The Role of the Mechanical Engineer

Mechanical Engineers are the designers of the mechanical, thermal and fluid-flow related aspects of all such systems, including computer and feedback control of complex systems. Design of all products involves a broad, basic education and significant knowledge of how to apply, interface and use computers in modern engineering.


Mechanical engineers work in almost every technical field imaginable, including aerospace, automotive, biomedical engineering, computer aided design, energy and environmental systems. Indeed, a Mechanical Engineering (M.E.) education is the broadest of all engineering disciplines, with the widest applicability and most flexibility in terms of career paths.

Mechanical engineering education involves learning how to creatively apply a strong scientific and mathematical basis to the design of safe, reliable, environmentally sound, and cost effective systems. Teamwork, communication skills and knowledge of how to apply and use modern computer simulations and control systems are important skills to all M.Es. At the higher degree level, Mechanical Engineers perform the basic research needed to advance knowledge in the engineering sciences.


The education of a Mechanical Engineer is very broad and focuses on the skills needed to be an effective problem solver. Many students combine the broad technical knowledge gained in their undergraduate M.E. studies with graduate study in M.E. Some M.E. students combine their M.E. knowledge with other technical disciplines such as Patent law, Business development, Research and Consultancy.

The history of mechanical engineering can be traced directly to the ancient world, to the designers and inventors of the first mechanisms, which were powered by human or animal labour, water or wind energy, or a combination of these. The words engine and “ingenious” are derived from the same Latin root, “ingenerate”, “to create”. The early English verb engine meant “to contrive”. Thus the early engineers were the people who contrived (i.e. invented) new things.

The invention of the steam engine in the latter part of the 18th century provided a key source of power for the Industrial Revolution and gave enormous impetus to the development of machinery of all types. As a result, a new major classification of engineering dealing with tools and machines, namely mechanical engineering, received formal recognition in 1847.Today’s mechanical engineer is heavily involved in the development and use of new materials and technologies, and especially in computer aided engineering. A rapidly growing field for mechanical engineers is environmental control, comprising the development of machines and processes that will produce fewer pollutants, as well as the development of new equipment and techniques to reduce or remove existing pollution.Although mechanical engineers may occasionally work alone on a small project, they are more likely to be working on large, multi-disciplinary projects, liaising with specialists from other areas.In almost every sphere of modern life, from the air-conditioned office or home to the modern industrial plant or mode of transport, one sees the work of mechanical engineers who continue to develop and apply new knowledge and technology to improve the quality of life for society as a whole.

Four functions of the mechanical engineer can be cited.

1. understanding and dealing with the bases of mechanical science. These include dynamics, concerning the relation between forces and motion, such as in vibration; automatic control; thermodynamics, dealing with the relations among the various forms of heat, energy, and power; fluid flow; heat transfer; lubrication; and properties of materials.

2. the sequence of research, design, and development. This function attempts to bring about the changes necessary to meet present and future needs. Such work requires a clear understanding of mechanical science, an ability to analyze a complex system into its basic factors, and the originality to synthesize and invent.

3. the production of products and power, which embraces planning operations, and maintenance. To produce the maximum value with the minimum investment and cost while maintaining or enhancing long term viability and reputation of the enterprise.

4. the co-ordinating function of the mechanical engineer, including management, consulting, and in some cases, marketing.

In these functions there is a long continuing trend towards the use of scientific methods. Operations research, value engineering, and PABLA (problem analysis by logical approach) are typical titles of such rationalized approaches. Creativity, the ability to take the important and unexpected step that opens up new solutions remains in mechanical engineering, as elsewhere, largely a personal and spontaneous characteristic.

Employment opportunities have attracted mechanical engineers to projects involving alternative energy sources, the improvement of engineering designs and the related manufacturing processes to be more energy efficient, to avoid the creation of pollutants, environmental monitoring and re-mediation projects. Mechanical Engineers work in the energy field on both new methods for energy generation such as solar, fuel cell and wind generated power, and also on the design of traditional electrical power plants equipped with reactors, pressure piping, heat exchangers and other specialised components.In the automobile industry, mechanical engineers design the various parts of cars. In manufacturing companies of all kinds, they develop the systems that improve and speedup production processes.Mechanical Engineers are also involved in diverse projects. Mechanical Engineers design advanced materials and structures to meet the demands of supersonic and hypersonic flight and space travel.

Mechanical engineers also work alongside physicians, therapists, and other medical professionals to investigate the workings of the human body and to design aids and instruments for medicine applications. Other mechanical engineers work with trainers, coaches, and athletes on the design of sporting equipment. Mechanical Engineers involved in government research assist on key policy decisions regarding technology development and use. Mechanical Engineers working with the U.S. Department of Energy, Department of Transportation and other agencies conduct important research in solar energy, advanced materials, radioactive waste removal, magnetic-levitation trains and space missions to the planet Mars. In Ireland many Mechanical Engineers are involved in supporting our industries move up the value chain that help generate the Knowledge Economy.


• Motor vehicle engine design to increase efficiency, reduce weight etc.
• Motor vehicle body and component design for function, aesthetics and aerodynamics
• Aircraft engine and body design, maintenance, condition monitoring and fault diagnosis
• Manufacturing equipment design, maintenance, condition monitoring and fault diagnosis
• Production planning in manufacturing or mining industries
• Quality control of manufactured products
• Design of novel consumer products
• Management consulting-organisational troubleshooting and efficiency improvement
• Environmental pollution control
• Occupational and environmental noise and vibration control
• Mechanical services in buildings –design and maintenance(e.g. air conditioning)
• Design and layout of new production lines for bulk manufacturing of products
• Introduction of new technology to increase efficiency in industry
• Computer modelling to improve products design and manufacturing processes
• Development of new materials(including polymers and steels)
• Development of better ways of joining materials together (e.g. new welding technologies)
• Design of spacecraft and associated launch hardware
• Aid worker, helping third world countries by installing essential services
• Water supply engineer responsible for operation of large pumping stations
• Electricity generation or distribution engineer responsible for installation and maintenance of power generation and powerdistribution equipment
• Gas turbine designer
• Technical manual writer
• Manager of specific projects
• Manager of specialised engineering aspects of companies
• Inventor (new equipment and processes)
• Computer analyst developing new and more efficient products

DIT Faculty of Engineering has an Honours Degree (DT022) recognised for Chartered grade of the Engineering Institutions and an Ordinary Degree (DT006) in Mechanical Engineering. Further details on these courses can be found on the DIT web site under Mechanical and Transport Engineering in the Faculty of Engineering. If you wish to discuss DIT Mechanical Engineeringprogrammes further, please contact the following:

Dr. David Kennedy, Head of Department, Mechanical Engineering. Tel 4023846
Dr. Gareth O'Donnell, Mechanical Engineering, (Honours Degree DT022). Tel 4023609

Mr. Paddy MacNamara, Mechanical Engineering, (Ordinary Degree DT006). Tel 4023605

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