A career in engineering can be a rewarding one, enabling those who enter the field to work on an array of new technologies — many of which can benefit people and society as a whole. For those in the field of fluid power in particular it is considered to be an exciting time due to the many advancements taking place in the industry related to new system designs for improved efficiency, the impacts of electrification and more.
However, there are also new challenges facing engineers in the industry because of the many technological advancements taking place. The increased integration of electronics with hydraulic and pneumatic systems, for instance, is requiring those with backgrounds in mechanical engineering to now expand their knowledge base to include electronics as well in many cases.
In addition, fluid power engineers need to have an understanding of various other technologies which could interact with or impact the hydraulics and pneumatics systems they are designing such as CANbus and the internet of things (IoT). There is a need to make these solutions more intuitive so no matter an engineer's background, he or she can get a basic understanding of how it will work with fluid power systems.
Understanding these expanded knowledge needs, many engineering schools and departments are adding more interdisciplinary education to their curriculums which allow students to learn about both mechanical and electrical design principles so they will be better equipped with the necessary skills for today's engineering careers.
Mechatronics engineering programs are also increasing to help bring together the mechanical and electrical knowledge needed, particularly as the need for those capable of working with robotics and automation, among other advanced technologies, continues to grow in the manufacturing and other sectors.
Another challenge facing the industry is the lack of younger fluid power engineers entering the field. Like many industries, those with years of experience are retiring, creating a skills gap. And fluid power is not necessarily the first field many think to go into.
Efforts are being made by organizations like the National Fluid Power Association (NFPA) to introduce younger generations to hydraulics and pneumatics in the hopes of attracting the future fluid power workforce. Programs for middle and high school students as well as those at 4-year and technical colleges provide hands-on learning, and at times competitions, to help make it a fun and enjoyable experience working with fluid power.
NFPA also works to bring the industry together with students of various ages to provide mentorship and share knowledge of what it's really like to work in the fluid power industry.
Demonstrating the exciting work taking place in hydraulics and pneumatics is one of the ways Danfoss' President Eric Alström told Power & Motion in an interview the company sees as a beneficial way to attract new engineers to the industry. Others we've spoken to in the industry have mentioned the need to do this as well as the fluid power sector has not always done a great job of promoting the interesting work it does and the benefits a career in this field could offer.
What changes are you seeing within engineering careers, related to the fluid power industry specifically or otherwise? What new tools are being used to aid with design efforts? How could the industry go about better attracting new talent and educating those already in the field about the new technologies making an impact on it?
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