Chapter 10. Mechanical Systems

The previous chapters established theories that provide a foundation for the practical application of design and invention. This theory provides deep roots for the diaphanous wash of creativity. Let’s now move into some applied aspects of engineering: the mutable nuts and bolts of mechanical engineering practice.

Great inventions can arise from putting together existing products. The clever assembly of currently available items can result in systems that solve important problems. Mechanical systems are usually thought of as an assembly of mechanisms, like a watch. But a system can also include assemblies that move mechanical power (e.g., a car) or energy (e.g., a refrigerator). Typically, these systems are controlled by electronics such as programmable logic controllers (PLCs) or customized microcontrollers. However, mechanical systems can also be controlled by mechanical linkages, such as hydraulic and pneumatic (compressed air) systems.

Products exist that will convert electrical, mechanical, hydraulic, and pneumatic power into linear or rotary motion. These motions can be made with great precision and great force. They can be controlled remotely, such as a radio control airplane, or directly as with a bulldozer. A variety of materials can be moved with precise control, such as cooling air pushed by a fan or thick slurry pumped using a progressive cavity pump. In many ways, systems designs are the most dramatic designs—rocket ships, cars, boats, ...

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