Mechatronics and Lightweight Structures

Mechatronics is an interdisciplinary field of activity including mechanical engineering, electrical engineering and computer science. Sensors are integrated into production systems in order to detect the current states of process and machine. The data is compared with models of automation and control, resulting in actuators setting the ideal working conditions. This ensures high efficiency even under changing ambient and process conditions. In this case, prerequisites comprise detailed design of mechanical components, drives as well as automation and control electronics. Mechatronic components are pacemakers for continuous digitized production of Industry 4.0.

Adaptronics picks up on the systems methodology of mechatronics and targets high functional integration by integrating sensors and actuators into the material level. Composites of so-called smart materials are used for this functional integration, for example piezoceramics, shape memory alloys or active polymers using construction materials such as steel, aluminum or fiber-plastic composites. The objective is to obtain active components for machines and vehicles, preventing malfunctions such as deformations, vibrations or sound radiation directly at the location where they arise. These measures are much more effective than pure structural improvements and significantly more energy-efficient since they are only active at the time and place of the malfunction.

Lightweight construction offers enormous potential for resource-efficient mechatronic systems. To us, lightweight construction does not only imply lower weight of moved assembly groups, it is also a synonym for optimal use of materials and design principles. Basic application-optimized concepts of lightweight construction include substituting conventional materials with high-performance materials, transferring bionic structures to the design of mechanical assembly groups and simulation-based design strategies for load-oriented adaptation of material distribution. Integrating various functions directly into components does not only provide material savings, it also offers potential for shortening the process chain, which implies a reduction of production cost.

Moreover, we use additive manufacturing processes such as laser beam melting and 3D printing to produce highly complex structures. The principle of sandwich structures offers great freedom of design as well as the possibility to economically manufacture small batch sizes of individualized and functionally integrated components. Using additive processes we succeed in effectively generating delicate structures for lightweight construction.