As technology continues to evolve, the field of engineering has seen significant growth, especially in the area of automation engineering. Automation engineering has become a popular field due to its ability to create and optimize systems that function without human intervention.
But what is automation engineering, what are the skills and knowledge required to become an automation engineer, and what do the day-to-day activities of an automation engineer entail?
What is Automation Engineering?
Automation engineering is a complex field that encompasses a whole host of different topics.
The biggest and most obvious area of focus within automation engineering is robotics. Automation engineers who specialize in robotics design, build, and program robots for a wide range of applications.
For instance, they might design robots to perform specific tasks on an assembly line or to perform maintenance in hazardous environments where human workers cannot safely operate. Automation engineers in robotics may work with a variety of robotic platforms, such as articulated arms, wheeled robots, and humanoid robots.
The step beyond this within automation engineering is control systems. Automation engineers who specialise in control systems design and implement systems that allow for precise control over industrial machinery and other automated systems. They could work on a range of projects, from designing the control system for a manufacturing plant to developing a control system for a self-driving car.
Both these areas of focus rely on computer systems. One pathway into the field is to work in programming, particularly as it relates to industrial automation. Engineers in this field often work with programming languages such as ladder logic or structured text, which are specifically designed for use in automation. They may use these languages to program programmable logic controllers (PLCs), which are commonly used in industrial automation applications.
Automation engineering also requires significant use of embedded systems, which refers to the use of small computers that are embedded in other devices to control their operation. Automation engineers who specialize in embedded systems may work on a range of projects, from designing the control system for a household appliance to developing the electronics for a medical device.
Once these systems have been established long-term role is to ensure they are operating efficiently. This means there are many specialisations in instrumentation and data analysis. Automation engineers in this field are responsible for designing and implementing systems that measure and analyze data from industrial processes. Day to day this might see you design sensors that measure the temperature or pressure of a process or develop software that collects and analyzes data from a range of sensors to identify trends and potential problems.
The key thing to take away though is that automation engineering is a multifaceted field that requires a broad range of skills and knowledge. Because of this automation engineers work with a wide range of systems and technologies, from robotics to control systems to data analysis, and must be able to design, build, and program complex automated systems. Despite the complexity of the work, automation engineering is an enriching field that offers many opportunities for creative problem-solving and innovation.
How to Become an Automation Engineer
The first step in becoming an automation engineer is to develop a strong understanding of the fundamentals of the field.
This will include learning about various automation technologies, as well as how to program and use these technologies to develop automated systems. Once you have a good foundation, you can then begin to explore the different facets of automation engineering such as robotics, instrumentation, control systems, embedded systems, and data analysis.
To gain this experience new engineering often opts for a degree in Automation Engineering, Electrical Engineering, Mechanical Engineering, or a related field. Some employers may accept a degree in Computer Science, Software Engineering, or Mechatronics as well.
As the field is so competitive is advantageous to also gain a basic level of relevant experience through internships, co-op programs, or entry-level position.
Strong skills in programming, control systems, instrumentation, and data analysis are important for Automation Engineers. Familiarity with industry-specific tools, technologies, and software such as Programmable Logic Controllers (PLCs), Human-Machine Interfaces (HMIs), and Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition (SCADA) systems is also helpful.
You could also look at specific certification programs, such as those offered by the International Society of Automation (ISA), as these can be beneficial in demonstrating proficiency in specific areas of Automation Engineering.
This combination of academic qualifications and practical experience is one of the best ways to get a strong foundation for a career as an Automation Engineer. Once you are on the path continual learning and staying up-to-date with the latest advancements in automation technology are also important for career advancement in this field.
- Automation engineering is a complex field that encompasses robotics, control systems, programming and embedded systems.
- Automation engineers design, build and program robots for a wide range of applications such as assembly lines or hazardous environment maintenance.
- They also work on projects from developing the control system for manufacturing plants to designing electronics for medical devices.
- To become an automation engineer one must have strong knowledge of fundamentals in the field as well as industry-specific tools/technologies/software like PLCs & HMIs etc., which can be obtained through degrees in relevant fields or certification programs offered by ISA or similar orgcanisations