concept of mechatronics and tries to resolve problem of leadership. It consists of four overlapping circles: mechanical systems, electronic systems, control systems, and computers. Their overlaps form digital control systems, control electronics, electromechanics, and mechanical computer-aided design. The question of who owns mechatronics—who will lead the development of next-generation electromechanical systems—often depends on where engineers work. Companies that make mechanical systems tend to let mechanical engineers lead; those that make electronics assign the lead to software and electrical engineers. In the future, though, the issue may be decided by how colleges train the next generation of mechanical engineers. Right now, most schools teach controls, basic electronics, and programming as part of the mechanical engineering curriculum. Universities are introducing courses with a goal to integrate courses so that electrical, control, and mechanical engineers learn how different disciplines use the same core knowledge to achieve different results.

Commentary by Dr. Valentin Fuster
Mechanical Engineering. 2008;130(06):30-34. doi:10.1115/1.2008-JUN-2.
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This paper discusses development of new tools that can help mechanical engineers avoid common pitfalls in designing complex mechatronic motion control systems. To help facilitate a more integrated design process for electromechanical systems, software developers are partnering with electrical and control design companies to add motion simulation capabilities to computer-aided design (CAD) environments to create a more unified mechatronics workflow. Integrating motion simulation with CAD simplifies design because the simulation uses information that already exists in the CAD model, such as assembly mates, couplings, and material mass properties. Simulations also simplify evaluating engineering trade-offs between different conceptual designs. The paper also highlights that several web-based motor-sizing tools have been designed to help sort through the thousands of choices, and some include motor data from multiple vendors. Using realistic multiaxis motion profiles to drive simulation can provide more accurate torque and velocity requirements, which depend on the acceleration characteristics of your motion profiles and the mass, friction, and gear ratio properties of the transmission.

Commentary by Dr. Valentin Fuster
Mechanical Engineering. 2008;130(06):36-39. doi:10.1115/1.2008-JUN-3.
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This article highlights key points of the Mechanical Engineering Global Summit. According to the participants, much of the future for mechanical engineers will involve integrating systems of all kinds. Throughout the discussions at the meeting, numerous comments concerned the increasingly interdisciplinary nature of engineering practice. Experts believe that vertical farms, for instance, could use hydroponics and other means to take farming indoors, where it could be carried out in multitiered structures. If technology like this could be made practical, it could multiply the area available for agriculture. A multibillion-dollar experiment in sustainable living has been proposed for the United Arab Emirates. The initiative hopes to create a high-tech city that will have zero emissions and be entirely self-sustaining. One of the proposals is to restructure engineering education and to prepare engineers the way lawyers and doctors are trained: a four-year liberal arts education in preparation for the professional degree in postgraduate study.

Commentary by Dr. Valentin Fuster
Mechanical Engineering. 2008;130(06):40-42. doi:10.1115/1.2008-JUN-4.
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This paper describes features of a software that translates bill of materials (BOM) information into formats other systems can use readily. According to experts, an automated system can reduce operator error when moving numbers between software systems. The developers have entered a heretofore little-known software space, which lurks between the BOM and various company systems. In order to truly make use of BOM, many manufacturers must turn to third-party software that not only automates the transfer of data, but also translates information between systems. Third-party software, such as that from Logic Design Corp. of Pewaukee, Wisconsin, ties together manufacturing technologies. The software is particularly useful at engineer-to-order operations. The article also illustrates that the enterprise resource planning (ERP) system is a rich storehouse of information that can be analyzed from a number of angles to get an overall sense of company operations. Many companies rely on ERP information for important tasks such as scheduling manufacturing jobs and ordering parts. This is where tightly integrating BOM and ERP can be a boon to engineering companies.

Commentary by Dr. Valentin Fuster

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