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Most of the engineering involves problem-solving, which may be graphical, mathematical or analytical. A good engineer must visualize problems and find solutions which use the least resources. Many times, this requires engineers to utilize several analytical tools. One tool which helps engineers manipulate and analyze data in MATLAB. This platform helps in solving various technical problems. It is very effective in solving those involving matrix/vector formulation. As a mechanical engineering student, knowing how to use MATLAB can be a huge advantage. Here’s a look at everything you need to know about how to learn MATLAB.
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What is MATLAB?
MATLAB stands for matrix laboratory and was used to access LINPACK projects. MATLAB is a high-level technical programming language which helps with simulations and analysis. It combines analysis, computation, programming and visualization. This helps it create a simple environment for solving problems. This easy-to-use environment helps engineers solve high-level problems. It also makes it easier for them to express problems in a mathematical form. The most common uses of MATLAB include computation, development, prototyping and visualization. MATLAB is a scalar interactive programming language, unlike Fortran or C.
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What can you do with MATLAB?
An instructional tool used to introduce technical problem-solving in advanced mathematics and engineering courses
Within industries, MATLAB helps with high-productivity R&D and analysis.
Toolbox feature helps in applying specialized technology as and when the need arises
MATLAB functions help with solving several problem clusters
Toolboxes and functions help in handling problems related to signal processing, networking and fuzzy logic.
Helps with computing linear algebra and matrix calculations
MATLAB helps users plot graphs for large sets of data
Sieve through the data, segment it and then analyse the data sets for easy visualization
Plotting graphs for larger data sets
Developing, creating, coding and testing algorithms
Creating GUI and API interfaces for applications
Finite element analysis and structural analysis of components
Solve rotational and matrix-related problems in robotics
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Parts of MATLAB Systems
MATLAB language- High-level matrix language containing statements, variables, data structures and OOP features. It facilitates both programmings in the small and large, allowing scalability.
Working environment- All the tools that a programmer uses while employing MATLAB. This includes functions that help in controlling variables and exporting of data. Also includes other tools such as ones used to develop and debug M files.
Graphics Handling- This helps with 2D and 3D data visualisation and image processing. It also deals with low-level commands which help in customising how the graphics look.
Mathematical library- Vast collection of algorithms for mathematical computation. This includes everything from trigonometric functions to Bessel functions and Fourier transforms.
MATLAB API- Library that allows users to code in C and Fortran and use that on a MATLAB environment. It works as a computational engine that helps in dealing with M-files.
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How does MATLAB make Work Easier?
A simple question that might pop into your head right now is, “Why should I learn MATLAB being a mechanical engineer?”. Well, the answer is simple. MATLAB is a flexible and useful computational tool that helps in creating efficient solutions. Most types of engineering are undergoing a massive transformation. Almost all fields are expanding into each other. This means that nowadays multidisciplinary skills are required to be successful. In such an environment knowing how to run and use MATLAB is a great advantage that can help you get places.
MATLAB allows you to code faster and more efficiently. The code is compiled using a Just-In-Time compiler. It is optimized with each operation distributed as per the computer’s capabilities. Furthermore, MATLAB runs algorithms alongside such operations, making the final execution much faster. When compared to Java, algorithm development occurs faster in MATLAB. The MATLAB IDE also has interactive applications for visualizing and computing data faster.
Advantages of MATLAB
Fastest IDE when it comes to mathematical computation
Best mathematical library for technical operations on various types of datasets
Good support from an interactive community
Enables multi-threading support which allows the parallel execution of algorithms
Adaptive and efficient graphics system
Great capability when it comes to data visualization as it allows image processing and graphing
Is MATLAB difficult to learn?
As with all other programming languages, MATLAB is easy enough if it clicks to you. However, unless you understand how the language works, you will not be able to use it to your advantage. Therefore, the best way to learn MATLAB is to figure things out by yourself by working on projects. Try to look up for theory online, via courses offered by qualified professionals. Follow their lectures and understand the basics. Then pick up a project in an area you like and enjoy working in, and try to incorporate MATLAB into it. Design algorithms for that problem and test out your program within this environment. Keep tweaking your program until it satisfies all your criteria and then moves on to more advanced programs. Take a look below at some great MATLAB courses you can use to learn MATLAB being a mechanical engineer.
