What is mechanical engineering? Mechanical engineering is all about taking science and using it to produce things. It’s about translating theoretical research into practical solutions and applications which are used by society. Mechanical engineers’ discoveries, creations and developments of technology laid the foundations for modern life as we know it. Today, they design, maintain, repair and operate everything we need in our daily lives now, and in the future they will deliver the solutions to sustain and protect human society’s existence.
Consider the mechanical engineering that enables you to enjoy a MARS® Bar. Mars products are made and delivered with the highest quality, at the least cost, with the lowest possible consumption of resources. Once raw materials, including sugar, milk and packaging have been sourced, mechanical engineering kicks in. The inbound supply chain uses shipping, rail and road networks, plus GPS technology – all of which are designed, built and maintained by mechanical engineers.
The company’s UK plant in Slough which produces world famous confectionery brands, including the MARS® Bar, is efficient, clean and designed for simplicity thanks to engineers who are continually innovating: seeking new processes, technologies and ways of working to improve the company’s rate of output, reducing waste, and minimizing environmental impact. Engineers lead every process, from processing the chocolate, nougat and caramel, to packaging the finished products.
Major infrastructure projects, such as a state of the art utilities centre, support the business in achieving best in class energy efficiency and reliability. New production lines are constructed to meet changing consumer demands, and high-speed packaging machinery is delivering new, innovative pack formats.
The mechanical engineering doesn’t stop there. From the logistics of stock control to outbound distribution and transportation, it is mechanical engineers who play a major role in getting your MARS® Bar from the factory to the supermarket shelf.
Healthier, wealthier and wiser: engineering makes modern life possible
Humans have always sought to improve the way they live. Today, mechanical engineering is all about making people healthier, more comfortable, safer and richer in their daily lives and experiences. We live in a world shaped by engineering. Engineers contribute significantly to global wealth creation. Thanks to mechanical engineers many of us enjoy better healthcare, greater life expectancy and a good quality of life. We can get to school or work every day, and travel around the world for business or holidays. We are better fed, better clothed and better housed, and we live in a safer environment.
In the developing world, mechanical engineers are making a real difference in improving lives: bringing safe, reliable water sources to communities or designing devices to end preventable infant mortality. Satellites designed by British engineers can offer pre-warnings of potential natural disasters and, as in the case of the devastating tsunami in Japan or the earthquake in Haiti, can be programmed rapidly to provide critical data about the worst affected areas – genuinely helping rescuers to save lives.
Every giant technological leap forward is thanks to mechanical engineering
From smart phones to goal-line technology, from artificial hearts to re-usable spacecraft, and from air capture devices addressing carbon emissions to mapping the human genome, mechanical engineers are at the forefront of ground-breaking innovations which offer unprecedented opportunities to further human understanding and enable global society to become ever more advanced and sophisticated in its capabilities, and adventurous in its possibilities.
Visionary British engineers are leading a new industrial revolution: designing and manufacturing products as if grown by nature, and re-writing engineering principles in the process.
Dan Johns of Bloodhound SSC is one of these visionaries: a world expert in additive manufacturing which allows single products to be ‘grown’ from a fine powder of metal, nylon or carbon-reinforced plastics, perfected using computer-aided design and then constructed by a powerful laser-sintering process to add successive, thin layers of the material until the product emerges.
It can ‘grow’ anything from an elegant pair of shoes to bone-like replacement hip joints; wedding rings to designer furniture or car steering wheels; even whole aircraft wings. The level of customisation possible is mind-blowing: personalised shoes could enhance a sprinter’s performance or enable a toddler to take her first wobbly steps.
Research into ‘printing’ proteins, means that we will be able to grow bio components. Most exciting of all, we may be able to grow our own at home: from furniture to dishwasher replacement parts.
In additive manufacturing, engineers start with nothing and put the material only where they want it, simulating precisely how nature creates something through gradual growth. The result is that for each product, just a tenth of the usual amount of raw material is needed, as well as considerably less energy, helping to cut costs, conserve resources and reduce carbon emissions.
Most revolutionary of all, additive manufacturing gives engineers the true freedom of design to alter the mechanical behaviour of things and design them from the inside out. Design and manufacture will truly emulate nature where nothing is straight or square, material is only placed where it is needed and systems are smart and fully integrated. In this renaissance, as Dan Johns says: “Engineers will be artists and visionaries to match the genius of Leonardo da Vinci.”
To resource global society effectively we would need five Earths
We live in an increasingly populated world. The population explosion of the last 200 years, the parallel consumption of natural resources, and climate change have all combined to pose a substantial threat to the long-term survival of global society.Mechanical engineers can offer the technological solutions which will reduce our impact on planet Earth’s environment, husband our natural resources in a sustainable manner, and ensure that we have enough energy to cope with the demand and population growth, to keep the lights on around the world.
Engineers will be vital to shaping society to sustain us for the future: updating and enhancing our infrastructure in a planned way encompassing energy, transport, housing, town planning and land use. These big issues affect the whole world, and engineers will be at the heart of the matter, providing the expertise, knowledge and advice to help governments in advanced, developing and underdeveloped regions to come to a consensus to implement world solutions.
How the Institution of Mechanical Engineers is helping to improve the world
Throughout the constantly evolving work of mechanical engineers, one institution has been at the heart of the world’s most important and dynamic industries since its formation in 1847.
Today, working hard to support our 113,000 members, the Institution is the market leader among professional engineering bodies. It is a go-ahead organization with global reach that truly represents and reflects the profession: encouraging professional registration and long-term career development.
As a global community of mechanical engineers represented in over 140 countries, the Institution is the largest network of mechanical engineering knowledge, skill and opportunity in the world. With an ever growing membership based outside the UK, we develop and maintain key partnerships with leading multi-national employers to ensure their technical workforces are trained to the highest standard. By equipping engineers with the right skills, knowledge and experience to help them develop, we contribute to strengthening the world’s leading companies.
We encourage high profile education initiatives which inspire the next generation to work in engineering, and get engineers featured in the global media and heard by government.
We are committed to ensuring that the views of engineers are well represented in the public domain. Thanks to its internationally recognised thought leadership around energy, climate change and future transport, the global press trusts the Institution as a source of expert opinion. With a proven track record for understanding the needs of government, our well respected expert knowledge is sought by politicians to shape policy.
The following stories
illustrate some of the incredible work both the Institution and our members are doing to set the agenda and improve the world through engineering.
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