According to ASME, Mechanical engineers create and develop mechanical systems for all of humankind. Concerned with the principles of force, energy and motion, mechanical engineers use their knowledge of design, manufacture, and operational processes to advance the world around us enhancing safety, economic vitality and enjoyment throughout the world.

Mechanical engineering is an extremely broad field. It is the branch of engineering concerned with the design, manufacture, installation, and operation of engines and machines and with manufacturing processes. It is particularly concerned with forces and motion.

Mechanical engineering has evolved from the practice by the mechanic of an art (i.e. the motion of bodies under the influence of forces or with the equilibrium of bodies when all forces are balanced) based largely on trial and error to the application of the scientific method in research, design, and production by the professional engineer. The demand for increased efficiency is continually raising the quality of work expected from a mechanical engineer and requiring a higher degree of education and training.

Not only do mechanical engineers help design everything from athletic equipment, medical devices and personal computers to air conditioners, automobile engines and electric power plants, they also design the machines that produce these innovations. Virtually every aspect of life is touched by mechanical engineering. Spanning multiple industries, the career opportunities for mechanical engineers are diverse and found worldwide throughout thousands of companies ranging from large multinational to small local firms.

Projects being undertaken by mechanical engineers range from medical issues such as the freezing of living tissue and development of an artificial liver, to understanding the currents and waves in the oceans.

Common to all branches of mechanical engineering, four functions of the mechanical engineer can be cited:

  1. Understanding of and dealing with mechanical science bases (i.e. dynamics, automatic control; thermodynamics, fluid flow, heat transfer; lubrication, and properties of materials).
  2. The sequence of research, design, and development (i.e. attempting to bring about the changes necessary to meet present and future needs). Such work requires a clear understanding of mechanical science, an ability to analyze a complex system into its basic factors, and the originality to synthesize and invent.
  3. Production of products and power, which embraces planning, operation, and maintenance. The goal is to produce the maximum value with the minimum investment and cost while maintaining or enhancing longer term viability and reputation of the enterprise or the institution.
  4. The coordinating function of the mechanical engineer, including management, consulting, and, in some cases, marketing.

In these functions there is a long continuing trend towards the use of scientific methods (e.g. operations research, value engineering, and problem analysis by logical approach) instead of traditional or intuitive methods. However, creativity cannot be rationalized. The ability to take the important and unexpected step that opens up new solutions remains in mechanical engineering, as elsewhere, largely a personal and spontaneous characteristic.

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