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Structures and machines are part of the mechanical engineering principles which describe the foundations for the operation of mechanical systems. To learn more about these principles read this article.

When speaking about structures and machines as part of the mechanical engineering principles, it usually refers to analyzing the performance of structural designs, mechanisms, and assemblies as a whole by means of specific testing and software simulations.

Here you will learn how structures and machines are developed, analyzed, and tested using mechanical engineering principles.

How are mechanical structures and machines developed?

Mechanical structures and machines are generally developed by applying mechanical design.

This is done through a decision-making process that applies the basics of mechanics and mathematics. It also requires plenty of creative skills to devise the best solution.

Using creativity, the engineer creates a sketch of the structure or mechanism that will conform to the machine. From this point, it uses the knowledge of mechanics and mathematics to calculate whether the idea is feasible or not. When different solutions are obtained, it is time to analyze them and test them to make sure the optimal is chosen.

How are mechanical structures and machines analyzed and tested?

After a technical solution is achieved for the needed structure or machine, it is necessary to analyze and test different aspects. These include but are not limited to:

  • Performance analysis and testing
  • Regulatory compliance verification
  • Manufacturing alternatives and costs
  • Maintenance needs.

There are three main alternatives to analyze and test a mechanical structure or machine. They are:

  • Prototyping
  • Finite Element Analysis (FEA)
  • Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD)

Prototyping

Plastic 3D printed prototype car parts
Plastic 3D printed prototype car parts

This is the most traditional one. However, it requires time, effort and money, since a sample piece of the structure or machine being analyzed must be manufactured.

However, with current manufacturing developments such as 3D printing, prototyping is an appropriate alternative in certain applications and for certain materials.

Finite Element Analysis (FEA)

FEA Simulation of an I-Beam.
FEA Simulation of an I-Beam. The different colors are indicators of variable values that help predict mechanical behavior.

As it was explained above, performance is one of the many aspects that need to be analyzed and tested when developing a new mechanical structure or machine.

Moreover, some regulations require the structures or machine components to have specific resistance under applied forces. This is especially true in the transportation industry where pilots, drivers, and passengers must be safe.

FEA is the analysis performed by the product design engineer on simulated physical phenomena based on the numerical method known as FEM or Finite Element Method, which uses mathematical equations to find an approximation of the behavior of any given component under the conditions given in the simulation.

Fortunately, the product design engineer can rely on Computer-Aided Engineering (CAE) to carry out FEA simulations to predict and refine structural and machine performance and vibration among others.

Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD)

CFD analysis of a Formula One car
CFD analysis of a Formula One car

This is a similar approach to FEA, which is why many people think they do the same. However, this is not correct.

CFD can be defined as the analysis performed by the product design engineer on simulated physical phenomena related to a specific fluid considering physical properties of the fluid such as pressure, temperature, density, viscosity, and velocity.

It uses thermodynamic principles and a mathematical model such as the Navier-Stokes equations to find an approximation of the behavior of the fluid with or without interaction with solid components, being possible to describe heat transfer or fluid flow behavior under the conditions given in the simulation.

Therefore, CFD is applied to mechanical structures and machines to predict the behavior of thermal and fluid systems and refine it.

Final words

Clearly, these principles are essential to make sure your product has the right structure and mechanism to perform well. Of course, to get the most out of them you need the right tools, the knowledge, and the experience. That’s what we provide at Porticos, Skillful application of the engineering sciences to provide actionable results.

Do you need your structure or machine analyzed and tested? Let us help you, contact us now!

 

Keywords: mechanical structures and machines, finite element analysis, computational fluid dynamics