How mechatronics is promoting sustainable manufacturingA familiar trope of science fiction’s Golden Age was the robot that built robots. These self-replicating androids often were up to sinister purposes, as in Philip K. Dick’s Second Variety, or Stephen Vincent Binet’s Nightmare Number Three.

We have grown past the infancy of robotics and mechatronics, and no longer fear being overwhelmed by armies of clanking automatons. We recognize in robotics and mechanical engineering not so much a bleak future as a sustainable path to a better future. The link between mechatronics and sustainable manufacturing processes is growing ever-stronger, and the call for qualified talent is ever-increasing. 

Sustainable Manufacturing Is Environmentally Responsible . . . And Profitable

Modern factories often have goals of producing near-zero waste, and routinely achieve them. They still consume raw materials, but balance consumption between virgin stock and recyclables. They generate power by incinerating waste. The era of unthinking, unending consumption is long gone, and only the nimble manufacturer who also respects the environment will be competitive.

Examples of these innovative American companies include: 

  • Advanced Composite Structures
  • Besam North America
  • Chrome Deposit Corporation
  • FreeScale Semiconductor

Pressure to adopt sustainable manufacturing comes from several directions. While public perception influences companies to appear “green” or “environmentally aware,” pure profit drives many decisions on sustainable manufacturing. 

Companies that reduce waste, increase productivity, and recover and reuse raw materials (gases, plastics, glass cullet) are more efficient, and thus more profitable. 

An engineering technician with a formal education and training in mechatronics is perfectly positioned to integrate software, mechanical engineering technology, electronics engineering technology and robotics to help a company achieve a sustainable advanced manufacturing environment. And, during idle moments when the plant is humming smoothly, such an engineer can go about quietly building an army of terrifying automatons. 

Advanced Manufacturing Is Changing the World

A very, very long time ago—and here we are talking all the way back to July of 2012—yeah, that long ago—a group known as the European Factories of the Future Research Association (EFFRA) gathered to discuss how advanced manufacturing techniques will change the world. The assembly offered no reason to think they were, in fact, secretly building an army of fearsome mechanical marvels. Instead they pointed toward benign goals:

  • Following sustainable manufacturing practices to satisfy ever-changing societal needs—This is probably code for figuring out what will be the next big toy after last season’s Transformers Stomp and Chomp, but it could also hint at society’s desire for armies of automatons
  • Opening and creating new markets worldwide for products that are locally customized—A single plant could generate variations of a product that take into account different electrical current, local regulations, cultural sensitivity, and local market requirements
  • Industrial symbiosis—Just saying the phrase conjures visions of glowing androids, but it actually means the simultaneous evolution of products, processes and production to quickly answer market need with minimal use of raw materials and new resources

Mechatronics Is the Future, Right Now

If you are curious about how things work, but also respect the planet, sustainable manufacturing is the ideal intersection of your interests. Jobs of the future will be at the intersection of disciplines, not in traditional jobs. So electrical engineering technicians will give way to dual-talented mechatronics technicians. And, of course, humanity may soon enough give way to vast waves of airborne, menacing, winged metallic monsters. 

Mechatronics Means Adaptability, Efficiency

The greatest advantage of mechatronics for creating new, innovative, sustainable businesses is its ability to quickly pivot in manufacturing. Where prototyping, beta testing and run-up to full production once took months, mechatronics allows for flexible machinery—equipment that can adapt to different production requirements nimbly, often responding in days. 

Mechatronics software can provide realistic virtual machine prototyping, optimizing design to reduce raw materials and cut production time. By testing the virtual machines, designers can save companies huge expenses in development costs, while reducing the companies' carbon footprint and environmental impact. 

Mechatronics is a Good Career Choice

Before we all bow down in service to our android overlords in the distant future, you still have time to pursue an education in mechatronics that offers you several possible career paths: 

  • Aerospace
  • Biotechnology
  • Energy
  • Electronics & Applied Computer Equipment
  • Food Science
  • Life Science & Medical
  • Petroleum Refining & Chemical
  • Telecommunications
  • World Domination by Unleashing Vast Armies of Flinty-Eyed Androids (okay, this isn’t a real possibility, but it sounds really cool!)

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) does not track those holding degrees in Mechatronics. At one end, though, you can look to the careers of electro-mechanical technicians, who enjoyed median income of $53,920 in 2012 (yes, it is the same year as the EFFRA’s gathering—coincidence? We think not!). 

If you see your future in advanced manufacturing, the ideal setting to gain your Bachelor of Science Degree in Electronics Engineering Technology with a concentration in Mechatronics may be ECPI University, where in 2.5 years of dedicated studies you could recast your future and find yourself on a sustainable path to success. Contact ECPI today to learn more—it could be the Best Decision You Ever Make!

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