Editorial Feature

Tribology in Robotics and Mechatronics


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Tribology is concerned with the science and engineering of how surfaces interact with each other when in motion.

Drawing in experts from a range of disciplines, such as physics, materials science, chemistry, engineering, mathematics, and even biology, tribology encompasses the study of the principles of friction, lubrication, and wear, and involves the development of new techniques and applications of these principles.

Tribology in Robotics

As robotics advances, scientists and engineers are creating more sophisticated devices that require highly specified characteristics that allow them to interact appropriately with human users.

Robotic devices used for augmented and virtual reality, human-machine interfaces, or man-machine interfaces such as touch screens and speech recognition interfaces heavily rely on tribology.

These systems need tribology to make multiple calculations concerning the size of components and how fast they should move against each other. They also predict how components will interact and wear, allowing the systems to make adjustments to counteract this.

These calculations allow engineers to create intuitive devices that can be programmed to respond accurately to interaction with humans, such as human touch.

Robots used for industrial automation also require the work of tribology to optimize the movements of autonomous robots. This minimizes unscheduled downtime due to maintenance work and repairs, enhances productivity and product quality, and increases the longevity of components.

Robotic automation is also utilized in the field of medical and scientific research. Tribology is also relied on here to optimize the workings of the autonomous robots that have been designed to take over tasks from human workers. The tasks benefit from the programmable accuracy and speed offered by robotic systems.

To optimize the processes of autonomous robots, tribology is utilized to make accurate calculations regarding the precise movements of each component. It can predict how the individual components will influence each other as they move, and automatically calibrate for this to maintain the accuracy of movements and speed of execution.

Tribology in Mechatronics

Mechatronic engineering, also known as mechatronics, is a field of engineering that is concerned with the development of electrical and mechanical systems.

Similar to the field of tribology, it also draws in experts from a variety of disciplines to combine their knowledge of electronics, computing, robotics, telecommunications, engineering, and more, to create systems that are uniquely adapted to their specific applications.

Tribology is essential to the field of mechatronics because many of its applications, such as transmissions and precision drives, function according to the principles of tribology.

Engineers rely on their understanding of these principles and apply them to mechatronics applications to achieve optimal performance in their devices. Without knowledge of tribology in mechatronics, it would not be possible to design successful mechatronic systems.

Tribology is applied to mechatronics through three key principles. The first is modeling friction, where the behavior of the surfaces involved in a mechatronic device is simulated to calculate a friction model.

This model predicts how the device will continue to work overtime and how the materials will influence each other. It helps engineers plan to compensate for the negative impacts of friction.

The second principle is the experimental characterization of friction. This is where an accurate friction function is calculated that is specific to the materials being used in the application.

While modeling processes can give information on how two materials will behave when they interact, an accurate friction function is required to prevent errors from being built back into these calculations. This enables engineers to optimize the performance of a device.

Finally, condition monitoring is also required to identify the changes that occur that are indicative of faults in the functioning of a mechatronics system. This is essential for predictive maintenance and helps to prevent system failure and breakdown.


The sector of tribology is essential to robotics and mechatronics. The discipline is well integrated within both of these fields due to their reliance on tribological principles to optimize the ’ performance and function of their applications.

An understanding of friction, lubrication, and wear, which are the cornerstones of tribology, are central to engineering devices in robotics and mechatronics.

Sources and Further Reading

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Sarah Moore

Written by

Sarah Moore

After studying Psychology and then Neuroscience, Sarah quickly found her enjoyment for researching and writing research papers; turning to a passion to connect ideas with people through writing.


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