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Engineers must make hundreds of decisions when they design electromechanical components. Choice of insulation, testing setup and software support can impact a design’s functionality.
Even small mistakes or incorrect choices can mean the difference between product success and failure. The last thing an engineer wants is to spend considerable time and money creating a component that can’t make it through testing.
These are some of the most important considerations engineers should consider when designing electromechanical components.
1. Electrical, Mechanical and Software Systems
Electromechanical components rely on a careful combination of electrical, mechanical and software systems. Errors in the design of these components can cause the product to fail, even if everything else is extraordinarily well-designed.
Clean design ensures a product’s longevity. An effective mechanical design is built with durability and usability in mind. For example, machine guarding components are positioned so essential parts are easily accessible by operators or technicians while also being protected from the elements and other environmental hazards.
The electrical design should consider safety as much as functionality. Small mistakes in the creation of a novel circuit can easily lead to serious safety risks — like the potential electrocution of a device operator.
Software is either developed in-house or with the help of a trusted third-party developer. Any existing solutions are deployed carefully to ensure the device’s functionality and durability.
2. Simulation and Real-World Testing
Electromechanical components often require extensive testing, including simulating real-world environments with conditions similar to those the part will experience out in the field. The choice of testing components and strategy will need to be carefully considered for every item designed.
Basic strategies with typical testing equipment like multimeters and HIPOT tools will help the designers ensure novel circuitry is safe and functional. Custom electromechanical testing equipment from a third-party vendor may be necessary to perform more advanced or complex tests on some components and devices.
Devices that don't need extensive testing may need highly accurate or specialized testing equipment. For example, electromechanical servo testing actuators can perform multiple test types and are suitable for various applications.
Without testing, it may be difficult or impossible to accurately gauge how effectively a component will perform in a real-world work scenario.
3. Material Choice
The materials used in an electromechanical device will affect its performance. Choosing the wrong materials can reduce functionality or even decrease life span.
Insulation material can have a major impact on a component’s ultimate performance. The incorrect choice can result in insulation that does not protect electrical components adequately, leading to irregular responses or quicker failure.
Manufacturers of insulating materials typically offer a wide range of choices for electromechanical engineers. Plastics, rubber, neoprene and rigid foam are useful for insulating electronics but have different advantages and disadvantages.
For example, PVC is cheap, resistant to chemicals and suitable for outdoor applications. It’s also extremely nonflexible and can be fairly toxic. Rubber is much more bendable than PVC but can be much less resistant to chemicals. It will also melt when exposed to high temperatures.
Other options, like silicone, may be necessary when a device needs flexible and resilient insulation.
Electromechanical devices and component designers can also consider the use of cutting-edge smart materials in their design projects. Magnetorheological fluids, shape memory alloys and piezoelectric materials are all commercially available as raw materials and in the form of usable components and devices.
Not every project will need these materials. However, something like magnetorheological (MR) fluid has a wide range of applications in products like bridge dampers, prosthetics and brakes. Knowing when and how to leverage these items may allow an engineer to create components that are more effective or flexible than those built with conventional materials.
Design Electromechanical Components With These Considerations in Mind
Electromechanical components require significant attention to detail. Interlocking electrical circuits, mechanical systems and software need to work together for the device to function correctly and safely.
Material choice and testing are essential considerations when designing an electromechanical component. Without effective testing and the right materials, a part may not function properly in real-world environments — or at all. Engineers can save time and money by making sound choices during the design process.