Which Field in Mechanical Engineering will have a better future?

Any field that you choose, make sure you become an expert in it. This will be the only way to make sure you have a better future.

That being said, let me try and answer your question. Mechanical engineering being one of the oldest branches of engineering has its branches widespread, this makes it hard to point one field better performing than the others.

However, to answer your question, I would say we are moving to a future where mechanical systems are integrated with computers. Hence, engineers with skills that help them to automate and simulate complex problems will be one of the top performers. Future engineers will need to understand how to communicate their technical know-how with a computer, simulate it, run tests, extract the data, and process it. Gone are the days where we choose one test component from a bunch of manufactured parts and run physical tests on it. Industries are now stepping up the game by performing computational tests before performing physical tests. Troubleshooting a component will soon no longer be manual. The idea is that rather than performing tasks and checks analytically and manually, engineers are expected to utilize computational powers to the maximum, figure out the solution, and fix the issue while spending as little time as possible.

Computer-Aided Engineering is therefore expected to be the tool of the future. The main advantage is that it is applicable in any subject of engineering/mechanical engineering. CAE has several divisions, including but not limited to:

The above chart is for illustrative purposes only.

From the above chart

1) CFD – is the study of fluid dynamics. If you are interested in studying CFD

CFD has two divisions – Internal (flow inside a system) and external (flow over a system). Some areas to study in internal flows include:

  • Internal combustion engines – You can specialize in areas like combustion, emission, and spray modeling.
  • HVAC systems – deals with heat, ventilation, and cooling systems. Thermal management is a popular field these days. News is that software companies hire thermal management engineers to maintain their data centers. And these thermal engineers are expected to be fluent in coding and simulating HVAC systems.
  • Turbomachinery – Turbomachines find their application in the energy and automobile industry primarily.

External flow dynamics are mainly applicable in the field of aerodynamics where you calculate lift and drag forces for aircraft and racing cars. You can learn about CFD in aerodynamics here.

2) Structural Analysis – Analysis of stress, strain, vibrations, or other physical phenomena on a structure. If you are interested in learning about structural analysis.

In structural analysis, there is implicit and explicit analysis. In the implicit analysis, you come across subjects like,

  • FEA – Area where you break a structure under stress or strain into little elements and calculate the force on each element to determine the deformation of the structure.
  • Thermal Analysis – to determine changes caused by thermal loads
  • Static/ cyclic Analysis – to determine the force acting on a body and its reaction under static, transient, or dynamic conditions.
  • Solid mechanics – Study of behavior or solid materials and their behavior under various physical conditions.

In the explicit analysis, you determine the deformation caused by high tension force or by high-speed particles perforating through the structure. Here are some examples.

  • Crash analysis/test – Analysis of high force impact on systems to develop better safety systems. If interested in learning more about crashworthiness or analysis.
  • Bullet test – Study of deformation to a system perforated by a bullet.

3) Multi-Body Dynamics – Study of kinematics and dynamics of the entire system like landing gear in aircraft or the suspension in vehicles. If you wish to learn more about MBD.

How to choose a subject to study from those mentioned above? It simple. Pick out your favorite subject from mechanical engineering and find out the CAE area where it correlates the best. For example, if you find the strength of materials/materials engineering to be the easiest subject, then the best advice would be to choose structural analysis and expertise yourself in Solid Mechanics. As an illustration, I have matched up some common Mechanical subjects to the relevant subject areas in CAE:

 

Career Opportunities in CAE

The era of simulation is already here. According to an online article published in 2014, Tom Gregory of Future Facilities commented that simulation has begun to replace prototyping. To quote him,

“That is where people are going. Already people, like Volvo, are trying to do as much virtual prototyping as possible.” [1]

Mechanical engineers who can code, simulate, and automate computationally have a ton of doors wide open before them. Like I mentioned above, software companies these days are hiring thermal engineers to maintain their data centers. Production companies are hiring simulation engineers so that they can test their designs before finalizing them for manufacturing. Any engineering field you choose needs a simulation engineer. Here are a couple of snapshots from indeed, showing opportunities for CFD and FEA engineer:

If you are interested in learning any of the subjects mentioned above, check out the courses below:

 

Check out the List of Job opportunities for your Engineering domain


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