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What to expect from the future of mechanical engineering

The fourth industrial revolution has barely bedded in before talk arose of Industry 5.0. But mechanical engineers need not be daunted by the speed of change – instead, embrace its benefits and prosper.

28. mars 2026

Across the manufacturing sector, digitalisation is changing how businesses operate and how we all work. Industry 4.0 has revolutionised almost every aspect of operations, equipping businesses with more data and insight than ever before. Knowledge is power, and successful businesses are harnessing this information to further optimise operations, improve productivity and, ultimately, boost the bottom line.

Where mechanical engineers and designers are concerned, the dawn of the digital era is also accelerating and improving new product development. We can use more accurate data to analyse and solve problems, while virtual simulations such as digital twins mean that prototypes can be designed more safely, more efficiently and more cost-effectively than ever before.

This rapid pace of change makes for an exciting future in the world of mechanical engineering, but what does it mean and how will it impact our sector?

Improving product development
Prototyping has traditionally been a time-consuming process, with high costs and significant risks. However, digitalisation is changing how mechanical products are developed, tested and manufactured. 

The advent of digital twin technology is transformational for new product development. It can support a wide range of engineering aspects, from product definition to validation and release for manufacturing. Insights gained from digital twins can inform new designs as well as support data-driven product evolution. In this way, digital twin technology represents a quicker and more cost-effective route to market for new and updated products. In many cases, speed to the market can be critical to success. 

The ability to create, refine and even redefine a product using its digital twin before physical prototyping can therefore be a real competitive advantage. It’s virtually risk-free, quicker, and much less expensive. You can also make much more informed, confident decisions about when the time is right to move forward with a real-world prototype.

New products require new training for the workforce, whether that is in building, selling or servicing new machines. Digital twins can bring a new product to life in a way that traditional CAD data, technical drawings or product spec sheets cannot, providing a visual guide that is easier for colleagues to understand.

Supporting new industries
While the digital world offers endless opportunities and possibilities, here in the real world humanity is facing some significant challenges. Mechanical engineering is helping us to address many aspects of these issues, whether that is increasing the size and efficiency of wind turbines or accelerating the transition to electric vehicles (EVs).

In many cases, the electrification of vehicles, equipment and machinery requires either significant changes from existing designs, or indeed an entirely new “from the ground up” approach. Mechanical engineers are playing a key role in the automotive sector, underpinning critical operational aspects of EVs, from safety to performance.

The racing industry typically acts as a test bed for automotive innovation and this is as true for EVs as it is for engine-powered vehicles. A great example would be how norelem is providing components for the Rennschmiede Pforzheim EV, the Formula Student team from Germany’s Pforzheim University. Formula Student sees student racing teams from all over the world design and build a new formula racing car to compete in events.

The norelem ACADEMY supports the team with standard parts for the development of its all-electric racing car, “Sapphire”, including shoulder screws, hexagon nuts and rod ends with plain bearings.

The norelem shoulder screws provide a tight fit for the connection between the vehicle’s chassis and frame. The shoulder screws are mounted in the fitting holes and secured with a hexagon nut with polyamide thread lock. Shoulder screws, rod ends, and hexagon nuts are also vital components in the bell crank. Here, the shoulder screws are used for precise positioning on the bell crank, with the rod ends for track adjustment and as connectors between the stabiliser and the bell crank. This compensates for uneven ground on the race track and reduces resistance to vehicle roll.

Industry 5.0 
You wait an age for one industrial revolution, then two come along at once! However, mechanical engineers should not fear Industry 5.0, as it is a natural evolution of its predecessor.

Industry 4.0 was a techno-centric revolution. It focused on harnessing new technologies such as AI, automation and the Internet of Things. Industry 5.0 will build on this, but will be a human-centric revolution, putting people first – its priorities are sustainability, worker welfare and business resilience.

What does this mean in practice? The human-centred elements include technology to augment productivity and safety – think exoskeletons, augmented and virtual reality, wearables and co-bots. Sustainability is focused on reducing resource consumption – also good for the bottom line – and adopting circular economy principles of produce, use, reuse and recycle. Finally, resilience focuses on areas such as remotely operated and modular factories, real-time risk monitoring, and even the development of new materials. 

Mechanical engineering touches almost all of these elements to varying degrees and will play a key role in us fully realising their benefits. Increasingly, young people want to work for companies that are value-oriented, placing the needs of people and places as priorities alongside the profit motive. Embracing Industry 5.0 is therefore going to be vital to both recruitment and retention.

The role of standard components in a digital future
Amid all this talk of change, one thing remains constant – the value of standard components in mechanical engineering. 

If the use of standard components is already a proven method of effective product development, why reinvent the wheel when you go digital? Work with partners who make digital versions of their standard components freely available, enabling open-source engineering. At norelem we offer 2d and 3d CAD files of our components, downloadable from our website, to help with the creation of high-quality digital prototypes.

However, if you want to truly facilitate a digital approach, look for a partner who goes beyond supplying the files. The norelem ACADEMY is a great example of this, acting as a huge online knowledge hub and components resource library. 

Standard components have been the bedrock of mechanical engineering for centuries. And this will also be the case as our digital future becomes a reality, with electromechanical components supporting the industries driving the revolution, from EVs to robotics and beyond.

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About norelem
norelem is a world-leading manufacturer and supplier of flexible standard parts and components for mechanical engineering. The company supplies 100,000 standard products relating to standard machinery and operating elements, as well as automation components. Ninety-eight per cent of these parts are available from stock, and the business delivers on-site technical support for products. This high level of inventory enables norelem to provide fast and reliable delivery times.

THE BIG GREEN BOOK is both norelem’s ideas catalogue and a reference book and has become the norelem trademark. More than just a standard product catalogue, THE BIG GREEN BOOK represents everything norelem stands for, combining product information, specifications, and technical information, with best practice references, advice, and guidance.

THE BIG GREEN BOOK combines product information, specifications, and technical information in one single source. Created using a logical sequence of article numbers based on stages of production, it contains best practice references, advice, and guidance.

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