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The Demise of Mechanical Engineering?

  1. Jul 10, 2007 #1
    I just graduated with a BSME, so it might be my inexperience speaking here, but I can see ME as it is now ceasing to exist in the future or at least having some major changes.

    New technology (i.e. NanoTech.) is dominated by EE and common fields like controls and mechatronics are also moving from ME to EE. The more I interact with EE's the more I realize that they know a lot more about ME than ME's know about EE.

    Even fields that EE's have no business in like mechanics of materials, fluids, heat transfer, etc... are increasingly being done automatically by software. I even saw an ad in one of the past few issues of ASME about something that gives the internal picture of the material stress using protons or something along those lines. So, all you have to do is build a prototype and test it.

    Can fields like nanotech, controls, mechatronics move under EE, fluids under AE, mechanics of materials and heat transfer under Manufacturing Engineering and Mechanical Engineering die?

    Can a less diverse "Mechatronics Engineering" field take ME's place in the future and emphasize only Mechatronics while some of the changes I mentioned above still take place (i.e. mechanics of materials moving to Manufacturing Engineering)?

    Will Mechanical Engineering as it is now last for another 200 years? What do you think?
  2. jcsd
  3. Jul 10, 2007 #2

    D H

    Staff: Mentor

    I doubt very much that any field of engineering will last as it is now for another 200 years.

    Just because something mechanical engineers have formerly done by means of mechanical servocontrollers is now done via software control does not place said subject outside the domain of mechanical engineering. It does mean that MEs need to learn about software and about working in the time domain as opposed to the frequency domain.
  4. Jul 10, 2007 #3


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    The field is always changing. That is the only constant. There is a lot of crossover between disciplines these days. The depth of knowledge though is not as deep as it may seem though.

    It's very difficult to say what the future holds. I will say that, at best, we are only going to see another 30 years of it (they'll have to pry my dead corpse from my desk) so we won't be around to see any Earth shattering changes.

    EDIT: I was thinking about this more and more last night. While trying to not sound condescending, I think your outlook may change a bit after you get out and see some things in a professional position. As much as things change, I can not see MEs being replaced completely. There are just too many specializations within the area that can not be covered properly by someone who part times as an ME. Perhaps this may point to the idea that MEs will become much more concentrated in their field of knowledge. Specialists if you will.
    Last edited: Jul 11, 2007
  5. Jul 11, 2007 #4
    We had one, called Manufacturing Engineering. But it was actually more dominated by mechatronics. It was relatively new in our uni. I intently chose it over mechanical engineering. But given that I live in third world, there wasn't any opportunity for a mechatronics career. It was a wrong choice on my part. I ended up as software programmer in my job instead.

    I also considered aeronautical engineering before, it's my dream job, but locally, there virtually non existent opportunity. So I decided to take something else. Anyway, mechatronics is not bad, like I'd rather be designing robots than coding software :)
  6. Jul 14, 2007 #5
    I found out something interesting. Most patent attorney/agent jobs require a degree in EE instead of ME. I would have thought ME was better for patent jobs because of ME's diversified knowledge. Any comments?
  7. Jul 14, 2007 #6


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    I had not heard that they preferred any specialty over another. I guess it makes sense with everything being digital nowadays.

    I looked into this after I graduated and worked for a while. I couldn't do that work. Way too boring and too tedious in a legal kind of way. Definitely not for me.
  8. Jul 14, 2007 #7


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    The best ever single purpose machine is one driven by purely mechanical means, cams, gears, i have no idea why industry wants to go (electronic)
    in my experience every extra wire connection introduces an unwanted problem.
  9. Jul 14, 2007 #8


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    Well, with electrical components eventually come automation. With automation fewer people are required to do a task...It's not entirely to that, but it is a driver. Then there are simply all of the hi-tech gadgets that are popping up all over. You don't see very many new, purely mechanical inventions any more.
  10. Jul 15, 2007 #9
    I did mechanical engineering, and I often find myself in situations where my broader knowledge of engineering fields allows me to tackle a greater variety of multi-disciplinary problems (I work in nanotechnology, but I've also done physics)

    I actually think the opposite is true. As engineering evolves and requires more specialists, a person with some exposure to many topics will be better poised to learn and adapt as required. At the end of the day, your degree teaches you fundamentals and the ability to learn. Chances are your job will require you to pick up a great deal more than you were taught in lectures.
  11. Jul 16, 2007 #10
    well stated.

    I implement fixes to our products through any combination of programming, mechanical and electrical mods.
  12. Jul 27, 2007 #11

    Software applications have only been designed to aid engineers, not replace them. ANYSIS, solid works, Matlab etc still require licensed engineers to design and certify work.

    Each field of engineering has its purpose, EEs will not replace ME. You won't have an EE inspecting an HVAC and calculating a buildings thermal loss, just as you wouldn't have a chem. eng. doing a structural analysis. Reason being, they just aren't qualified. Building a prototype and modeling strain on a computer it doesn't negate an entire field.

    Your right that some people broaden their knowledge beyond their fields, you have to, you won't go much farther than entry level work with what you learn in undergraduate school. You need to find skills in your field of ME that others don't have. Subfields specific to ME are what make you irreplaceable. Fracture analysis, discreet mechanics/ finite element analysis, multiphase fluid flow are all evolving fields. Job specific skills, and company specific intellectual property will be picked up over the course of your career. These things will gurrentee your job security.
    You have more to worry about from foreign outsourcing of your field than a computer or an EE replacing you.
  13. Aug 20, 2007 #12
    'Extra Wires' is a good way to put it ...

    ... because any /elegant/ solution to an Engineering problem will /not/ have extra anything. A good engineer will examine the problem and use his experience (and that of others) to produce a solution that solves the problem at minimum cost, with maximum safety, and maximum profit. Nobody gets to implement the perfect solution, of course, but just because U're an ME, or an EE, or whatever, U should not limit yourself in your choice of solutions. Besides, if U can hang on for a few more decades (I can't; I'm older than dirt), nanotechnology should put any ME back into the driver's seat (although U might have to learn some software first!).
  14. Aug 20, 2007 #13
    I work for a military contractor, ... Mechanical Engineering is far far from being phased out. Even if the world is run by computers, you'll still need that manufacturing-aspect of mech e to BUILD those computers. With regards to electronics, mechanical engineers design how parts are used to keep things cool.

    Every object in the room you're sitting in now involved a mechanical engineer... whether it was design, manufacturing, heating/cooling, structural ... etc.

    Mechanical engineers rule the world. Trust me.
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