Electromechanics is a field of engineering in which the processes of electrical and mechanical engineering come together. Its focus is on the interaction of electrical and mechanical systems and therefore electromechanical devices will involve both electrical and mechanical processes.
The term usually relates to devices which involve an electrical signal to create mechanical movement, or a mechanical movement creating an electric signal. The areas of industry that utilize electromechanics are numerous and all kinds of products, from space satellites to computer monitors, combine electrical and mechanical systems.
An Overview of Electromechanics
A key component in electromechanics is the actuator. This is a device that converts electricity to mechanical force in such a way as to enable the performance of some specific type of work such as physically moving some object or device. They can come in a very wide range of shapes, sizes, and designs, nevertheless, they all work on the same basic principle of converting electricity to motive force. This force can be used to move large doors, to operate switches for sorting conveyor systems, or to move powered valves.
Electromechanical actuators can also be designed to hold an object or to prevent a particular type of motion. All devices directly converting electricity into some type of motion are electromechanical actuators. One of the most common devices of this type is the linear actuator. A linear actuator moves in a straight line. A linear electromechanical actuator is used to move objects such as louvers on windows, sliding doors, the position of a tool or other machine, or to move flight control surfaces on an aircraft.
Another common actuator is the Piezoelectric actuator which exploits the electric charge that accumulates in certain solid materials in response to applied mechanical stress. The forces and charges generated are often very small, and these types of actuators are also small. They are used in applications where great precision is desired such as the ultraﬁne-movement stage of semiconductor exposure systems, precision positioning probes and probes for scanning tunnel microscopy and atomic force microscopy. It is anticipated that in biomedical and aspects of medical care the role of piezoelectric actuators will become increasing important in future years.
Not only does electromechanics utilize electricity to perform mechanical functions, but equally it uses mechanical movement to generate electricity. This area of electromechanics now embraces the fast-developing area of renewable energy created through wind turbines and hydroelectric plants, further emphasising the important role electromechanics will play in all our futures.
The Role of the Electromechanical Engineer
There are opportunities for electromechanical engineers in a wide variety of industries each with their own specific requirements, but generic responsibilities include assembly, disassembly, and problem solving with electromechanical components. Electromechanical engineers are expected to be constantly developing new ideas, designing and analysing electro-mechanical systems and steering them from design to realisation.
Many electromechanical engineering professionals are engineering technicians. These professionals often design, test and maintain automated, unmanned equipment. The type of equipment they work with can include production line machinery in manufacturing facilities, oil rigs or even unmanned aircrafts and submarines.
The responsibilities of the electromechanical engineering technician usually include reading blueprints and other design documents to aid in mechanical assembly together with the designing, testing and manufacturing of electronically controlled mechanical systems. It may also involve fabricating metal housings, fittings and various other metal machine parts, calibrating hydraulic systems and mounting electronic parts. The electromechanical engineering professionals are also responsible for monitoring, maintaining, troubleshooting and repairing manufacturing parts and systems. They are also required to produce written reports detailing the results of their work.
Electromechanical technicians are expected to use excellent analytical skills and expertise with computer technology and mechanical processes in order to perform these duties. These engineering technicians piece together and calibrate new machines, such as manufacturing robotic devices. They also diagnose issues, make any necessary repairs, create new components and carry out performance tests on them. In the specialized field of medical electromechanics responsibilities include those for diagnostic and life-support equipment. The maintenance of most medical diagnostic equipment, such as two-dimensional (2D) and three-dimensional (3D) imaging equipment, requires knowledge of electronics as well as mechanical actuator and positioning systems. Knowledge of computers is usually needed for the preventive and corrective maintenance of equipment.
Electromechanical engineers are often required to provide guidance and support to the engineering teams for the design of custom and modified standard electromechanical products and for this reason communication skills are integral to the role. Electromechanical engineers frequently make presentations and draft technical instructions, so public speaking and writing are two skills to be mastered.
The role of the electromechanical engineer usually embraces a responsibility for controlling product manufacturing cost and therefore an awareness of cost effectiveness is also essential.
Electromechanical Engineer Skills
An electromechanical engineer should have a strong technical background combined with creative flair, as the expectation is that they will be constantly developing new ideas and bringing them to fruition. Strength in maths, science and computers is necessary for electromechanical engineers, who will frequently be working with all three disciplines.
Typically, electromechanical technicians would be expected to have a solid understanding of the dynamics of motion and a fundamental knowledge of precision Power Transmission Components. Hands-on assembly of electromechanical components and test experience are considered essential as is hands on experience in assembly and wiring of electrical and electronic components.
In terms of qualifications, the route to becoming an electromechanical engineer can be made through HNC level or above in an Engineering discipline, preferably mechanical, electrical, or other technical disciplines, ideally related to power generation. New courses that include theoretical and computational aspects of electromagnetism robotics, communications and control mechanics and engineering design are offered under the title of “Mechatronic Engineering” a new name that is being used in some quarters to replace that of Electromechanical Engineering. It is possible to qualify with a B.Eng in Mechatronic Engineering in three years or an M.Eng in Mechatronic Engineering in four years. Once suitably qualified electromechanical engineers can expect a starting salary of around £30,000, rising significantly with the acquisition of specialist skills and experience.
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The future for Electromechanical/Mechatronic engineers looks bright with electromechanical systems being central to many industries both the traditional and the emerging. Environmental concerns that have placed an emphasis on renewable energy and electric cars, the continued advancements in robotics, the demands of the aerospace industry and the military mean that there is no shortage of choice of employment for the aspiring electromechanical engineer.