Mechanical and Electrical Engineering: Working Hand In Hand in Various Fields of Construction

December 9, 2015

It's surprisingly difficult to divorce mechanical and electrical engineering, two disciplines that have a natural affinity for each other. Electrical machinery is built from mechanical parts. Mechanical assemblies commonly use electrical subsystems to drive those assemblies, and the two work domains are forever passing each other. Even when a young student is considering a career in one of these two industries, why he'll see a local college curriculum promoting the two fields, even though they seem as different as night and day.

The reason for such cross-discipline training is fairly easy to explain. In olden days, electrical workers and mechanical fitters would work together, perhaps on an air conditioning system. It was a productive solution, but one that used many man hours to accomplish a set job. The mechanical engineer inspected the pipes, looking at the compressor and condenser coils. Meanwhile, the electrician was troubleshooting the apparatus and looking for a short circuit or a faulty electronic module. In working hand-in-hand, the two disciplines are natural partners, but the above work ethic has changed somewhat in recent years. Air conditioning engineers are trained in the mechanics of the system, the hard-edged physical components. Additionally, the same engineer is aware of electrical circuitry, of electrical hazards and what type of faults can develop in the current and voltage carrying parts.

There's a heavy emphasis on mechanical and electrical engineering when someone considers the functions of an electrical machine, but electrical control can be overturned by mechanical engineering. For example, hydraulic or pneumatic systems do use a form of circuitry, analogous versions of switches and control instrumentation. A consulting firm realizes the various aspects and applications of these mechanically-driven systems, including the hazardous environments that can't allow electrical parts. Fuel substations may allow a certain amount of electrical instrumentation behind a special firewall, for example, but pneumatic controls will take over when fuel valves are being managed. Similarly, some large machinery looks very mechanical but can only be properly understood when the equipment is held up against electrical theory. Take an electrical generator as one instance of this principle. The generator is armed with mechanical bearings, gearing housings, and mechanical governors, but the machine is still electrical at its core. A diode or relay that fits in the palm of one hand can bring all of this mighty mechanical muscle to a grinding halt, leaving mechanical and electrical engineering very much on the side of the electrical trouble-shooter.

At the end of the day, a full perspective on all of these scenarios will always benefit from the viewpoint of an engineer who has in-depth knowledge and seasoned expertise in both fields, someone who can wield a multimeter or screwdriver with the same proficiency as he handles a set of heavy-duty torque wrenches.

Connor Pincus Group. Consulting Engineers.

Address: 1196 Toorak Road, CAMBERWELL, VIC 3124

Phone: (03) 9835 5000
Fax: (03) 9835 5050

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