Originally referred to electro-mechanical systems and hatched in automotive manufacturing plants, the field of mechatronics has leaped into many other industries. As engineering and information technology have evolved, so has the mechatronics speciality. It now represents the combination of mechanics, electronics, control systems and software computing. Advanced hybrid control automation technology systems optimize space and productivity for heavy manufacturing facilities, performing tasks that otherwise require extensive manual labor, such as equipment assembly, loading and unloading, picking and palletizing.
Currently, innovative automated control systems are breathing new life into older mechatronic systems. An example of this is magneto-rheological (MR) fluids. MR technology combined with computers, sensors and controls provides an alternative to conventional electro-mechanical solutions and electro-rheological (ER) fluids. When MR fluids respond to a magnetic field, there is a dramatic change in rheological behavior – the fluid instantly changes from a free-flowing liquid to a semi-solid, and the effect is reversed when the magnetic field is removed. In addition to their use in the fields of mechanical engineering , these new MR technology systems are providing breakthrough manufacturing capabilities for makers of cables, valves, clutches and brakes, dampers and other composites used in automotive, utility, defence and aerospace industries.
The question that often comes up is what kind of preventative maintenance is available for these technologies. For example, fluid-filled cable technology, most commonly used in the utility industry, requires re-occurring cable assessments by a maintenance system. Measurements including oil analysis, pressure checks, serving tests, earthing checks and general operating conditions are all determined during the cable assessment. As a result, utilizing an exemplary maintenance program in the field of mechatronics is of the utmost importance since tracking and ensuring these new technologies function properly as part of a greater system will provide a more productive and useful production or assessment process. The following are pertinent features in a capable preventive maintenance (PM) system :
- Provide multiple criteria for generating PM work orders.
- Create time-based PM work orders based upon last generation or last completion date.
- Permit and track PM extensions with adjustments to next due date.
- Consolidate weekly, monthly, and quarterly job plans on a single master.
- Permit overriding frequency criteria in order to generate PM work orders whenever conditions require.
- Route PM with multiple equipment or locations.
Having a preventative maintenance system with extensive tracking capabilities will help ameliorate some of the major maintenance problems associated in mechatronics, including: loss of production; long downtimes for repairs; poor end-product quality; fire risk due to degraded fluid; premature pump replacement due to cavitation, poor adjustment, or seal and bearing wear and other flaws that cause shortened fluid and system life. Furthermore, the increasing standardization of the industry allows current system integrators to lean on cutting edge maintenance systems. The most widely influential are the ISA standards, which strive to achieve total integration within the industry so users have better and more flexible equipment and software choices.
With the increased use and enhancement of these technologies specifically in the automotive, defence and energy industries, there will be greater demand for preventative maintenance. Maintaining and executing successful system processes and automations are keys to creating value for an engineering based enterprise.