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Studying Mechatronics in Germany

An article by Madlen Ottenschläger. Cooperation from: Christian Heinrich

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That is what it's about

Anyone who has ever ridden an e-scooter has used a mechatronic system: This is because the drive combines mechanical and electronic components as well as software in a very small space. One always speaks of mechatronics when these three components are brought together in a system. However, mechatronics engineers do not only develop machines. Through the use of increasingly powerful sensors, computers and robots, they are also shaping entire production processes and even enabling "production on demand": "For some vehicle models, customers can design the car of their dreams on their own computer, choosing from thousands of options. "And that is then produced," says Rolf Biesenbach, professor at Bochum University of Applied Sciences and chairman of the Mechatronics department.

An important topic for mechatronics engineers is the cooperation between humans and robots, for example in the production of vehicles, where humans and gripper arms work virtually hand in hand. The danger of the robots injuring people is still great at the moment, so they must be equipped with separating protective devices, the "protective cages". In mechatronics, research is being carried out into what properties a robot must have so that it can be operated more intuitively and yet safely.

Other big topics for mechatronics engineers include artificial intelligence as well as Big Data, especially in relation to the data output by machines during production. This allows production to be further optimised.

This is how the course runs

At the beginning, students learn the basics of mathematics, physics, mechanical engineering, electrical engineering and computer science. "Some would prefer to build an electric car right now. But you can't do it without the basics," says Rolf Biesenbach.

In the higher semesters most students choose a specialisation. In the field of automation, for example, students learn to develop complex production systems on the computer, while in the automotive field they focus on the design of new drive systems. Further focal points are quality assurance or project management. Because the range of course offers varies greatly depending on the university, you should be well informed in advance.

Project work is part of each specialisation. The students then determine, for example, the failure rate of a new industrial device or develop an online tool for employees. In addition, longer practical phases are integrated at almost all universities. To this end, students go into the development or production departments of large companies, but also into start-ups where the business model mechatronics plays a central role. Often they write their final thesis in the company.

Typical questions raised within the subject

  • How can a sensor supply itself with information?
  • How do machines, products and components communicate independently with each other?
  • How does the path run from a virtual design of a factory on the computer to the real production facility?
  • Which electric drive systems can be used to design the mobility of the future?
  • Which energy sources can be used to drive a robot?
  • How can production be carried out in a resource-saving way?

The subject suits you,...

... you already enjoyed mathematics and physics at school and like to design devices or programmes. "If complex systems that you planned and built work, it's a great feeling," says Rolf Biesenbach. You should be persistent and patient and enjoy working in a team. To learn the basics, you need perseverance. Tutorials and study groups make the start easier.

Is there a numerus clausus?

There is an entrance restriction for only about a quarter of the courses.