Mechatronics, electric linear actuators and control system design
By Gary Rosengren on March 3, 2015
If you’ve been around engineering, you’ve probably heard the term “mechatronics” used to refer to a design process that blends mechanical engineering, electrical engineering, telecommunications engineering, control engineering, and computer engineering. Mechatronics is a multidisciplinary approach that rejects splitting engineering into rigidly separate fields. Originally, mechatronics just included mechanics and electronics; however, as technical systems have become more complex the word has been broadened to include more technical areas.
We design our electric linear actuators to be part of "mechatronic systems" — computer-controlled mechanical systems, systems that include both an electronic computer and electromechanical components. Most modern industrial control systems that use our linear actuators fit this description.
A holistic approach to design
Today’s automation solutions need to be faster, smarter and communicate better, so machine design engineers must take a broad view. When specifying electric linear actuators for an integrated control system that takes mechatronics principles to heart, consider these factors:
1. Application requirements for
- Service life
- Stroke length and overall length
- Accuracy and repeatability
- Life cycle cost
2. Environmental factors
- Temperature extremes
- Dust and abrasives
- Caustic solutions
3. Communication issues
- System protocols
- Sources of electrical noise
- Data to be communicated
- Timing (when; how often)
- Actions to be programmed
- Degree of control needed
Once the application’s parameters are thoroughly documented, we suggest you work closely with a motion control supplier. After all, there are many variables to consider when specifying an electric linear actuator: rod or rodless; belt or screw drive; acme, ball, or roller screw; stepper or servo motor; inline or reverse parallel motor configuration; type of controller/driver. An electric linear actuator supplier’s expertise will help you identify the best product configuration for your system.