There are three basic types of machine components in the manufacturing world. The elemental parts of a machine fall into the categories of structural components, mechanisms, and control components. The invention of each machine began with innovating a process. Sometimes the manufacturer wanted to speed up a process, sometimes they were looking to replicate a process exactly without fail, other times they were looking to accomplish both simultaneously. Understanding the basic components of these machines gives us insight into how they work. Knowing how they work will help us operate them more efficiently. These three basic types of mechanical elements are the building blocks of modern machinery.

Structural Components
Frame members, bearings, axles, splines, fasteners, seals, and lubricants are all considered structural components. Identifying these components individually helps to make a complex structure more accessible. These parts can either be linear, surfaces, or volumes. Linear components include rods, beams, struts, ties, tie rods, etc. Surface parts include membranes, sheer panels, and shells.  For volumes manufacturers use axial, shear, and bending loads for all three dimensions.

These types of machine parts control any movement that may occur during operation. This includes gear trains, linkages, cam and follower systems, brakes and clutches. Down to the basic equation, the combination of movement and force equals power. A mechanism helps to fine tune a process to achieve the desired movement and forces. Mechanisms usually consist of multiple moving elements.

Control Components
Just like it sounds, control components help us to control the machine that we’re operating. Manage, command, direct, or regulate the behavior of systems or devices. Large industrial boiler systems and home thermostats both fall into the category of control components. A common feedback control system controls the process (plant) so that the output follows a control signal that is either a changing or fixed value. Control systems can come either with open and closed loop controls.

Every machine is made up of a combination of this trio of components, understanding them will make modern machinery less of a mystery to us.