To be a successful engineer, you need a good toolbox. This isn't the toolbox that your grandfather had in his garage, but rather a metaphorical toolbox made up of computer applications, instruments and databases. While mechanical engineering can be a broad field, the one thing mechanical engineers have in common are the tools they use in their day-to-day jobs. As a mechanical engineer, you are likely familiar with these tools since you probably use at least one of them on a daily basis.
Calipers are one of the most simple tools used by mechanical engineers. Whether it's during the design or manufacturing stage, calipers are an essential tool to verify dimensions. Digital calipers also take the guess work out of measurement. When you make a measurement with digital calipers, there is no interpretation needed in reading the measurement since the display reads out the exact number.
Coordinate Measuring Machine
A coordinate measuring machine, or CMM, is a computerized measuring tool that is used for taking extremely precise measurements. As a mechanical engineer, your job does not stop after the part is designed. Mechanical engineers usually follow the part all the way through the manufacturing stage. For parts and components that require extreme precision in dimension, a CMM can be used to automatically measure the part and ensure the part is within tolerance. For example, a high accuracy CMM from Nikon can measure accurately within 0.0018mm. You will find these tools used in the aerospace industry since part size and fit is highly precise.
Without a doubt, you can't be a successful mechanical engineer without access to Internet databases for mechanical properties. For example, if your job focuses on structural or material design, you probably know MatWeb quite well. This database provides properties for just about any material you can think of and more. The database includes over 91,000 datasheets with mechanical properties for metals, plastics, ceramics and composites.
Since the early '90s, the mechanical engineering field has been revolutionized by utilizing computer simulation throughout the design process. The old days of experimental trial and error are over. Any good engineering firm today uses simulation to speed up the design process. ANSYS is a leading software package that provides a simulation module named ANSYS Mechanical. This tool can simulate nearly any mechanical analysis including stress, vibration or mechanical failure. While not every mechanical engineer uses simulation, there is probably someone down the hall or in the next cubicle cranking away at simulations to solve the more technical or challenging design problems in your company.
Auston Matta is an experienced engineer who has worked in the packaging industry since 2003. He holds a bachelor's degree in bio-engineering and a master's degree in engineering management. Auston has also contributed to "Pharmaceutical & Medical Packaging News."