While the differences between most engineering disciplines are fairly obvious, misunderstandings are common when explaining the differences between mechanical vs electrical engineering. This is largely due to the similarities in the designs provided by both modalities, as well as how closely electrical and mechanical engineers work together in building projects. It becomes important then to understand the nuanced differences between these two engineering types in order to accurately build project scopes.
The differences can become even more blurry when it comes to how both work with power systems. There are a number of differences between the two types of engineering that can help you to place each type of engineer into their rightful place. Possessing this understanding will give you a better idea of project staffing requirements, as well as overall personnel expectations, and will help in building and executing a successful project plan.
Electrical Engineering Focuses on Power Generation
The short and simple way to categorize the primary specialty of an electrical engineer is power generation. They spend the majority of their time working with the installation of electrical equipment, including the design and testing of these systems. They are not limited to specific industries, and the work of an electrical engineer, or EE, can be found in any commercial application including industrial, medical, military, and science-based industries.
Electrical engineers are heavily dependent on using CAD software for developing and building the components they design. CAD software acts as a way to turn imagination into reality, giving EE’s the ability to test technical specifications and push the limits of known design thresholds to create new and more efficient ways to use power in a variety of applications. This positions them as experts in the use and creation of electrical energy and is indispensable in modernizing power efficiencies.
Electrical engineers can also be thought of as a logical link between computer engineering and mechanical engineering. Where most other types of engineering will have limited programming experience, the typical EE will have a significant amount of programming knowledge that comes into play in certain applications, in particular automation and robotics. This makes them in some ways part-time computer engineers as well.
Mechanical Engineering Focuses on Power Applications
The career of the mechanical engineer, or ME, is one that is built around molding a combination of parts and pieces into a piece of productive machinery. Like EE’s, ME’s are instrumental in the design, testing, and implementation stages of equipment. Mechanical engineers are expected to create or interpret blueprints, schematics, and technical drawings to create the best equipment fit for any particular product application of the project.
Like EE’s, ME’s are heavy users of CAD software. Often, mechanical engineers utilize the same CAD drawings that an electrical engineer has created for the further development of a powered product. Mechanical engineers are perhaps the most hands-on of all of the engineering disciplines and are heavily involved with actively testing and building use cases for powered prototypes. This includes stress testing, fabrication monitoring, and assembly.
One key difference between electrical and mechanical engineers comes in the area of support. While both types of engineers can be engaged to investigate points of failures or to further improve a product, ME’s are called to do so on a far more consistent basis, due in part to the hands-on aspect of this area of engineering. It is worth noting however that in some cases, remediation and calls for improvement will often involve the use of an electrical engineer.
Electrical and Mechanical Engineering Are Fully Complementary
As the world pushes towards highly sustainable ways of daily living and manufacturing, the complementary nature of electrical and mechanical engineering becomes evident. Shared skill sets and advanced knowledge in design applications bridge any skills gaps. Also, both bring unique sets of data and viewpoints to the table, but a similar understanding of power systems gives them an easy ability to confer and collaborate on groundbreaking product development projects.
For example, a group of engineers is tasked with changing power characteristics on the back end, but without affecting how the user interacts with the device. The EE sits down with the ME and designs a power supply that reduces power requirements by 60%. Using these new power specifications, the ME designs new engine parts that allow the device to operate in the same way at the same horsepower but using the power requirements set by the EE.
Having both types of engineers on a power-based project leads to better solutions and greatly reduces the likelihood of troubleshooting or re-design work down the road. Using both types of engineers ensures that the engineers will confer with each other in real-time, limiting delays due to a lack of one party’s availability. This gives you a stronger product, faster, and one that comes with multiple experienced eyes to correct potential flaws and act as natural quality control checks.
Understanding the Differences Between Mechanical vs Electrical Engineering
Developing an accurate understanding of how electrical and mechanical engineers differ, and yield complement each other, will yield improved product quality results. The blending of the diverse skill sets of each engineering discipline along with the many close similarities presents your project with a complete, sustainable powered product that will bring your customers back for more.
PRL’s engineers have dozens of manufacturing options available to help you solve any challenge facing your product: CNC machining, custom tooling, 3D printing, thermoplastic molding, reverse engineering, and more. No matter what stage your product is currently at, we can create it and optimize it for manufacturing.