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Do MEs need to know electronics..??

Do MEs need to know electronics..??

Do MEs need to know electronics..??

How important is it for a mechanical engineer to know enough about electronics/microprocessors/etc..

Is there any particular industry that demands this knowledge for an ME (maybe medical industry?)

RE: Do MEs need to know electronics..??

Sometimes people misrepresent their own capabilities. ... sometimes even to themselves.  In many circumstances encountered by engineers, such people represent a danger to you, in several ways.

So, it's important to know enough about other people's trades to allow you to evaluate their bona fides, and to enable you to compose a coherent question about the stuff you don't know.


Mike Halloran
Pembroke Pines, FL, USA

RE: Do MEs need to know electronics..??

I'm struggling to think of a time when it's a bad thing to know a bit about it.  However, you can get by without.

If you want to get into systems integration/systems engineering/project engineering or whatever the weekly buzzword is for getting all the different bits to work together, then it will sure be handy.

Anything that has a chunk of elecric string and associated devices in it will probably benefit from some electrical knowledge, especially as a more 'generalist'.

Posting guidelines FAQ731-376: Eng-Tips.com Forum Policies http://eng-tips.com/market.cfm? (probably not aimed specifically at you)
What is Engineering anyway: FAQ1088-1484: In layman terms, what is "engineering"?

RE: Do MEs need to know electronics..??

If you are interested in knowing why a flange-head would need to know sparky stuff, do a search on "VFD vs. Valves".  This topic gets kicked to death several times a year and I think that any ME worth hiring should be able to follow the discussion.  One guy will say that a VFD is a waste of money and that he can do all the necessary control with a valve of some sort.  Another guy will say that the most efficient use of power is to never need it (i.e., bring fewer amps into the motor).  Both arguments have merit and both technologies have their place and the issue is far from black & white.  Engineering judgement has to be applied to make this decision for your project--if you leave it to the sparkies you'll get an answer, if you leave it to the valve guys you'll get an answer, if you make up your own mind you may get a hybrid answer that could ultimately be better.

I recently had two sparkies trying to "help" me make a voltage decision for a 200 hp motor.  One guy said it had to be a 4.8 kV motor and the other guy said that the hp was too low to pay the excessive cost of switch-gears and motor controllers for the 4.8 kV service and I should just accept the "slight" loss of efficiency and avoid the horrible lead times and use 440V.  They gave me all the pertinent facts and opinions and the final decision remained with me.  Without some knowledge of this stuff the decision would have been made based on who was more convincing and a better speaker.  Not good.

David Simpson, PE
MuleShoe Engineering
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"Life is nature's way of preserving meat"  The Master on Dr. Who

RE: Do MEs need to know electronics..??

Very few things are purely mechanical or purely electrical these days.

Whatever mechanical gizmo you may design will very likely be controlled by, or interact with some electronic gadgets.

It is to your advantage to know and understand the capabilities, limitations and requirements of those electronic gadgets so that you can design an integral whole rather than isolated parts.

RE: Do MEs need to know electronics..??


   In any mechanical situation, you are part of a multi-displinary team.  You need to learn something of what your teammates are doing.  I have learned a lot about optics and something about electronics.  I know bugger all about civil engineering, chemicals, food processing, and medical stuff.

   What sort of team are you on?


RE: Do MEs need to know electronics..??

If you are working on controls, TAB, commissioning, test engineer, sensor aplications, installing starters, etc, the knowledge is of great benefit. I think most of the applications for ME's will be for 600V or less, unless you are going into energy conversion or distribution.

Being that majority of equations are analagous, I think those are the two easiest disciplines to connect.

Just love the VFD vs. valve threads. Could we add inlet guide vanes to the next debate?


RE: Do MEs need to know electronics..??

If your company sends you it India or China to troubleshoot one of its machines with the thought that the problem was mechanical but you get there and you think it is electrical, then it would be nice to be able to justify sending yourself home and getting an electrical guy out there.

RE: Do MEs need to know electronics..??

It's a 5 minute walk from my desk to the C&E department.  Quite a nice one.  One I do quite often.

- Steve

RE: Do MEs need to know electronics..??

Although I am an ME, and I really don't like electronics, I have to deal with it enough that a double major in both ME and EE would really have benefited me.

For about the past 10 years I have had to deal with electrical components.  From DC nut runners with wiring and circuit boards, to electrical connectors, and now junction boxes for automotive, I can't get away from it.

This job has been the most complex so far.  Luckily I have a good group here and have not had to deal wih a smart jb yet.  Dealing with PCB's is getting easier, but the day I have to work with one that has microprocessors I am going to be in for an awakening.  I am still trying to understand basic things like relays etc, and not just the standard 4 or 5 pin stuff.

You have to figure that much of the stuff we design interfaces or works side by side with electronics.  I long for the days when all I had to deal with was a simple gear box and somebody else took care of the electrical.

I struggled in school with just the ME programs EE stuff I had to learn.  Luckily a friend of mine was an EE and helped me get through.

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