Mechanical engineering might be the broadest engineering discipline. If you look around, it’s hard to find something that has not been touched by a mechanical engineer. The car you used to get to work today, the chair you are sitting on, the HVAC system in your home, the hammer and nail you used last weekend to hang up the picture frame in the living room, the vending machine you got your snack out of this morning, the plane you took on vacation this past summer, the computer/tablet/smart phone you’re reading this blog on. I could go on for hours. Some products consist of solely mechanical components; others products build on the mechanical components by adding electrical components, software and connectivity. Regardless of the complexity of the product, mechanical engineers are an integral part of the design process and the need to thoroughly document all design related calculations is paramount.
A completely mechanical product, like the screwdriver I mentioned above, is something likely designed by a small team of mechanical engineers. Design considerations would include: drive type(s), handle ergonomics, torsional stresses and strains, cam-out torque, material(s), design for manufacturability (DFM), and length. The majority of people would consider a mechanical screwdriver to be a simple product and I would agree to an extent. I previously worked for a fastener manufacturer and you’d be surprised as to the subtle complexity of screws and the tools designed to drive them.
A product that adds a level of complexity, beyond a completely mechanical product, could be a vending machine. Vending machines have mechanical, electrical, software, and possibly even connectivity components. Rather than a team of just mechanical engineers, a design team or teams would be comprised of engineers across multiple disciplines. The physical machine itself including the belts and gears, goods storage, security locks, etc. are mechanical components. The lights, power, motors, etc. are electrical (although I would argue the mechanical engineer should be the one to determine the size of the motor). The interface of selecting which good you want is software. And a new vending machine may even be smart enough to alert the supplier when the goods are running out so they can proactively schedule a delivery.
Whether you are a mechanical engineer designing a completely mechanical product, or (even moreso) a mechanical engineer working within a multi-disciplinary team, clearly documenting your design related calculations is a necessity. Sharing anything but a PTC Mathcad worksheet with colleagues seemingly always results in a response of “can you explain what you did here” and more of your time spent doing things you don’t need to be doing. Calculations performed in PTC Mathcad are easily digestible for everyone you work with, especially anyone reviewing or validating the work like managers or governing organizations. Having all of your design related work compiled in PTC Mathcad worksheets will enable you to efficiently perform your calculations and effortlessly share them with whoever needs to see them. And when it comes time to design a derivative product, you’ll already have your previous work as a starting point.
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