Prospects in mechanical engineering

Last Updated 27 September 2021, 19:17 IST

Strictly speaking, the history of engineering begins with the invention of the wheel.

Later, other fundamental inventions like the pulley and lever were used to spur innovation — in agriculture (the bullock cart and water wheel), warfare (forging swords, building the catapult and cannons) and construction (the pyramids in Egypt and other ancient wonders).

Today, the applications of mechanical engineering are vast, ranging from automobile engineering to aerospace engineering, materials and industrial engineering.

But does the old adage of mechanical engineering being the ‘mother of all engineering branches’ still hold true in the digital age? What could a mechanical engineer possibly contribute in IT companies or the biomedical sector, for instance?

Here are a few fields where mechanical engineering continues to be relevant.

Biomedical and Pharmaceutical industry: Most of the cutting-edge technology used in the pharmaceutical industry are developed with the involvement of mechanical engineers, especially those with knowledge in design and manufacturing.

Even a company manufacturing something basic, like disposable syringes, needs a machine that moulds medical grade plastic into a syringe.

The regular maintenance of these machines also requires the skill set of mechanical engineer.

Aeronautics: The components of aeronautics involves study of subjects like Material Science, Manufacturing Process, Thermal Engineering, Fluid Mechanics and Design engineering, which are core mechanical skills.

Even here, mechanical engineers play an important role in the maintenance of the aircraft. They analyse data from sensors and other devices, which helps the aircraft maintenance team take decisions on the repair and replacement of the parts.

Food industry: The food processing industry has seen a heavy shift towards automation, which has taken place on the back of machines.

This starts from the manufacture of food processing machines used, and involves other subjects like Automation, Robotics, Manufacturing Process, Mechatronics (sensor technology) and Non-destructive testing which are used in the manufacturing process.

Automobile industry: The role of the mechanical engineers is significant in this field. Some basic knowledge of mechanical engineering is required to design and manufacture every part of the automobile.

These could include subjects ranging from Metal Casting and Welding, Machining, Thermodynamics (Thermal engineering), Engineering Economics, Design Engineering, and even Mechatronics. In some cases, learning the software also involves familiarity with the subjects a mechanical engineering student picks up.

Specialisation options

In India, many reputed institutes offer MTech, MS and PG Diploma in specialisations like Industrial Engineering, Machine Design, Robotics, Industrial Design, Product Design and Manufacturing, Artificial Intelligence, Manufacturing Engineering and Mechatronics, which

Courses with subjects like Operations Research, Operations Management, Organisational Behaviour could also help mechanical engineering students.

Abroad, there is a lot of scope for mechanical engineers in the field of Industrial Engineering (US), which is at the forefront of Industrial Engineering — including things like Process optimisation and supply chain management.

Germany, with its cutting edge design and production of automobiles, is also a natural destination for mechanical engineers.

The job opportunities for mechanical engineers are vast as the branch including sub-branches like

Manufacturing (automobiles, aircraft parts, products related to domestic applications, electronic devices, foundries, steel plants).

Design (automobiles and automobile parts, aircraft parts, machines, structures etc)

Thermal engineering (boilers, power plants, automobile sector, aerospace sector etc)

IT companies (business analyst, programmer, tester, management activities etc)

The defence services offer mechanical engineers good career options, as does the Merchant Navy.

If the graduate is innovative and has leadership qualities then one can start their own startups. There are also opportunities to do jobs related to research activities like junior research fellow in premier institutes.

Mechanical engineering is an evergreen branch dspite some dips in the recent past, the number of students opting for this field has remained constant over the past decades.

This is a testament to the flexibility that students of mechanical engineering are offered.

(The author is an Assistant Professor at an engineering college in Belagavi)

(Published 27 September 2021, 19:13 IST)

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