Mechatronics Engineering is a new focus area in engineering that promises to become even more important inthe future. It is a combination of Mechanical Engineering, electronics and computer systems. A typical Mechatronics system is characterized by close integration of the mechanical components (e.g. mechanical links, gears, motors, drive trains, etc.), electrical sensors (e.g. sensors for position, speed, light and temperature measurement), mechanical and electrical actuators (e.g. linear and rotating electrical motors, hydraulic cylinders and flow control valves) and computer controllers (e.g. custom-built controllers, personal computers and PLC's) into products and systems useful to man and society. In order to combine all these elements in an optimalway(cost effective, flexible, and with the highest performance), engineers must have insight into each of these disciplines. These new breed of engineers are called Mechatronics Engineers. Infuture, Mechatronics Engineers will play a key role in the design, development, manufacture and operation of a wide variety of products: from video players and automatic cameras, from smart wells to intelligent systems, from automated well rig to smart structures, to robots and fully automated plants for manufacturing, packaging, and the process industries, etc.
A Mechatronics Engineer is a person who exploits a synergy between mechanics and electronics to design, construct and maintain improved product and processes. The products and processes may be as common as “smarter” or as innovative as fully automated assembly for mass production. A Mechatronics Engineer can work comfortably and competently with the cutting edge electrical and mechanical engineering in a wide variety of disciplines, either as a part of a team or on their own.
Mechatronics is not just electro-mechanical systems, but it involves the major element of intelligence through computing embedded in machines. It was the Japanese some 30 years ago who coined the term Mechatronics in identifying a skill in their drive to make better robots. Europe took a more integrative approach to Mechatronics and has been actively using the term for up to 25 years. The USA has been a slow starter and had Mechatronics programs going for the last 15 years. Asia, apart from Japan, has seen fast emerging program in Mechatronics Engineering in established universities such as Singapore since 1991, Hong Kong since 1992 and Malaysia since 1994. In Australia the program started since 1997. In Gulf and Middle-east, the programs is offered at two universities in Jordan and at American University of Sharjah. UAE university is also working on to introduce this in Mechanical Engineering Department.
This program proved particularly popular all over the world, so much so that quotas are sometimes applied. It is heartening to see students do so well motivated, in this discipline, as they grapple with the interaction between mechanical, electronic and computing constraints in making intelligent machines. Because there is an end product, so well contained and obvious, Mechatronics helps the student maintain focus, a feature that is often missing from other academic endeavors.
The industries of Oman are also diversified with a strong presence in the field of Petroleum and related services. These industries are also shifting more towards smart systems (smart wells, smart structures, intelligent communication, etc.), intelligent monitoring, automated operations and flexible manufacturing. In addition the new equipment, whether a machine or measurement device, have some kind of automation or intelligence embedded in it through an integration of mechanics, electronics and computing. A traditional mechanical or electrical or computer working in such kind of environment faces a problem due to lack of sufficient knowledge in other disciplines. A Mechatronics Engineer is well suited for these applications. It is high time for the university to cater the need of the industries of Oman in this emerging field so that the country can progress well as before. In addition, the demand for such kind of engineers can be fulfilled within inside Oman rather than sourcing it from overseas.
In brief, the Mechatronics Program courses focus mainly on:
§ A systemic approach for mechanical and electrical systems.
§ Control systems and robotics.
§ Computer interfacing and control of mechanical systems.
§ Instrumentation and measurements.