Digitisation is rapidly changing every industry – not least those that have always relied on technology. Mechanical engineering is undergoing some radical shifts as a profession as robotics, virtual reality (VR), artificial intelligence (AI) and big data transform the way that engineers design and develop projects.
In the past, designing new tools and systems often required multiple prototypes and test runs. As an increasing volume of data becomes available, they can accelerate the design process and make even more sophisticated products. Undoubtedly, there’s a significant transformation taking place in the sector, but what may the future hold? Here, we cover the key trends and innovations in brief.
Robotics in manufacturing
Manufacturers are always looking for ways to make production lines faster and more streamlined whilst maintaining quality. Automation and robotics are some of the key tools to facilitate this objective, helping factories keep up with demand and maximise profit. However, this isn’t to say robots will completely replace humans. According to the Huffington Post, many American manufacturers are finding it hard to fill vacancies for highly skilled workers, like mechanical engineers. Therefore, instead of a threat, robotics can be seen as an opportunity for engineers.
The exponential growth of the electric vehicle industry
Transport generates the lion’s share of greenhouse gases. There is mounting pressure to find a sustainable alternative to fossil fuels, which as we know, has led to the rise of the electric vehicle. This industry is really taking off now, and mechanical engineers are playing their part to keep improving the performance of these vehicles. This includes everything from the design of the batteries to automation on the production line, where robotics will play a key role.
Looking closer with nanoengineering
One of the primary routes to better products in mechanical engineering is materials. To further improve the performance of materials, we need to start analysing them closer – on a nano level. The analysis of materials on a nano-level will enable engineers to create stronger composites, enhance sustainability, and make materials more resilient. The field of nanoengineering is growing rapidly and is set to play an even more important role in the future.
Combining body and machine with biomechatronics
Biomechatronics takes robotics to the next level. In the wake of the growing demand for robots, mechanical engineers are exploring the possibility of combining mechatronics with biology to mimic the movements of the human body. These technologies are most likely to be useful in medicine, where mechanical sensors, controllers, and actuators can perform delicate tasks with the accuracy of a robot and the finesse of the human hand.
No matter the future of mechanical engineering, sustainability needs to be at the forefront of these new innovations. In the coming months and years, there will undoubtedly be a rise in demand for renewable energy and sustainable technologies, and this shift will dramatically affect the future of mechanical engineering. The future for the industry is bright – but it has to be green. It’ll be interesting to see what 2022 holds.