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Thread: Does Mechanical Engineering or Mechatronics best complement Industrial Design

  1. #1
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    Does Mechanical Engineering or Mechatronics best complement Industrial Design

    Hello

    I am a first year Industrial Design student, I am looking to take on a minor at University and my options are either Mechanical Engineering or Mechatronics. Which of those fields best complements my major of Industrial Design? Which allows for growth, and will best complement me in the future? The qualification that I will currently finish with in 4 years is a BTech in Industrial Design, which is the equivalent of a Bachelors. Some help would be great. I am looking to gain more insight into how products, technology and machines function, rather than just designing how they look.

    Thanks

  2. #2
    Administrator Kelly Bramble's Avatar
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    I estimate that Mechanical Engineering would be best.

  3. #3
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    Hi Gray,

    I disagree with Kelly in direct answer to the first part of your question, but overall, I agree with him.

    Mechatronics is an interesting area to get involved in, and appears that it may have some good potential further down the line, but it is more of a fad doctrine at this time.

    On the other hand, and more importantly, Mech Eng is a real doctrine that has been around since a caveman shaped a spike into the end of his club for higher efficiency. It is a widely recognized component of education and can easily be added to later on with some extra studies to achieve a second full degree that will open up a zillion more doors than a Mecatronics degree.

    Although, that said, I have been wrong before and will be again, no doubt.

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    hi PinkertonD
    So you are saying that Mechatronics will complement Industrial Design better in giving me an understanding of how products and technology function, but that Mechanical Engineering will open up many more doors for me in the future, if the qualification is completed in the future, and essentially have more future potential that Mechatronics.
    The knowledge I gain through doing this major I want to add to my design knowledge and expertise. Design is influenced way more my engineering than design influences engineering, this is what I am beginning to realize. I want an understanding of how things are manufactured, function and the forces involved during its operation, both mechanically and electrically, so that I can design accordingly. Both roots will require some extra studies to get a complete qualification in either one. Both have pretty much the same modules for first year so I may have a better understanding after first year. I just don't know which one to choose for now.

    Why is Mechatronics such a fad and buzz doctrine at the moment? I mean, the phrase and field has been around for ages, why all the buzz now?

    Thanks again, for your thoughts

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    Hi Gray,
    You seem to have shifted focus a little on what you first asked, but my original reply still stands.

    Mechatronics is more in the spotlight now as low cost computer driven controls are more readily available. You can get a 3-axis board for around a 100-bucks. With three surplus steppers and an old computer and for under 200-bucks total you can control three-axis or three real-world devices in prefect harmony.

    Twenty years back, that same little exercise would have run to many thousands of dollars. I recall adding CNC control to a small milling machine back in 1997 and it cost me 1600 bucks. Today, that same control but with much more finesse and better step-control could be had for $200.

    Given your last post, it is pretty much up to you which way you go. Both Kelly and I have given opinions on the "later-worth" of the Engineering approach, so now it is your turn to research and follow what you think is going to be best for you.
    Last edited by PinkertonD; 03-19-2012 at 11:10 AM.

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    Technical Fellow jboggs's Avatar
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    OK, I'll finally jump in here. I am of the same era as Pinkerton, Kelly, and some of the other old farts on this site. First, congratulations on understanding what Dave was trying to say. I think you got it. Yes, a Mechanical Engineering degree will be much more useful to you in the long run in my opinion. The reason is that (if you make it all the way through) you will leave school with a much better understanding of the unseen forces and processes behind the world around you. When you're in a large building you will find yourself studying the roof structure and analyzing how the loads are absorbed and transmitted to the ground. You will see design successes and failures all around you. You will be able to look at a machine and forecast what the probable failure points might be. You will understand why such intricate detail is required in the design process. Way back when I investigated possibly becoming a lawyer I had an epiphany of sorts. The laws of man are always changing, and rarely make good sense in all cases. The laws of nature (or Laws of God as I call them) are unchanging, make sense, and apply in absolutely all cases. The better you understand them, the more you can do with them.

    As for Mechanical Engineering vs. Mechatronics, well I should preface this by saying that I never even heard the term Mechatronics until many years after I graduated from college. I have not taken any courses in it, so I speak from a perspective of some ignorance and I will admit it. That said, the name itself is a little confusing to me. Honestly, no offense to anyone out there, but it strikes me as a marketing gimmick. Yes, today very little happens in the world of machines without both a good mechanical design and a good electrical or electronic design. That being said, I have never met anyone I would consider an expert at both. Many, many people have SOME knowledge of both, and that is a very good thing. But two different mindsets and two different worlds of knowledge are required to do a complete and thorough job of designing anything very complex.

    I see it kind of like the difference between a programmer and an electronic engineer. The electronic engineer creates the tools. The programmer uses those tools to create a product. He didn't design the circuit boards but he knows how to use them. I would say that a Mechatronic engineer might know how to use some of the tools (both mechanical and electrical) available in the machine design process, but might not have an in-depth understanding of how those tools were created. When his design fails due to overloaded bearings, would he know how to do a free-body diagram to calculate the actual forces on those bearings? Maybe, maybe not.

    You should look closely at the academic requirements of each. I would guess that the drop-out rate in a first class Mechanical Engineering curriculum is probably much higher than that in the Mechatronics field, and for good reason. It probably requires a much more rigorous understanding of math, physics, thermodynamics, etc. I think Mechatronics is "such a fad and buzz doctrine at the moment" for that reason - its probably easier to obtain, and it does provide some technical understanding.

    As for your chosen field and the usefulness of either discipline? Either one would be very useful to you and would probably give you a significant jump on your competition. I encourage you to pursue either one. I think in the short term the Mechatronics background might be more helpful, but in the long term you would find the Mechanical Engineering understanding more useful. The good thing is it's never too late to learn more!

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    Quote Originally Posted by jboggs View Post
    When you're in a large building you will find yourself studying the roof structure and analyzing how the loads are absorbed and transmitted to the ground.
    JB, spot on. That cracked me up completely. Blew hot coffee through my nose. The local electrical power authority has been doing work on the power lines and they are using some new and interesting things for holding and connecting wires and when I take the dog for a walk I often stop and look at the things and study them in detail, maybe a minute or two at a time. The SO, waits about 28-seconds and says, "what are you staring at, can't we just walk?"

    Engineering, it's a curse I tell you.

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    Hi Jboggs, Please excuse the delay on my response
    I agree with what you say. I do understand that it is better to know everything about one particular skill than to know something about many skills. For now I am looking at what will help me achieve and excel in my current Industrial Design qualification. I would like to gain extra skills that will make me able to design, and put together, functioning products with both mechanical and electronic functioning parts. I am very interested in Interactive Design, with my college offering a post-grad course in Interactive Design, but I would like to develop that knowledge now. As I said, I want to excel in my course and it seems in the short term that Mechatronics is the better choice, with it allowing me to build functioning products, and will contribute to my desired cum laude in my Industrial Design qualification.
    That all said, I agree that having the Mechanical Engineering knowledge will definitely benefit me more in the long run. The modules for first and second year for Mechatronics and Mechanical Engineering are quite similar, it would be easy to continue with my studies afterwards and gain knowledge in Mechanical Engineering.

    Thank you all for your thoughts

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