Do engineers make trouble?

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While fabricators have to make a product to fit the parameters in the blueprint, engineers are the reason that blueprint exists.

If you’re an individual party without a perspective on this relationship, you’ve probably rarely (if ever) thought about how “things” get made in the world around you.

That metal handrail you use every day, the computer chip in your phone, the curb that you catch your foot on every day because it’s just a bit too high (that’s a civil engineers’ fault, and we’ll just leave that alone for today).

Everything had at least one person who designed it, and a minimum of one other person involved in bringing the idea to life.

The only time a credited “engineer” is not involved in a manufacturing production is in very custom shops. In those shops, you’ll find that the fabricators are mock-engineers, but they’ll only call themselves ‘designers’.

Engineers make the world possible

It requires a specific type of mind to think up and design important products for huge industries.

Okay, so industries know how to make LED chips and computer chipsets… How do we make more, faster, and better? How do you make the machine foot-print smaller to fit smaller customer needs and appeal to another market of manufacturers?

Engineers get to figure out the answer to that question from behind a computer screen, with notes, figures and scribbles. This is a very difficult job, often times with high pressure to get machines into production FAST so the company can capture market.

Either individually or collectively, engineers will come up with a design that they ‘think’ will work. They’ll have to draft something (commonly on CAD or Solidworks) and make a 3-dimensional rendering of the product called a “model”.

If a company requires frames to house electronics and/or robotics to produce LED chips, the engineering team will need to design each piece of the machine (possibly more than one frame/unit to make up one whole machine-unit) and the individual parts/pieces need to work together as a unit to produce the desired end-result… A working machine.

Once engineering is done, they’ll pass that information and the virtual model along the way to a manufacturer who has to create it in the real world.

Engineers make your life miserable

Take a tour through a manufacturer who is building a brand new product line for a customer utilizing information from the customer’s engineering department and you’ll see (and hear) what I’m talking about.

I guarantee you’ll hear workers complaining. They’ll be cursing the engineers for ever touching a computer (or being born), some tools might be tossed around, hands in the air, or fists being shaken at the sky.

You might even hear some words that would make your Gram-Gram faint.

Why do engineers get a bad name?

It’s not because they intentionally make life difficult for the grunts who are expected to build their ideas. [Some would disagree with me].

It’s because sometimes, they accidentally don’t know the limitations of physics, or machinery required to make their designs possible.

Sometimes, it’s simply because they don’t realize how difficult they’re making the job for everyone after them, because everything makes sense on a computer.

I would like to think it’s because they’re on a time schedule like everyone else, and they’re getting their job “done”, sometimes by taking bad shortcuts.

They don’t have the time to consider if Joe from Wisconsin is going to be able to put an acute bend on a $8 bracket to hold up a nitrogen line on a $15million unit, they just need the bracket to be shaped that way to work in their design.

Did I hear you ask for an example? Alright, follow along.

The way the blueprints are drawn can make things difficult (interpreting the engineers intent).

The most common problem is hardware call-outs.

When it comes to press-in hardware such as captured nuts, studs, or tie downs there needs to be specific remarks as to which side of the part to install on.

This gets confused because many engineers will call out the same way, while some will call out another or not at all.

If a stud is supposed to stick out the opposite side from the view on the blueprint, the engineer can either call out “install nearside” or “protrudes farside”; however, when it comes to self-clinching nuts, they have the option of “install nearside” or “install farside”.

Here is an example of an M5 self-clinching nut “installed nearside”. The opposite side is flush/flat, to allow a panel to be installed flat with a bolt.

Some only specify what hardware to use. Some accidentally call out the wrong size hole for the hardware (if the programmer doesn’t catch it, the person putting in the hardware will, and they ‘should’ contact the engineer for a “red-line drawing” including the updated size in order to proceed with production).

Ultimately the job gets done

We know that people think differently, and it’s one of the great reasons why we have innovation.

The industry knows the relationship between engineering and development of the actual product, which is why programmers are the intermediary in the relationship.

When programming parts, they’ll typically catch foreseeable issues, or they’ll fix the issue when a press-brake operator or welder come to them with an impossible task, and a solution is developed from there.

As long as there is a tolerance, and a cooperative relationship between designer and producer, everything comes out in the wash, and we’re able to produce amazing, innovative products for the world.