Mechanical engineering or meditation? 8 complex mechanical devices

As the famous engineer Henry Petroski once said, “successful engineering is about understanding how things break or fail.”

While a poorly designed machine can be a huge headache for engineers and consumers alike, the smooth gliding of materials on a well-made device is well worth it.

Here are some fascinating examples of mechanical engineering machines that show the fruits of years of failure that ultimately led to success.


1. The manufacture of glass bottles

The glass bottles are made while still glowing with heat, making the process look like something out of the lava factory scene in Star Wars Episode II.

What really happens is that, typically, a mixture of glass is melted in an oven 2730 degrees Fahrenheit over the course of a day.

Manufacture of glass bottles from r / mechanical_gifs

As can be seen in the video above, the shape is molded via press and blow molding. This awesome process is how most of our everyday bottles and jars are made.

For bottle cooling, the heat is carefully controlled by a process called annealing. This ensures that the bottles do not experience any thermal shock due to the rapid cooling temperatures.

2. Metal compression test

One of the most fascinating shows that a mechanical engineer can have the chance to witness is that of the compression of metal. A modern hydraulic press can bend and shape metal as if it were paper.

Hydraulic press compressing a strangely satisfactory r / metal bar

This foldable metal bar, bent by hydraulic press, does not deform because both ends of the bar are supported.

The bar bends in the middle first because the center is the point furthest from the pressure on both ends. The press makes the solid material incredibly easy to work with.

3. A monowheel inspired by Leonardo da Vinci

The battery-powered monowheel has recently been popularized in the urban mobility space. As early as 1930, however, people were riding the Dynasphère, a single-wheel vehicle inspired by a drawing by Leonardo da Vinci.

The Dynasphère, a 1930 monowheel vehicle inspired by a sketch by Leonardo da Vinci from r / mechanical_gifs

The machine, which was created by inventor, Dr. JH Purves, included a cabin around the circumference of the wheel for the driver and passenger to sit on.

While it hasn’t taken over the auto industry in the way Purves had hoped, it’s a sight to behold when it’s on the move.

4. Cut the metal with water

A water jet cutter projects a jet of water at very high pressure, or a mixture of water and an abrasive substance, allowing it to cut through metal.

Like in the video below, besides just cutting metal, it can allow designers to create amazing patterns.

When a water jet is not limited to 90 ° … from r / mechanical_gifs

As CommentStuffWorks points out, low pressure water jets were first developed in California for gold mining.

Now (extremely) high pressure machines usually pump water at a 20,000 and 55,000 pounds per square inch (PSI). The water is then forced through a 0.010” To 0.015“diameter hole in a piece of jewelry to allow precision cutting.

5. A hypnotic hypoid

A hypoid is a type of spiral bevel gear. Rotary gears are typically used in a vehicle differential – a device that divides the torque of an engine in two ways.

Hypnotic hypoid from r / mechanical_gifs

The helical design allows the gears to produce less vibration and noise than conventional straight cut gears with straight teeth. It also makes them fascinating to watch.

6. Mattresses pressed like pancakes

Have you ever had a rolled up mattress delivered to your home? Compressing them to an deliverable size requires a very powerful compression machine, like the one shown in the video below.

The mattress is then rolled up and pressed before being packaged and ready to ship.

The machine compresses, rolls and wraps the mattress for mail. by r / mechanical_gifs

As a poster in this Reddit thread put it, “I hope memory foam doesn’t remember that part of her life.”

7. A spring machine

This complex machine has only one goal: to manufacture springs of different sizes.

What kind of spring would you like sir? by r / mechanical_gifs

“There is basically a spring in every mechanical product,” Stewart Lauder, head of quality for Industrial Springs said UK wired.

Typically, a winding machine, which can unwind over a thousand springs per hour, is used.

8. Fit a Swiss watch

Many of the above processes are carried out in a factory by machines. Some machines are just too precise to be reliably manufactured on a large scale in a factory.

Take for example the assembly of a balance and a bridge on a Swiss watch.

Assembly of the balance wheel and balance bridge on a watch from r / mechanical_gifs

The clamps are made of wood to prevent scratching the moving parts used in the incredibly complex watchmaking trade. Watchmaking, the art of watchmaking, allows creativity while requiring extreme precision.

Like the science of research, engineers are gradually building on pre-existing knowledge and processes. This means that, in a way that reflects the complexity of the machines they build, the work of mechanical engineers is part of a complex web of knowledge that moves the world.

As writer Robert A. Heinlein succinctly described, “One man’s ‘magic’ is another’s engineering. ‘Supernatural’ is a bad word.