The advent of cheap microcontrollers, single board computers and accompanying electronics have ushered a time where creating complex electromechanical systems have never been easier. A few of the well-known ones are the BeagleBone Black, Raspberry Pi and the ubiquitous Arduino. In a form factor that could fit the palm of your hand is now a device that is capable of controlling actuators, monitor sensors, communicate wireless and output results onto a screen.
In this era almost all mechanical systems are controlled by some form of electronic intelligence, be it a simple PLC or a dedicated microcontroller. This shift of relying more and more on electronics for control and logic has been going on for decades; so clearly the need for electronics capable of performing these tasks are not new. Hardware has been available for some years now but they have been complex to work with for someone just getting into it, much less flexible and expensive. These are the three things that makes these current generation of electronics different. They are fairly easy to learn even for the hobbyist, enormously flexible and costs cheap enough that you would not be scared to fry it up while learning.
To add to this growing crop of tiny microcontrollers are dedicated paraphernalia like sensors, servo motors, wireless module, touch screen etc that are designed to seamlessly integrate with these devices. With the availability of such a wide array of add-ons, what one can achieve is only a matter of how far you can stretch your imagination.
These devices are still not at a point to completely replace more potent devices for example something from the house of National Instruments. But for the bulk of tasks for bulk of the people it is more than capable of delivering the goods - cheap.
- Mechanical Engineer Vipul Negi, Goddard Technologies