Special Issue on Mechatronics
Professor, Kanazawa Institute of Technology 7-1, Ohgigaoka, Nonoich, Kanazawa-South, Ishikawa 921, Japan
Mechatronics is a term created to represent the total technology of mechanisms and electronics. Mechanical engineering dealing with mechanisms has a very long history. Its recent organic combination with electronics has certainly brought about a striking advance in the functions and performance of machines. This striking advance lay in the background of the creation of the new term “mechatronics”. The initiation of mechatronics was no doubt due to the advent of NC machine tools. NC machine tools were accomplished by fusing mechanisms with servo unit drives and computer techniques. The technique using them was somewhat innovative in that servo units were driven by digital computer signals. Mechatronics is considered as essential to develop peripheral machines for computers such as plotters, printers and magnetic memories, and as an application to wire bonding machines and X-ray exposing machines in semiconductor manufacturing processes. For such machines, increasingly higher speed and accuracy are likely to be required, and engineering developments are actively underway accordingly. This special issue was planned to present the current status and recent trends of mechatronic research arid development in Japan. The contents can be classified into three categories. First, bearings and actuators as basic mechatronic elements are featured. For bearings, trends of research and development on magnetic types which permit ultrahigh-speed rotation and operation in vacuum in particular were chosen. For actuators, recent examples of research and development on ultrasonic motors, linear motors and piezoelectric actuators were selected. Second, this issue presents examples of development in the area of X-ray steppers, memory medium handling systems, and polygonal scanners. These are frontier mechatronic systems and the descriptions will be of some help in recognizing future problems in development. Finally, some studies from the point of view of force-torque control were selected. While conventional mechatronic control studies are primarily concerned with position and speed control, force-torque control is expected to become an important trend. I hope that this special issue will be helpful in recognizing the current situation and future trends of mechatronics, and contribute to future developments in this area.