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The Value of the Mechanical Engineer in an Embedded Controls Industry

How the mechanical engineer can eliminate the shortage for highly qualified engineers in a world of embedded and electric technology

 

As driverless technologies rise to prominence, the safety and functionality of crucial automotive systems, is becoming an ever more pressing issue. Because of this, the embedded controls industry is on a lot of people’s minds. Even so, in some sectors, we are suffering from a lack of engineers with the right skill sets to drive the industry forward.

In a recent whitepaper for LHP, Pamela Tartt, Director of Corporate Training at LHPU, and Ishan Arora, an Embedded Controls Engineer at LHP, argue that we might be able to work around this shortage by tapping into a stable of engineers that have been right under our noses for a long time: mechanical engineers.


Embedded Systems on VehicleExample of embedded technology on the vehicle 


It’s a common misconception that only electrical engineers are well-suited to jobs in the embedded controls arena of the automotive industry. With the rise of mechatronics and related disciplines over the past few decades, many mechanical engineers are quite comfortable with the intersection between electrical and mechanical power. In fact, many mechanical engineers will bring a uniquely powerful skill set to bear on the problems facing our industry.


Take for example a fuel injector control strategy design in Simulink. On first blush, it seems to rely primarily on electrical and programming knowledge. Taking a deeper a look, we can see how the problems one might face when completing this design are squarely in the wheelhouse of a mechanical engineer.

As Tartt and Arora explain, a successful control strategy design will be intimately tied with the “critical principles of combustion and thermodynamics,” in order to, “achieve ultimate engine performance.” The fact that a mechanical engineer can thoroughly consider the physics in their designs makes them powerful members of any team tackling just such a problem.

Further, consider a mechanical engineer’s contribution to a team tackling a calibration problem. It’s well established that calibration isn’t just as simple as changing values in a system. Calibration requires an intuitive understanding of which values to change and how they will impact the whole system. Again, because the mechanical engineer has a deep understanding of physics, their contributions to such problems can be indispensable.

Perhaps most compellingly, mechanical engineers can also provide a great deal of insight at the level of functional safety. With the upcoming release of a new version of the ISO 26262 standard, functional safety is driving the decision making in many corners of our industry. Tartt and Arora warn against the knee-jerk response to simply hire more electrical engineers to tackle these changes.

As they explain, it’s important to remember the foundation of functional safety: the prediction and prevention of failure modes. Failure modes that might arise from the physical interaction of new components or the thermal effects in the system will stick out like a sore thumb to our mechanical engineers.

For all these reasons and countless others, it is incredibly important to consider pulling from the field of mechanical engineers when making hiring decisions in the embedded controls industry. Though they aren’t traditionally our first stop, it’s quite clear that they are often uniquely qualified and just what’s needed in an industry that’s moving faster than ever.

 

Download our the latest white paper to gain further insight into mechanical engineers entering the emebedded technology world

 

All About Physics

 

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