Tag Archives: tools

CAD modeling, virtual prototyping, and 3-d printing all have their place; but at the end of the day, You Still Need to Build Real Hardware. In this post, I’ll share a few examples of my own hard won knowledge that no book or classroom lecture ever covered. The real lessons of the day came from some time in the shop with experienced and very talented machinists. I was doing work designing a socket drive to connect a steel shafted motor to an aluminum component. The socket and motor were both modeled in CAD, tolerance stackups were taken into account, and we had something like a .0025″ clearance between the walls of the socket and the drive shaft. The parts came from the machine shop, and like a little kid on Christmas, I tore open the packaging and started putting parts together. We put the mechanism (and associated motor) through it’s paces and…

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I’m a mechanical engineer. I love mechanical things. My parents gave me lots of Legos to play with as a child and I suppose I never entirely grew out of them. If I had to say what the favorite part of my job is, I’d probably say it’s when parts come in the mail. I mean, it’s like Christmas. Stuff shows up on your desk in a nice box and you get to rip it open and play with what’s inside. How awesome is that? After parts arrive though, there are still the tools to play with. Here are some of the coolest tools out there that I think every mechanical engineer should have. Calipers The first time I played with a pair of calipers, I was maybe 9 years old and following my dad around to a space satellite fabrication facility. An engineer picked a pair of calipers up…

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I’ve written before about business travel, but this time I’m traveling as a design engineer; last time it was general thoughts on travel after a short stint at a conference as a technical writer. So I decided to consider what engineers need to know in order to work successfully on an overnight trip to a foreign locale. Design engineers aren’t made to travel. We have quirky needs, lots to do back at the lab and massive amounts of baggage (take that one how you want to). However, sometimes the need arises to get off your butt and go see a customer. Other times it’s a supplier. And sometimes you need to go simply because the boss tells you to. Early this week, I’ll traveling for my day job and I thought I’d blurp out my thoughts (that’s right, blurp) before going. While not all of this will be strictly for…

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In the olden days of apprenticeships, your status in the world was built on your set of tools. While you were an apprentice, you started saving your money and acquiring your collection of tools, and when you had a full set and were ready to start your own practice, you launched on the foundation of the tools you brought with you. The set of tools you needed was directly related to your field – cobblers needed shoemaking tools, blacksmiths needed forging tools. If you allow the analogy to stretch, even the young women of the time built a collection of tools – they filled hope chests with linens and tablecloths as a dowry for when they got married. And I think to some extent, this tradition of building a set of tools persists today. Machinists and auto shop guys still take great pride in their toolboxes, carpenters take loving care…

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