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Spark Ignition Controller

Yannick Auger Perras, Nicholas Ebbs, Mathieu Gaudreault

Department of Mechanical Engineering, University of Ottawa

 The introduction of the internal combustion engine has had a profound impact on society, in particular as the prime mover of the automobile. There are presently over 600 million of these vehicles on the planet, and it would be difficult to imagine the world without them.

 Although the development and production of the automobile is arguably firmly rooted in the realm of mechanical engineering, several electrical and electronic devices such as the electric starter motor and the spark ignition system have ensured its success and widespread adoption. 

Figure 1: Spark Ignition Controller Mock-up

 The spark ignition systems found in automobiles have grown in complexity ever since they were first invented, and in the 1970s it became necessary to replace the mechanical switches and distributors with electronic components. This led to further improvements with the addition of microprocessors and sensors which allow for very precise ignition timing which would not be possible with a mechanical system.

The automobile is just one example of the symbiotic relationship that exists at the boundary between mechanical and electrical engineering, a line that is continually blurring as designs become increasingly sophisticated and functional.

 It is common for engineers to work together in large, multidisciplinary groups, and it is essential that they are at least capable of communicating effectively with each other. Beyond this, it is beneficial if they have more of an appreciation of what their peers in other disciplines are doing, so that they may collaborate more effectively with each other on large projects.

 The blending of different engineering disciplines is epitomised by the relatively new field of mechatronics, which has already had an important effect on the way we engineer a wide variety of products, and which will continue to grow in importance far into the future.

 It is essential that mechanical engineers are capable of appreciating and adapting to these changes in order to ensure that their discipline remains relevant.