What does “mechanical design” mean?

On our website, we have described Optotec as an engineering office specialised in mechanical design. Now and then, when we have been introducing our services to potential clients, some of them have asked us: “What does mechanical design actually mean?” On more than one occasion, the person has been under the impression that mechanical design only means designing machines and mechanical parts or mechanisms for them. According to the narrowest definition, this probably is the case.

However, the term can also be used in a broader sense, as we do at Optotec, in the meaning of processing any product idea into a manufacturable format. In practice, this starts with creating a concept for the product, i.e. defining the basic principles for the design, such as size, materials, special requirements, ergonomics etc. After this, the product is designed in a 3D format with suitable software, most commonly CAD software. Finally, 2D drawings are created for the manufacturer, including all the necessary details they need to manufacture the product, from measurements and materials to the types and spots of every single screw.

In conclusion, “mechanical design” can mean designing practically any concrete product (or its component); whether it be a toy, a piece of furniture, a cardboard box, a bicycle, a kitchen utensil, an industrial robot, or even a spacecraft. As a matter of fact, instead of the term “mechanical design” we might as well use a more semantically transparent – and less misleading – term, such as “product design”.

So, do not be fooled by the word “mechanical” in “mechanical design”. If you have an idea for a product with absolutely no mechanical parts or mechanisms involved and are wondering whether Optotec might be the right partner to design your product, the answer is without a doubt “yes”.