Rapid Mechatronic Prototyping 🧰

Ways you can quickly create a mechatronic prototype
May 26, 2023

‍Mechatronics is the reunion of two words, mechanics and electronics, it describes the implementation of electronics in mechanical systems with the intent to improve their features, quality, and precision.

Manufacturers today are using a mechatronics-based approach to integrate the electronic, mechanical, and software components of their products. As these products become more complex, mastering the different domains that mechatronics brings together is of major importance.

Digital prototyping allows disparate engineering teams to work together on a single digital model, thereby reducing errors throughout the design process. To try and answer the demand for continuous innovation, businesses have started thinking of ways to accelerate their development, specifically finding new ways to incorporate electronic elements into their product.

The ongoing trend in the automotive industry is a prime example, the car’s cost increase for electronics has been going up by roughly 8.3% per year, the proportion attributed to mechanical systems has decreased by an average of 3.2% per year. These trends are consistent across all industries and showcase the need for rapid mechatronic prototyping.

Why should you make a prototype?

Considering a mechatronics prototype can have a few benefits :

Add more features and functions. Electronic elements can help you add features that a simple mechanic piece can’t have. Think about the different sensors that can be implemented to improve the functions of the device. These can be temperature-related, sound-related etc… For example, you could add biometric authentication to your system or record the production of your mechanical device.

Reduce the weight, size, and cost of your product. Electronics can also help you reduce the overall size of your system, condensing a large set of gears and rotors to a few lines of code or implementing a foldable circuit board to fit in a small case. As you replace the mechanical components of your system with electronics you’ll realize that most of the time, this replacement at a large scale will cost you less money and will also make each unit cheaper.

Improve overall efficiency. Most electronic components can give you real-time information and accurate calculations, making your mechatronics device more efficient.

Use adaptive control and diagnostics to improve reliability and reduce maintenance costs. Implementing electronics can help improve and add features to your device but it can also help control the aspects of your product, controlling the productivity of your device, its reliability, and more. This can be done through the implementation of a vibration sensor, temperature sensor and sound sensor, any spike in temperature, vibration, or sound from the system could result in an imminent failure that can be determined before it happens. Saving you time and money in the process as you can prepare for it.

Update products by reprogramming the embedded firmware. The main feature of electronic products is that their software can be improved and revised. If your device is also connected to the internet you can even think of modifying your software after having sold the device. This feature can provide new features even once the product is finished.

How do you make a mechatronic prototype?

Having a working prototype will help your team have a bigger picture of the project and where its heading thanks to feedback from your users or client. That prototype then has to be improved to match what you and the customer have agreed on.

Reaching a prototype quickly is therefore a very important aspect of development, we’ll try and go over methods that can help you quicken your development and quickly reach a mechatronic prototype.

Experience. As you develop projects, your experience is extremely valuable, it will help you understand the concepts that apply to a specific industry. You’ll also understand the implicit needs of your user, what he thought was obvious or what he forgot to tell you about.

You will also be in a position to apply a certain technology instead of another one because it works best with the approach you choose to take and the overall theme of the project.

Multi-Disciplinary Collaboration. Mechatronics is all about electronics and mechanics but the reality is you will face a lot more domains: design, 3D renders, software programming, and more. Having a multi-disciplinary team can help you keep up to date with the different methods used in each domain and how they work.

In-House Capabilities. Focus on rapid development means you can’t waste too much time, one aspect that can help you save a lot of time is ensuring you have the necessary equipment in your workplace, think about 3D printers, laser cutters, and devices to help you build your circuit boards will help you tremendously in that aspect.

Reusability. One way to create your devices more rapidly is to reuse part of your other projects, this requires experience and a careful understanding of what parts have to be built from the ground up, what can be reused, and what can be a rough mock-up.

Keep in mind when building a prototype, your focus should be on achieving a functional device that showcases the basic functionalities and gives an impression of your idea. It’s okay to pick previous bits and pieces, it might be the design of your device, some software, or the configuration of a sensor. Reuse as much as possible to save precious time.

The demand for mechatronic devices has steadily increased over the past decade and the need for rapid prototypes keeps increasing. You can set yourself up for success in this field with the few tips we’ve mentioned. Don’t forget, you’re trying to build an initial prototype, the point isn’t to get all the details right, focus on the essential and what the customer might want to check first: the problematic points.

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