Hubbard Mechanical design and oversee manufacturing a range of products, from medical devices to new batteries. They also work on power-producing machines and consumer appliances like refrigeration and air conditioning systems.
They use CAD, PLM, CFD, and CAM skills to produce, modify, and monitor their designs. They also need to understand total production costs and be able to make informed business decisions.
Mechanical engineers consider several aspects when designing a product or piece of machinery. They must determine how the product will react to force, vibration, and heat, prepare it for functionality, aesthetics, and durability, and choose economical materials to manufacture and ensure operation without failure. Mechanical engineering encompasses various equipment and tools, from simple machines to complex human-powered vehicles and spacecraft.
Using design software, mechanical engineering professionals create technical drawings of products or parts for manufacturing. These drawings may be hand-drawn or computer-generated and contain dimensions, assembly notes, a list of required materials, and other information. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics defines a drafter as “a skilled worker who produces technical drawings of mechanical and other devices or structures.” Drafters are also known by the names of their employers, such as mechanical designers.
In addition to design, mechanical engineering involves the development of new products and machinery that can be used in various industries. This process can be as simple as incorporating new materials into existing products, or it can involve modifying the actual components of a machine. Mechanical design engineers develop and test prototypes of their designs to see how well they perform.
A common goal for mechanical designers is to maximize the efficiency of the machine or product while minimizing its energy consumption and environmental impact. This can be accomplished through several strategies, such as intelligent component integration, advanced material selection, and control systems. Other important factors to consider when designing mechanical systems include enhancing reliability through redundancy, rigorous testing, and effective maintenance.
Some mechanical engineers focus on automating work processes and constructing robots that can carry out tasks that make human workers safer, faster, and more productive. Other mechanical engineers are involved in the field of thermodynamics, which focuses on the transfer and transformation of thermal energy. These engineers work to improve the performance of traditional automotive suspensions and aerodynamics and develop alternative fuels for vehicles and heating and cooling systems that reduce energy use in homes and offices.
The mechanics of a machine refers to the physical forces that act on it. The term can also be used to describe something that is done automatically or by habit, without a sense of emotion or individuality:
In mechanical engineering, mechanics concerns how bodies and objects move, including their acceleration and velocity. It also relates to the structural design of a product and how it responds to load. A study of mechanics begins with the treatment of rigid body statics (the way an object’s distance between points stays constant under a load). Then, it progresses to elasticity and the response of deformable bodies.
A major portion of a mechanical engineer’s job is designing products and preparing for manufacturing. The latter is accomplished through technical drawings, which can be created by hand or computer-aided design software programs. An expert in this process is often called a drafter or draftsman.
It is also important for a mechanical engineer to understand the properties of different materials. A large part of this involves designing composite materials, which combine two or more different types of material to provide unique and useful characteristics that would not be available from either material alone. This is often accomplished through materials such as metals, plastics, glass, and carbon fiber.
Mechanical engineers are also involved with analyzing the reliability of automated systems, which can be challenging. The reason is that many variables can affect the performance of a component, from manufacturing tolerances and operational loading to environmental conditions. Understanding these variables is essential to determine when maintenance should be performed.
Finally, mechanical engineers must have good critical thinking and problem-solving skills to effectively assess risks, evaluate designs, and make decisions based on data and analysis. In addition, they must be able to communicate technical information in writing and meetings with clients and other team members. CAD software is also helpful, as mechanical engineers frequently work with three-dimensional models and computer simulations.
The study of materials is a crucial aspect of mechanical engineering. It allows engineers to design mechanical components and structures that can withstand the stresses and forces they are subjected to. Engineers use tools like Finite Element Analysis to predict how different materials will perform under pressure. This can help them make informed decisions regarding the size and shape of their mechanical components and structures.
Composites are materials that combine multiple elements of varying properties. They are used in aerospace and marine applications, as well as for ground vehicles, power generation equipment, biomechanical implants, and heavy equipment. Research in this field often focuses on understanding the performance of composite materials under complex loading conditions and how these factors affect their longevity and durability. The intersection of mechanical and structural engineering with materials also focuses on applying advanced manufacturing techniques to minimize weight without compromising strength and performance.
Loading is the external force that causes a material to deform or break. Different types of loading cause various effects on the structure or material, including tension, compression, shear, bending, and torsion. A material’s strength, measured by its tensile strength and modulus of elasticity, determines how much strain it can withstand before it breaks or becomes permanently deformed. Other properties of a material that impact its strength include flexibility and hardness, which determine how easily it can be twisted and how quickly it can be reformed after being stretched or compressed.
A multi-lever device is used to convert rotary motion into reciprocating motion. Gear drives are a common method of transmitting mechanical energy. Gears are designed to mesh with one another, allowing them to alter the speed, torque, or direction of mechanical power. Helical gears with slanted teeth are quieter than spur gears but produce side loads that can increase wear. A fulcrum is the point on which a mechanism rotates or swings.
A mechanical system converts input motion and force into output motion and power. Input can be any type of energy, including human effort, heat from the Sun or chemical reactions, air or liquid forms of force and energy, or electrical power.
In mechanical engineering applications, drafting is essential for creating two-dimensional and three-dimensional models of the devices and structures being designed. Computer-aided design, or CAD software, is used in every sub-specialty of the field and by many other fields. In their designs, mechanical engineers also use computational fluid dynamics, or CFD, software to analyze and model fluid flow and acoustic noise.
Mechanical systems are found in buildings and other facilities, as well as in vehicles and robots. Some of the most common applications include HVAC, elevators and escalators, ventilation, and power generation. In a hospital, for example, the mechanical system is a lot more complex than in most other types of buildings because medical equipment and systems are used in a very sensitive environment to keep patients healthy and safe.
Other fields where mechanical engineering is applied are lubrication and hydraulics, materials science, microelectromechanical systems, energy conversion, aerospace, robotics, and automation. In these areas, mechanical engineers research, develop, build, and test prototypes, supervise the manufacturing of the final products, and ensure that these products perform as they are supposed to.
The ability to manipulate materials at the atomic level opens up new possibilities for objects and machines. Nanotechnology is an example of a new technology that can enable new types of mechanical devices. Still, a mechanical engineer must understand the physical concepts at play on a very small scale to create the appropriate design.
Another aspect of mechanical engineering involving a wide range of sciences is thermodynamics, which studies heat transfer and energy conversion. Mechanical engineers working in this area need to understand how different materials react and interact with each other, as well as the laws of thermodynamics, to be successful.