What is Mechanical Engineering

What is Mechanical Engineering

Engineers in general are the people who make science useful. We put the theories and findings of all of the branches of science to work in ways that benefit people and the world. Virtually everything you buy or use has had an engineer involved in its production somewhere along the line. Food has benefited from the work of engineers who developed tractors, trains, and refrigeration cars. Most of the products were designed and developed directly by engineers. The engineer creates what has not been.

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.

Mechanical engineers design and develop everything you think of as a machine. They use their knowledge of design, manufacture, and operational processes to advance the world around us enhancing safety, economic vitality and enjoyment throughout the world. We design everything that is mechanical such as wheels and axles, airplane bodies, pumps, computer hard drives, bicycles and heart-lung machines. Mechanical engineers are concerned with the production, transmission and use of power. We design and develop systems which produce power such as steam and gas turbines, car engines, nuclear reactors, jet engines and rocket motors. Mechanical engineers also design and develop the machines that produce these innovations. We design and develop the devices that consume power in order to accomplish a useful result (e.g. refrigeration and air-conditioning equipment, elevators and loud-speakers). In addition, we also built all of these products. Mechanical engineers design the tools and processes necessary to make all man-made products: robots to assemble cars, methods to melt and shape metals and plastics, tools to assemble circuit boards etc.

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.

Areas of Mechanical Engineering

Mechanical engineering has many fields within it: fluid mechanics, design, materials science, thermodynamics, heat transfer, control, manufacturing, and robotics. Using an airplane as a reference, many problems that need to be studied in order to create an airplane and the fields of mechanical engineering that relate to those problems can be quickly identified. Fluid mechanics is used to study air flow over the wing and determine whether the plane will fly. A study of the air flow will determine the general shape of the wing and aircraft body which will lead to an aircraft design. The wings and body of the aircraft must be strong enough so that they don't collapse or break in flight, but they ought to be as light as possible so that the plane will be able to get off the ground easily and will be as fuel efficient as possible.

The design of jet engines involves all fields of mechanical engineering. The two fields particularly important to engine design are thermodynamics and heat transfer, which are concerned, respectively, with the ability of the engine to produce power to move the airplane, and with the actual combustion or burning of the fuel.

Finally the airplane must have controls so that the pilot can maneuver the airplane.

After all of these systems are designed the airplane must be manufactured. In a modern manufacturing plant robots would be used to make and assemble the parts of the airplane.

Mechanical Engineers would be responsible for all of these tasks in airplane design and manufacture.


Careers in Mechanical Engineering

Mechanical engineering can lead to a wide variety of careers. The most traditional careers in mechanical engineering are those working as design and manufacturing engineers for companies that produce a mechanical product. Virtually every company that produces a product employs some mechanical engineers. Mechanical engineers are involved in the computer industry in the design of hard disk drives, in the cooling of electronic components and of course in the manufacturing of all of the components of a computer. Mechanical engineering students at Faculty of Engineering University of Khartoum have gone on many mechanical engineering companies. Engineers who enter these companies are generally faced with two long term career paths: the technical path, in which the engineer continues to design and manufacture products, or supervise teams of younger engineers. Many mechanical engineers work for the government. The Energy Departments, and the research centres all employ large numbers of mechanical engineers.

For those who choose to pursue graduate degrees there are virtually an infinite number of areas of active research in Mechanical Engineering. Mechanical Engineering Department Faculty of Engineering University of Khartoum has an excellent record of having students accepted to top graduate schools in mechanical engineering.

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