An Integrated Approach towards Model-Based Mechatronic Design

Abstract: Mechatronic design is an enigma. On the one hand, mechatronic products promise enhanced functionality, and better performance at reduced cost. On the other hand, optimizing mechatronic design concepts is a major challenge to overcome during the design process. In the past, less attention has been paid to the life phases of a mechatronic product, and it was assumed that modifications in electronics and software will ensure that the product performs to expectation throughout its life time. However it has been realized that introducing design changes in mechatronics is not easy, since it is difficult to assess the consequences of a design decision, both during the design process of a new product, and during a design modification. It is also realized that there is a strong need to consider the product's life phases during the early phases of product development. Furthermore, it is rather difficult to perform a design optimization since it requires introducing changes across different domains, which is not well supported by the methods and tools available today. This thesis investigates the topic of mechatronic design and attacks some of the major challenges that have been identified regarding the design of mechatronic products. The goal is to provide support to the designers to facilitate better understanding of the consequences of their design choices as early as possible. The work also aims to provide support for assessing alternative design concepts, and for optimizing a design concept based on requirements, constraints and designer preferences at the time of design. The thesis highlights three main challenges related to mechatronic product development: the need for a common language during conceptual design; the inadequate information transfer between engineering domains; and the difficulty in assessing the properties of competing mechatronic concepts. A model-based integration approach is presented, and these key challenges are considered in relation to an integrated modeling and design infrastructure. The approach is illustrated through the design of two mechatronic systems- a two degrees-of-freedom robot, and a hospital bed propulsion system. Initial results provide evidence of good potential for information transfer across mechatronic domains. Although SysML was used for the case studies, some important questions were raised about its suitability as a common language for mechatronics. Suggestions for future work are: to utilize the developed infrastructure and incorporate a capability to model and assess consequences of competing design concepts; provide support for optimizing these concepts; and evaluate the usefulness of the developed infrastructure in a real-world design setting. These efforts should provide ample information to the designer for making adequate decisions during the design process.