What is Mechanical Engineering?

What is Mechanical Engineering?

Mechanical engineering represents the backbone of industrial manufacturing. Every machine, tool, and product requires efficient application of testing, design, build, and functional evaluation. Realizing that physical device, machine, or product requires an understanding of material structure, environmental exposure, supporting software and electrical engineering priorities, and integrating these factors with sound calculation and data supported actions. Every question that starts with “Can we…?” ends in Mechanical Engineering.

Mechanical Engineering Design in Automation

When a custom machine design project comes to a mechanical engineer, the first step is scoping and information gathering. 

  • The mechanical engineer questions how the high-level requests of the project translate into a physical machine. 
  • The mechanical engineer asks what products will be made, what materials will be used, how many Stock Keeping Units (SKU) will the machine create, where the setup time targets lie, which areas of the design can be more efficient, what can be simplified, and are there any opportunities for process improvements. 

These questions eventually translate into a computer aided design conceptualized with part selection and components practical to engineering. Even on a custom machine, mechanical engineers apply standardized approaches to support the longevity of your design.

Mechanical Engineering Design in Embedded Hardware

Industrial products need a comprehensive approach to manufacturing embedded hardware projects through collaboration between mechanical, electrical, and software engineers. 

  • A mechatronic discipline gives the electro mechanical perspective necessary to complete your embedded hardware and link your embedded controls to a physical machine. 
  • New embedded hardware product development needs mechanical engineering to integrate the other engineering disciplines for a best result.
  • Even enclosure design often includes mechanical systems like grippers, hydraulic systems, or other electromechanical systems. 
  • You need every engineering voice involved in every stage.

Mechanical Engineering Methods

There are a variety of strategies used in mechanical engineering. Most strategies complement each other, and a quality mechanical engineer tackles projects from every perspective.

  • Design for Manufacturing (DFM)- Design for Manufacturing engineering design is about more than seeking a cost-effective solution to engineering problems. 
    • A responsible mechanical engineer leverages design sophistication to find elegant engineering solutions. 
    • They commit to swift return on investment (ROI), efficient product development, and managing high quality with high savings. 
    • They collaborate on the available options and make agnostic best-case selections. 
    • They find solutions that support prototypes, small batches, and mass production. 
    • They seek the discipline that makes the most sense for your manufacturing for things like CNC machining, sheet metal fabrication, and injection molding.
  • Design for Assembly (DFA)- Design for Assembly is about planning engineering around longevity. 
    • Mechanical engineers review the options and do everything they can to find uncomplicated alternatives to solutions. 
    • They seek design solutions that use standardized off-the-shelf parts over custom engineering. 
    • They cut extraneous functions out of the steps of the design. 
    • They evaluate the current product lines and manufacturing solutions around them and make an effort to make the parts, components, and engineering solutions compatible with what came before. 

A part that is easy to assemble typically costs less because it has less parts and is thoughtfully designed for future maintenance.

  • Design for Testing (DFT)- More common in embedded hardware and custom machines that utilize embedded hardware, mechanical engineers plot design features that support a swift testing phase. 
    • Mechanical engineers choose uncomplicated solutions that support electrical engineers. 
    • Mechanical engineers weed out scope bloat in the beginning to guarantee the least amount of engineering lift in the critical testing stages. 
    • Mechanical engineering solutions acknowledge the control placement, communication, and interoperable signaling demands necessary for the electrical engineering team. 

These cross-functional teams result in high value solutions in all facets.

  • Design for Maintenance- Every custom engineering solution requires maintenance. With intuitive design and collaboration from a vertically integrated team, your mechanical engineers realize a finished product that cuts your maintenance downtime for more reasons than just plain better engineering. 
    • They can design for easy technician access, remote software troubleshooting, cost effective part options, and standardized part options. 
    • When a mechanical engineer simplifies an elegant solution, they also simplify the hours needed for repair, the length of downtime, the reliability of the machine, and the amount of control a customer has over their maintenance schedule.
  • Design for Automation- Refining classic design for assembly from an automation perspective goes beyond the basic mechanical engineering steps of finding a solution to a problem. 
    • Design for automation creates products, machines, and technology in a way that specifically exploits the nuances and advantages of automation. 
    • Mechanical engineers anticipate increased productivity, consistency, quality, efficiency, and runtime. 
    • Mechanical Engineers make design choices that take ownership of the automated process from beginning to end.


Modular Mechanical Engineering 

Whether you are integrating boards, fitting new products for mass production, or building a large automated machine, a modular approach allows mechanical engineers to match the unique features of custom projects to the speed and cost effectiveness of proof-of-concept engineering. These engineers draw on a deep library of functional designs to support a wide range of engineering solutions.

