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Mechatronics as a field of research: interdisciplinary solutions for future production


Interdisciplinary solutions for future production

Mechatronics is one of our core areas of expertise. It combines the traditional disciplines of mechanical engineering, electrical engineering and information technology with the goal of improving the functionality of technical systems. Find out more about this field of research.

The requirements of flexible, adaptive, economic production of the future dictate the challenges for factory and process automation. We meet these challenges using the interdisciplinary approaches of mechatronics. Our research in the field of mechatronics is targeted at optimizing the functionality of systems and intelligent components from the modular product system, and developing innovative solution methods.

“Mechatronics is not a new profession. It’s a way of thinking.” [J. van Amerongen, University of Twente 1989] This is our definition of mechatronics as well. Because in addition to technical aspects, solutions for complex problems necessitate a networked, interdisciplinary work procedure. Cooperative development for and with the customer means support throughout the entire engineering process – from planning and development of the process right on up to commissioning.

Control technology

Control technology already plays an important role for innovative and intelligent products and the significance of controlled systems will further increase for automation technology in the future. Control technology is a critical core competence for mastering complex and yet flexible systems. It’s used both in individual components and automated installations.

In mechatronics research, we address control technology across the board in an interdisciplinary fashion from basic research right on up to actual implementation. The spectrum of applications ranges from proportional valves and controlled pneumatic and electric axes all the way up to industrial robots. And thus amongst other things, our research department has developed control technology for the Bionic Handling Assistant and the BionicCobot.

Simulation technology

Simulation technology, in particular the simulation of dynamic systems, is a specialist discipline which is used during all phases from mechatronic design in product development and the hardware-in-the-loop method for complex controller tests, right on up to virtual systems commissioning.

Valves, pneumatic and electric actuators and axes, custom handling systems and robot applications are dynamically simulated in different stages of fine-tuning during the course of our research. We conduct efficient dynamic system analyses and product optimizations with the help of simulation studies. The simulation models also act as a basis for designing controlled systems and real-time simulations for hardware-in-the-loop test scenarios.

Software development, embedded systems

The intelligence of technical components and systems lies in microprocessors, which are virtually the brains of technical products. The actual intelligence, however, is in the algorithms and processes which are implemented in various programming languages and executed on the microprocessors and control systems. Smart, highly functional and networkable products would no longer be conceivable today without integrated, i.e. embedded software. The software portion of mechatronic products will continue to increase in future.

Our research in the field of embedded software deals with a broad range of programming based on microprocessors and control systems: we use FPGA programming for highly dynamic, specific functionality. Complex functions are implemented in C, a high-level programming language. We’re also involved with application programming for PLCs. Where programming and coding are concerned, we rely upon modern, model-based development tools and tools for automatic code generation, as well as the most up-to-date, model-based development tools available in the field of information technology.

Network components

Modern automation concepts are making it necessary to integrate more and more functions. This involves, for example, more computing power and sensory capabilities. Intensive and well-coordinated interaction, i.e. networking of intelligent system components, makes it possible for mechatronic systems to be efficiently commissioned and operated. The transfer of technical information must be reliably and consistently ensured from simple sensor signals at the lower component level all the way up to complex messages at the control level.

Within this context, our research department is dealing with modern methods for wireless information transmission and the associated challenges with regard to data security. Furthermore, various approaches to standardized data formats within the context of the Industrial Internet of Things are being examined and co-developed.

Custom handling systems and robots

Modern handling systems and robots require optimized interplay amongst mechanical components, power and control electronics, and control technology. In terms of a model-supported mechatronic design, simulation technology, control engineering and technology are taken advantage of in the field of custom handling systems.

Within the context of of customer projects, our research department develops custom handling systems and robotics solutions using Festo components, and also provides basic elements for the Festo modular system for handling and assembly technology. We examine new approaches to human-robot collaboration and the development of flexible robot joints for interaction with people within the framework of our basic research, for which pneumatic and electric actuator technology is made use of.