Mechatronics engineers design everything from smartphones, cars, robots, medical imaging devices and manufacturing tools, to the International Space Station. They also help form a bridge of communication between the different disciplines.
The fusion of the various disciplines in mechatronics breaks down the artificial barriers between the separate disciplines. Wikipedia describes it as a "synergistic integration of mechanics, electronics, control theory, and computer science within product design and manufacturing, in order to improve and/or optimize its functionality".
Mechatronics engineers are increasingly in demand. Mechatronics is a popular option and focus in engineering grad schools, with echoes of the 'Maker' movement. It used to be called computer aided automation. It is increasingly embracing computer aided engineering and manufacturing.
If you search DesignNews you will find a Mechatronics Zone. Scan the list of articles and you'll see that Robotics is a big part of this ... including the Bots that make things - industrial robots.
Its easy to forget that if 3D printing expanded 10x fold the sector would still only represent less than 1% of global manufacturing. So where does 3D printing fit into mechatronics?
- A 3D printer is a mechtronic system
- 'Make' buttons and 3D design software are the front end to a mechatronic system
- A factory toolchain that include 3D printers is a mechatronic system
The future clearly contains 3D printing, but it is one of mixed-mode manufacturing, and heavily automated. (MakerBots are not yet the real Bots)