  • Swift Design- A design that incorporates a preexisting module saves you on developer time. Your custom project will waste less time on testing something that incorporates proof of concept. Your mechanical engineering team can narrow their focus on the custom portions of your solution and reach a prototype faster with modular mechanical engineering. 
  • Cost Effective Design- Those developer hours you save with application of a modular solution also save you development costs. Costs related to sourcing new parts, custom parts, or fine-tuning components are all reduced.
  • Proof of Concept- When you apply custom mechanical engineering to any project there’s always risk. By applying something that has been tested, vetted, prototyped, and used previously, you cut down the risks to engineering lift dramatically. 
  • Learning Curve- An engineering module cuts down on the learning curve associated with training, maintenance, and installation. If this is loaded with other modules or based in previous integrations, you can leverage that similar technology additively.
  • Upgrades- It is much easier to update and upgrade a fully scoped module than it is to update a fully custom machine. With a mixture of institutional memory and comprehensive understanding of the technology, a mechanical engineer can make additions and updates to their modular designs to extend the longevity of your machine. They can also supplement these compatible designs with additional modules. These additional modules can add secondary processing, replace assemblies with more efficient models, and swap out parts based on family.
  • Lead Times- When you know the parts needed ahead of time in a module, you know the amount of time it takes to get those parts to the prototype. You take ambiguity out of your ability to schedule and add certainty to the installation date.
  • Growth Opportunities- You know much earlier with a modular or semicustom module solution about the capacity of your machine. You will have concrete data to base your plans for pursuing new sales, planning the use of increased revenue, and exploiting the new opportunities provided by your custom machine solution.

Modern Mechanical Engineering

We get a lot of questions about how mechanical engineering has changed and grown. Here is where we see what defines modern mechanical engineering:

  • The Same Core Competencies- New machines may operate more on computer tablets than graph paper, but the same tenets of singulation, orientation, calculation, and sound mechanical engineering practices remain at the core of mechanical engineering. 
    • Sound mechanical engineering still relies on experience, authority, ingenuity, and hard work. 
    • In a world where any process can be automated with enough time, effort, and money, the mechanical engineer is who steers projects away from scope bloat, engineering risk, and limping ROI. 
    • Technology may be giving our mechanical engineers increased scale, but they make the same judgements.
  • Better Technology- The mechanical engineers have not changed, but the advanced tools and technology have changed to make mechanical engineering faster, cheaper, and more reliable. 
    • Parts and materials are lighter, cheaper, stronger, and more available. Machines are smaller, faster, and more powerful. 
    • Custom engineering and software leverage a wider engineering community and open-source technology to make solutions less expensive, less time consuming, and more stable. 
    • Information gathering has made the leap from clipboards to computer assisted AI data recording. 
    • Classic machine controls have evolved to fully digital interoperable IIOT command systems capable of managing multiple machines across borders and facilities. 
  • Businesses Leverage Data- Mechanical engineers in partnership with electrical engineers can bring microscopic data precision gathered by their custom automated systems. 
    • Businesses seeking an edge in their ability to compete are turning away from gut feelings and business traditions. 
    • Businesses want to base their decisions on data. 
    • Businesses want access to specific margins. 

Today’s machines do not just complete their tasks, they provide manufacturers with the data they need to make choices about where to pursue their opportunities. 

  • Tighter Discipline Cooperation- To accommodate things like complex controls, sensors, tracking, and data communication, mechanical engineers must maintain a tighter cooperation with electrical engineers. 
    • Mechanical engineers’ partner on data collecting sensors and vision systems with electrical and software engineers.
    • Building the frames and conveyors that support articulation, singulation, and orientation of robot arms requires the input of software and electrical engineers. 
    • Mechanical engineers must work with software engineers to seek solutions that support the mechanical process, support efficient code, and support I/O signaling and power. 
  • Automation Demand Increase- As technology has advanced, gotten cheaper, and become more reliable, custom automation is not outside the grasp of manufacturers. 
    • Small and large businesses alike are finding out that if they do not evolve their manufacturing lines with pick and place, packaging and palletizing, linear transfer, linear process, adhesive dispensing, machine tending, turnkey automation, and custom machines, they will be left behind. 
    • Manufacturers are looking for ways to increase the reliability and stability of their manufacturing and finding automation as the solution. 
    • The demand for mechanical engineers (and quite frankly every engineering discipline) will rise to meet this demand.
  • Industrial Design Aesthetics- Better teams, better technology, and better collaboration allow more freedom for sleeker, artful, and aesthetically pleasing technology. 
    • Modern mechanical engineers can support industrial designs that function as well as they appear. 
    • When sales depend on first impressions, mechanical engineers will push forward designs that can support sales forward products and automation.

Our mechanical engineering expertise doesn’t stop here. Tell us more about your project, schedule a virtual meeting, or call (262)-622-6104 to learn how DEVELOP LLC can bring the tenets of modern mechanical engineering to your solution.