Robotics is the branch of mechanical engineering, electrical engineering and computer science that deals with the design, construction, operation, and application of robots, as well as computer systems for their control, sensory feedback, and information processing. These technologies deal with automated machines that can take the place of humans in dangerous environments or manufacturing processes, or resemble humans in appearance, behavior, and/or cognition. Many of today's robots are inspired by nature contributing to the field of bio-inspired robotics.
Mechatronics is a multidisciplinary field of engineering that includes a combination of mechanical engineering, electrical engineering, telecommunications engineering, control engineering and computer engineering. As technology advances the subfields of engineering multiply and adapt. Mechatronics' aim is a design process that unifies these subfields. Originally, mechatronics just included the combination of mechanics and electronics, hence the word is a combination of mechanics and electronics; however, as technical systems have become more and more complex the word has been broadened to include more technical areas.
In 1927 the Maschinenmensch ("machine-human") gynoid humanoid robot (also called "Parody", "Futura", "Robotrix", or the "Maria impersonator"), the first depiction of a robot ever to appear on film, was played by German actress Brigitte Helm in Fritz Lang's film Metropolis. In 1942 the science fiction writer Isaac Asimov formulated his Three Laws of Robotics. In 1948 Norbert Wiener formulated the principles of cybernetics, the basis of practical robotics. Fully autonomous robots only appeared in the second half of the 20th century. The first digitally operated and programmable robot, the Unimate, was installed in 1961 to lift hot pieces of metal from a die casting machine and stack them. Commercial and industrial robots are widespread today and used to perform jobs more cheaply, or more accurately and reliably, than humans. They are also employed in jobs which are too dirty, dangerous, or dull to be suitable for humans. Robots are widely used in manufacturing, assembly, packing and packaging, transport, earth and space exploration, surgery, weaponry, laboratory research, safety, and the mass production of consumer and industrial goods.
A mechatronics engineer unites the principles of mechanics, electronics, and computing to generate a simpler, more economical and reliable system. The term "mechatronics" was coined by Tetsuro Mori, the senior engineer of the Japanese company Yaskawa in 1969. An industrial robot is a prime example of a mechatronics system; it includes aspects of electronics, mechanics, and computing to do its day-to-day jobs. Engineering cybernetics deals with the question of control engineering of mechatronic systems. It is used to control or regulate such a system (see control theory). Through collaboration, the mechatronic modules perform the production goals and inherit flexible and agile manufacturing properties in the production scheme.
Modern production equipment consists of mechatronic modules that are integrated according to a control architecture. The most known architectures involve hierarchy, polyarchy, heterarchy, and hybrid. The methods for achieving a technical effect are described by control algorithms, which might or might not utilize formal methods in their design. Hybrid systems important to mechatronics include production systems, synergy drives, planetary exploration rovers, automotive subsystems such as anti-lock braking systems and spin-assist, and everyday equipment such as autofocus cameras, video, hard disks, and CD players.