Engineering is a popular study option these days and mechanical engineering is one of the oldest niches in the field. After all, everybody wanted the wheels to be put in motion and to make things go faster. Car and airplane engines are the most prolific examples in mechanical engineering.

Today, mechanical engineering along with mechatronics do not only make things go faster, but they also make them smarter. Think of the many systems inside any machinery or device, such as the automatic breaks and video systems integrated within cars, meant to create users’ a more comfortable, pleasant and safe experience.

If you’re the kind that likes to knock down all sorts of equipment into pieces, repair and connect the pieces again, you’re probably the perfect candidate for either a Bachelor’s Degree in mechanical engineering or Mechatronics.

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Everyone knows a little about what mechanical engineering is about but what is mechatronics exactly? Finding out will help you make an informed decision about your next step in higher education. Mechanical engineering and mechatronics are sometimes confused with one another, as they are similar in some aspects so read below to find out what each subject is about.

  • What is mechanical engineering?
  • What is mechatronics?
  • Knowledge and skills learned in a mechanical engineering degree
  • What you’ll learn as a student in mechatronics?
  • Deciding between mechanical engineering and mechatronics

1. What is mechanical engineering?

Mechanical engineering is one of the oldest branches of engineering, and it deals with designing a component, machine, system or a process by using principles of motion, energy and force. That means that the work of a mechanical engineer focuses on creating new technology that meets and satisfies human needs; as you can see, touch and use the work of mechanical engineers each day: it’s the engine of a car, the printer that helps you copy a document, the air-conditioning that cools you in the hot summer days, just to mention a few basic examples.

Basically, a mechanical engineer is responsible for creating the mechanical systems of any machinery or device that is meant to move. They also test and manufacture these systems and some mechanical engineers engage in areas of research such as nanotechnology, development of composite materials, biomedical applications, or environmental conservation.

2. What is mechatronics?

Mechatronics is an interdisciplinary field that combines principles of mechanics, electronics and computing and aims to improve the functionality of technical systems and to create new concepts of machinery and equipment with built-in 'artificial intelligence'. Examples of machineries or devices that have been created with the use of mechatronics are the autofocus camera, automated guided vehicles, robots and anti-lock braking systems in automobiles.

Mechatronics engineers use and apply notions and skills from mechanical, electrical, computer and design engineering and focus on finding new ways to make a system smarter. In mechatronics, the approach is holistic, as mechatronics experts have to integrate mechanical components, electronic sensors, mechanical and electrical actuators and computer controllers – all in one project.

3. What does a mechanical engineering degree focus on?

Bachelor’s degree courses in mechanical engineering will teach you how to design, maintain and manufacture all types of machines, including individual and small parts of machines. The target of mechanical engineering degrees is to train students to find mechanical solutions and to become innovative thinkers, such as inventing new systems or devices that would meet peoples’ needs and satisfaction.

Typically, a mechanical engineering degree includes topics like:

1. mechanics

2. manufacturing engineering

3. drawing and CAD (computer-aided design software)

4. materials science

5. mathematical methods in engineering

Theoretical knowledge is always combined with several hours of practical training.

4. What will you learn during a mechatronics degree?

Bachelor programmes in mechatronics integrate knowledge and skills from several engineering areas, such as electrical engineering, mechanical engineering, systems engineering and robotics. Students will gain a broad view on how to build and connect components like control systems, micro-processors, micro-controllers and will be introduced to the wonderful world of futuristic technology.

Curriculum of a degree in mechatronics covers knowledge of:

1. computer science

2. programming

3. electronic circuits

4. mechanics

5. hydraulics

6. robot techniques

Students will also join practical sessions, research work and the various conferences related to the field of mechatronics engineering.

5. Connections between mechanical engineering and mechatronics

And now the answer you were looking for! What’s the difference between mechanical engineering and mechatronics?

Well, let’s put it this way: a mechanical engineer will know everything that is related to the pure mechanical aspects of a machinery, equipment or device, while a mechatronics specialist knows a little bit of everything that involves creating that same system (principles of electrical engineering, mechanical engineering, materials science). You could say mechatronics integrates mechanical engineering knowledge, but in fact, the two field overlap only up to one point. A mechatronics engineer will rarely possess the entire knowledge and skills of a mechanical engineer.

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Mechanical engineers and mechatronics engineers often work together on a project, each contributing with the skills they know best. In mechanical engineering, the work is realised with existing controllers, while in mechatronics, a project is done with existing controllers along with specialised tools they will develop on-site. So mechatronics is a little more sophisticated field, but both mechanical engineering and mechatronics share this common goal: to be one step ahead of the future of technology.

How to decide between a mechanical engineering and a mechatronics degree?

Since both fields are quite similar, the final decision for which degree you should apply to is not that easy. You would have to think if you’re more inclined towards learning and dealing with logical and sometimes repetitive tasks of the mechanical engineering or would much more prefer to go beyond the principles of mechanics and have a broader perspective on how to create smart devices.

Whatever you choose, your will learn fascinating things and you might even be the next prestigious engineer that makes a ground-breaking discovery!

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