Guest Blogger JE Paz: Engineering < Design?

GrabCAD welcomes engineer and guest blogger JE Paz!

Most of the time people don’t fully appreciate the engineering in items they get when buying something. Only a few realize the amount of work put into the engineering process, all done to ensure it will work the right way.

For instance when looking at a building we tend to think about the architect who came up with overall design and colour scheme that makes a building stand out. What we don’t recognize is all the necessary engineering work to make it stand up.There are structural engineers who ensure that the building can withstand all kinds of loads from winds, earthquakes, snow, rain and even fires sometimes. Mechanical engineers are needed to provide trustworthy elevator systems and doors that will operate almost 24 hours a day. And then there are all the electrical engineers that design the wiring of the building facilities to ensure that the power will be cut in the case of a short circuit. The engineer mitigates all electrical fires, elevator malfunctions and structural failure of the building – lives are saved as a result. The architect’s job is to package it nicely, thinking as an artist would. An architect’s work has never saved a life, but sometimes it makes the city a nicer place to live.

Flashlight by Istvan Molnar


We could make a similar analysis for any consumer good. The problem is that when you want to design something the process will only begin with an awesome looking drawing or sketch. It's a long process between that and the final product. Sometimes there’s something that can be built right out of the sketch, and it's true you might be able to get it to look the same… but does it work? How long will it last in working conditions? Is your design efficient?

The engineer’s job is bringing an idea or a solution to reality and making sure that it works the best way possible, optimizing the use of materials to minimize waste, making it manufacturable and reducing costs without compromising any feature. GrabCAD has a lot of great engineers whom have done such work, and I want to show some of the engineering design projects that stand out.

Building an airplane by committee is no easy task, but Stephane Bouye and his international team of engineers managed to pull it off. This group of Indian, Brazilian and French engineers designed this Bleroit XI monoplane from basic drafts of the original. They had to be sure that every single cable, bolt, screw, nut, beam and weld would hold together without breaking apart. They designed the wing profile to produce the correct amount of lift then choose the right engine to overcome the drag force and provide the appropriate speed to make the wings work. Of course, you have to make the plane safe to fly, which they accomplished handily without undergoing prototyping. In the end, an awesome machine that is a testament to the good engineering. (Website here documents the construction and flight of the Bleriot XI)

Another great example how to design and test virtually is this model, Elevator Analysis by Andrey Jasiukaitis. Andrey had to make sure and certify that every single elevator component will perform correctly. There’s a stress and maximum displacement study based on the material he had to work with.

Can you imagine all the safety regulations every component has to meet before giving this elevator a green flag to carry people? Could you possibly get there just by having a nice drawing? I don’t think so…

Here’s a project that people might be familiar with. This is an example of how GrabCAD user Ten Tech studied how this Netgear Switch would heat up over time. In order to make it work they came out with this heat sink design to cool down the electronics without the need of a fan. Think about all the time it took to make sure that this little component had the best heat sink design for the job. Prototyping and testing via virtual modeling must have taken some time.

And here is a bridge component design example 'Suspension Bridge Cable Deck Connection' by MECA

Imagine what damage would be done if any structural members of a bridge failed? How many people could get injured? Every bridge needs to be designed knowing how it would react to certain river currents, winds, vehicle traffic and the weather conditions.

Each engineer that works on a design project have to foresee potential problems that arise from their design under working conditions. Don’t you agree that we engineers should be given more credit for getting things built and working and all the knowledge that we put into every single design?

J E Paz studies Mechanical & Electrical Engineering at 'Universidad de Piura' in Peru. He works part-time for a Quito-based factory developing commercial vehicle accessories among other projects.