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During the first two industrial revolutions, mechanical engineering got consolidated as a profession for designing, building, managing machinery, etc. Its central body of knowledge evolved to include knowledge areas of materials, mechanics, thermodynamics, fluid mechanics, machine design, and manufacturing. Thus, it is the predecessor of all other forms of engineering and will continue to be enriched by them to conceive, design, build, and manage more sophisticated machinery with enhanced complexity, flexibility, connectivity, automation, and intelligence.
Various technologies of the fourth industrial revolution are now making the body of knowledge and professional practice of mechanical engineering much more interdisciplinary as compared to the earlier industrial revolutions. Some of these key technologies are AI and ML, IoT, Robots and Cobots, Big Data, 5G, Augmented and Virtual Reality, and 3D and 4D printing.
Machines with automation mechanisms have existed since pre-historical times. Traps for hunting animals were probably the first man-made machines that operated automatically as the animal passed through. Today, automation engineers apply diverse technologies to streamline, improve, and automate manufacturing, electricity generation, warehouse distribution, mining, and many other processes to reduce the need for human intervention and maximise efficiency.
As per the 2020 report on the Future of jobs by the World Economic Forum, robotics and industrial automation are likely to be adopted by more than 60 per cent of companies. A McKinsey Global Survey of October 2021, showed that 70 per cent of global respondents say that their companies are at least piloting automation in one or more business units or functions.
Courses one can pursue
Students who want to pursue a career in automation and robotic engineering in India can choose from a variety of study options, including either broad UG studies like mechanical engineering, electronics engineering, or computer science and engineering, or specialised UG studies like mechatronics engineering, automation and robotics engineering, etc.
Many universities are also offering PG programmes like MTech. in robotics, MTech in automation and robotics, MTech in intelligent systems and robotics, MTech in mechatronics, PhD in robotics, etc. The choice between a broad or a specialised programme must be made by carefully examining the curriculum, courses, lab facilities, and faculty quality. In many cases, a broad programme with many courses relevant to automation and robotics can be better than some specialised programs.
What competencies are needed?
Engineering students interested in this field should acquire adequate skills while they are in college to build a bright career for themselves. In order to serve in the area, students should basically develop the ability to conceive, design, implement, and manage automation systems by using principles of machine design, process control, mechatronics, cyber-physical systems, robotics, artificial intelligence, and state of the art components and tools.
It will be crucial to learn and have an interest in machine design, programming, embedded systems, IoT, mathematics, etc. Furthermore, every automation and robotics engineer must possess some fundamental competencies – systems thinking, computational thinking, complex problem solving using an inter-disciplinary approach, lifelong learning, communication, and the ability to work in a multi-disciplinary team.
Career Prospect & Salary
Candidates with a relevant educational background and project experience can work in the fields of system integration, application development, quality control, manufacturing, and research and development for robots and other mechatronics systems. They can work as a robotics programmer, robotics design engineer, robotics systems engineer, robot test engineer, or automated product design engineer.
Globally, robotics engineering is regarded as a high-end job. Those with professional expertise in robotics engineering are in for a world of several work options. A robotic engineer can find work in manufacturing facilities, the automation industry, machinery/automobile manufacturers, research facilities, etc.
A large number of well-paying automation and robotics jobs are set to be in demand in India as well as overseas in the coming years. For example, as per Indeed, the current average annual salary for a robotics engineer is around 90,000 USD, comparable to the average annual salary of a software engineer in the United States.
According to several estimates, a fresher robotics engineer’s average salary in India is around Rs 5 lakhs.
— Written by Dr Sanjay Goel, Director of Institute of Engineering and Technology, JK Lakshmipat University
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