Lecture: 12

Mechatronics is defined as:
The synergistic integration of mechanical engineering, with electronics and intelligent
computer control in the design and manufacturing of industrial products and processes.
The study of mechatronic systems can be divided into the following areas of specialty:
1. Physical Systems Modeling
2. Sensors and Actuators
3. Signals and Systems
4. Computers and Logic Systems
5. Software and Data Acquisition

General scheme of a classical mechanical – electronic system

The key elements of Mechatronics.

The Mechatronic System:
The figure below shows a typical mechatronic system with mechanical, electrical, and
computer components. The process of system data acquisition begins with the measurement of
a physical value by a sensor. The sensor is able to generate some form of signal, generally
an analog signal in the form of a voltage level or waveform. This analog signal is sent to an
analog-to-digital converter (ADC). Commonly using a process of successive approximation,
the ADC maps the analog input signal to a digital output. This digital value is composed of a
set of binary values called bits (often represented by 0s and 1s). The set of bits represents a
decimal or hexadecimal number that can be used by the microcontroller.
The microcontroller consists of a microprocessor plus memory and other attached devices.
The program in the microprocessor uses this digital value along with other inputs and
preloaded values called calibrations to determine output commands. Like the input to the
microprocessor, these outputs are in digital form and can be represented by a set of bits. A
digital-to-analog converter (DAC) is then often used to convert the digital value into an
analog signal. The analog signal is used by an actuator to control a physical device or affect
the physical environment. The sensor then takes new measurements and the process repeated,
thus completing a feedback control loop. Timing for this entire operation is synchronized by
the use of a clock.

A typical mechatronic system

Block diagram of a microcontroller

Input Signals of a Mechatronic System
Transducer/Sensor Input
All inputs to mechatronic systems come from either some form of sensory apparatus or
communications from other systems. The output of a sensor is usually an analog signal.
 Types of analog signal:
1. Voltage level with a direct correlation to the input condition (Fig.1)
2. Pulse Width Modulated (PWM) signal (Fig.2)
3. Waveform: This type of signal (Fig.3) is modulated either in its amplitude (Fig.4), or
its frequency (Fig.5). These changes reflect the changes in the condition being

Fig. 4. Amplitude Modulation

Fig. 5. Frequency Modulation

Fig.1. Voltage Levels

Fig.3. Waveform signal

Fig.2. PWM signal

Appropriate transducers convert physical phenomena into measurable signals; however, different
signals need to be measured in different ways. Signals can be categorized as analog or digital.
An analog signal can be at any value with respect to time. Examples of analog signals include
voltage, temperature, pressure, and strain. A digital signal cannot take on any value with respect
to time. Instead, a digital signal has two possible levels: high and low. Common examples of
digital measurements are for quadrature encoders and frequency detection.

Analog Measurements:
You can measure several analog measurements directly using standard data acquisition devices.
The common ranges on these devices are ±10 V for voltage or 0 to 20 mA for current. The
commonly available resolution varies from 12 to 24 bits.
At the same time, there are several sensors and transducers that output signals that cannot be
directly connected and measured by data acquisition devices and require prior conditioning.
These types of measurements include temperature using thermocouples, strain using strain gages,
or high-voltage measurements.
A thermocouple is one of the most common transducers to measure temperature and output
voltage proportional to the temperature of the junction formed by two dissimilar metals. This
output voltage, generally in microvolts, needs to be amplified. The output voltage also needs to
be compensated for any additional voltages induced by other metal junctions in the measurement
path. Once this is done, you can digitize the conditioned signal.

Figure 1. J-Type Thermocouple

Strain Gage:
A strain gage is a device whose electrical resistance varies in proportion to the amount of
strain in the device. In practice, strain measurements rarely involve quantities larger than a
few millistrain (e x 10-3). Therefore, to measure the strain requires accurate measurement of
very small changes in resistance. To measure such small changes in resistance, strain gages
are almost always used in a bridge configuration with a voltage excitation source. The
general Wheatstone bridge, illustrated in Figure 2, consists of four resistive arms with an
excitation voltage, VEX, that is applied across the bridge.

Figure 2. Wheatstone Bridge
Dr. Laith Abdullah Mohammed