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Mechanical Engineering Technicians

History

Mechanical engineering dates back to ancient times, when it was used almost exclusively for military purposes. The Romans were the first to use the science for nonmilitary projects, such as aqueducts, roads, and bridges, although many if not most of these structures were built to advance military objectives.

With the advent of the Industrial Revolution and the use of machines for manufacturing, mechanical engineering technology took a giant step forward. One of the most important figures in this revolution was the American inventor Eli Whitney. Having received a government contract in 1798 to produce 10,000 muskets, he hired not gunsmiths, but mechanics. At that time, all articles, including muskets, were built one by one by individual craftsworkers. No two muskets were ever alike.

Whitney took a different approach. For two years after receiving the contract, he focused on developing and building special-purpose machines, and then trained mechanics to make specific parts of the gun. When he was finished, Whitney had invented new machine tools and attachments, such as the milling machine and jig, made real the concept of interchangeable parts, and paved the way for the modern manufacturing assembly line.

This manufacturing process required not only ingenious inventors and skilled mechanics to operate the machines, but also skilled assistants to help develop new machines, set or reset tolerances, maintain and repair operational equipment, and direct, supervise, and instruct workers. These assistants are today's mechanical engineering technicians, crucial members of the engineering team. In addition to manufacturing, they are employed in almost every application that uses mechanical principles.

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