Product Design and Engineering is a dynamic industry and I have had an incredible journey so far working alongside great people. There is lots to love about it and as a professional Design Engineer I am always proud to be part of complex projects allowing me to apply my wide range of engineering skills and witness a product in the market I had a part in developing.
One thing that has always been at the back of my mind is the title ‘CAD monkey’ and I have heard it a handful of times around the workplace over the years. The title refers to anyone using CAD software modelling and drafting on a repetitive basis, day in day out offering no engineering input. They are literally involved in translating the product idea or concept into a 3D model and simple 2D drawings. In other words, they can use the specialised CAD software like a 3D modeller (think 3DS MAX, MAYA, Cinema4D etc).
Professional Design Engineers often graduate from University having spent years learning Science and Mathematical concepts. However, once they get into industry they typically spend most of their working time in front of a CAD system. While this is expected in the modern world, this should not mean they only ‘convert’ ideas. They should analyse the design idea put in front of them, question the features, improve the idea where possible, consider alternative materials and do some validation by hand / software. Too often Engineers get pigeon-holed by management and business owners due to time or project constraints. This only leads to under capitalisation of the skills available and ultimately an un-differentiated product released to the market.
As Design Engineers, we must take a pro-active approach to designing and developing products. We need to build a good relationship with our Design Manager and make the case for alternative ideas, better and faster ways of manufacturing, stronger materials, lighter design options. We should never assume someone else has done the work or we won’t be heard. Taking a risk is a staple of life and without it many Design Engineers will remain pigeon-hold and never shake off an industrial stigma.
We can eradicate the “CAD monkey” for good when we have the courage to be and demonstrate who we are. We need to get our Design Managers to support us with room to improve ideas. We need to put our wide skill set into practice and solidify our title as professional Design Engineers. The business will thank you for developing a great product, even if only in hindsight.