Best way to learn MATLAB for mechanical engineers
Following are some of the MATLAB courses which helps mechanical students to learn the software practically by working on real-time projects:
- System Dynamics using MATLAB
In this MATLAB course, mechanical students will get a chance to work on real-life models used in automotive and robotic industries, such as Robotic Arm and suspension systems. You will learn how to use MATLAB to design models and write programs which will help you create dynamic links. Students will gain first-hand experience in using M script, Simulink and Simscape.
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- Hybrid Vehicle Design using MATLAB
This MATLAB course is a great introductory lesson for students who have an interest in automobile engineering. Through this course, you will learn how to use MATLAB to design, model and test hybrid vehicles. Students will help design all the major components of a vehicle, such as brakes, engine, and transmission. By the end of the lesson, the student will know how to simulate the model and test it for various parameters.
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- Vehicle Design using MATLAB
This is another introductory MATLAB course which will suit both mechanical engineers and automobile engineers gain the first-hand experience. This course encourages students to work on power split models for hybrid vehicles using MATLAB. Students will be introduced to various MATLAB features such as M script, Simulink and Simscape, which will help them design, create, model and test their simulations.
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- MATLAB Course for Engineers
This comprehensive MATLAB course will help mechanical engineers understand and fully utilise this advanced computational tool. This course introduces students to concepts such as scripting, modelling, designing and simulating on Simscape and Simulink. All the possibilities of scripting and programming will be explored, and students will also test their models using Simscape.
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Practical learning is the best way to master anything, so try the above-mentioned courses and learn the software practically.
Educators teach mechanical engineering courses with MATLAB and Simulink by drawing on available course materials, onramp tutorials, and code examples. Educators can use MATLAB live scripts to create lectures that combine explanatory text, mathematical equations, code, and results. Examples are presented to demonstrate the application of MATLAB and Simulink to the analysis of problems in system dynamics, engineering mechanics, mathematical modeling, and Model-Based Design.
Below is a sample of course curricula, textbooks, educational videos, online labs, and additional tools for teaching mechanical engineering courses with MATLAB and Simulink.
Downloadable Course Materials to Help Develop and Enhance Curriculum
A First Course on Solid Mechanics (English and Italian)
Heat Transfer with MATLAB
Model-Based Design Series: Basic Component Modeling
Model-Based Design Series: Battery Systems
Model-Based Design Series: Supervisory Control & Fault Diagnosis
MATLAB Tech Talks are short educational videos that explore fundamental engineering concepts. These videos can help supplement instructors’ curriculum materials.
Finite Element Analysis in MATLAB
Multibody Simulation with Simscape Multibody
Introduction to Simulink for System Modeling and Simulation
Virtual, Remote, and Low-Cost Hardware-Based Labs
Arduino-Based Lab Activities for MATLAB and Simulink (Professor Richard Hill from the University of Detroit Mercy demonstrates and discusses the Arduino-based lab activities in the webinar Simple and Inexpensive Hardware Experiments for the System Dynamics and Controls Curriculum.)
Robotarium: Remote Access Robotics Lab at Georgia Tech
Virtual Control Labs (RWTH)
Auto Grading with MATLAB
Use MATLAB Grader to create interactive course assignments, automatically grade student work, and provide feedback:
Dynamics Problem Collection (This MATLAB Grader collection includes problems for concepts taught in courses on dynamics of mechanical systems.)
Automating Grading of Assignments in a MATLAB Programming Course (Duarte G.T. Antunes, Eindhoven University of Technology)
Heat Transfer Principles and Applications
Modeling and Simulation of Mechatronic Systems Using Simscape
Kinematics and Dynamics of Mechanical Systems: Implementation in MATLAB and SimMechanics
More Mechanical Engineering books
Technical Articles and User Stories
RWTH Aachen University Prepares Students for Careers in Industry
University of Sydney Students Experience Flight Dynamics in the Variable Stability Flight Simulator
Engaging Students in Hands-on Control System Design at University of Arizona
Automotive Research Lab at Penn State Gives Students Practical Hardware-in-the-Loop Experience
Free, online hands-on tutorials:
Control Design Onramp with Simulink
MATLAB Online (use MATLAB in your browser)
Simulink Online (use Simulink in your browser)
More solutions for mathematical modeling, physical modeling, and model-based systems engineering