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Mechanical Engineering

Raymond Scott Adams

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  1. Product Development of production machinery is expensive and time consuming, building a machine and throwing it into production with minimal testing can be risky and rewarding at the same time. Once you have started to produce a consumer product and a customer demand, it can be detrimental to the business when your proprietary machinery breaks down at regular intervals or for long periods of time, causing unpredictability in your supply chain. It is good if possible to have multiple machines that produce the same product so that downtime is available for maintenance, repair, and upgrade without compromising the supply of product to your customer. Many times in my career, I have been asked to build a machine or device to accomplish a specific purpose. Before I start designing, I do a thorough investigation to see if there are any machines that accomplish the same or similar purpose. On many occasions I have made some minor modifications to an existing machine that was readily available to accomplish the objective of my project. By doing this I can harness the time that the manufacturer has invested in the development of that machine and avoid costly down time. In the recent past, I was tasked to design and produce some custom conveyors that need to be a size that was a few inches wider than anything available in the time frame that they were needed. I gave it my best effort and we produced hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of conveyors and put them into production. I based my design off of a conveyor that we had purchased and made enough changes in the construction methods to avoid any patent infringement. I missed one key element, the leg weldments of the existing conveyor is a substantial weldment that provides stability and keeps the frame of the conveyor square. I designed the legs for my conveyor out of bent sheet metal and minimal welding that bolt together to allow them to be disassembled for shipping. Unfortunately they do not have structural ability to keep the roller support frame of the conveyor square. We discovered that if the line of conveyors got bumped by a forklift, it was possible for the frames of the conveyors to be out of square enough to cause resistance in the rollers and cause a high load fault in the electrical drive. I was aware of the issue and designed a brace to add to the roller support frame, but was never given the time or the resources to add it to the many conveyors that had already been placed in production. I have since been informed that they have discontinued use of these conveyors and have replaced them. Lessons learned: Build a prototype and thoroughly test it before rushing into production. Shortcuts often cause more problems in the long run. The devil is in the details, some of the smallest issues that seem inconsequential can kill the whole project. The process of Product Development is expensive and takes time, just because you have the capability to build something doesn't mean that you should.
  2. I just completed this quiz. My Score 50/100 My Time 233 seconds
  3. In the interest of being more accurate, I would ask more questions in regard to the question: Is there a specific application where designs are failing that you are referring to? As I have been thinking on this subject it occurred to me that some products are designed to fail as a means to create repeat business I.E. the auto industry is replete with examples of this where parts and material are selected to meet a predetermined somewhat predictable life cycle with cost constraints in place, #1 because wear is inevitable #2 materials that wear longer are generally more expensive and may price a product out of the market. Needless to say If your product never fails or wears out, you may eventually saturate your market, or your product may be too expensive to reach a broader customer base. In this respect product design is a balancing act between longevity, vs. price constraints vs. customer expectations vs. marketability etc. All of these things come into play as well as the fact that there is no way to control all of the outside factors that a product will be influenced by such as lack of maintenance, misuse and or abuse, adverse conditions etc. This brings to mind the questions: Is the product performing to the design intent? Is the product performing it's task for a reasonable life cycle? If the product fails due to lack of maintenance are you considering that a design failure? In my opinion if you can answer yes to the first two questions then you have met your design objective. Once a product is put on the market and into use you will inevitably discover that there are situations that arise that were not anticipated by the original design and a refinement must be implemented to meet the criteria of a new set of parameters, this is just a reality of engineering. The key is to develop short feedback cycles into your processes so that you can discover and solve problems quickly. I find it very effective to ask for customer feedback quickly and to respond to it quickly in order to develop an enduring relationship, and all customers are important whether it be your co-workers or end users, a satisfied customer is the ultimate test of any design!
  4. It is helpful to have specifications for the job that the design will accomplish to start with, it is then good to run FEA to validate the design. FEA can be a valuable tool if the proper and accurate data is entered into the program. I add a Factor of safety of at least 20% for my comfort but I frequently overbuild when I design production machines used in house where there is no issue with weight. A wise engineer once told me "You will be criticized for a design that fails long before being criticized for one that was too strong." When designing a product that has to be lightweight, I still overbuild at first and then find ways to lighten it as I refine the design. Personally I like to see multiple prototypes physically tested to extreme failure and the data collected, analysed and compared to customer requirements, I do not feel comfortable passing off a design that has not undergone a battery of testing. One of the reasons that I have seen designs fail is lack of experience.....education should include practical experience and application. Just because one has a degree from a university doesn't mean one is a competent engineer, I have worked with many green engineers who couldn't design their way out of a wet paper bag and were too proud to admit that they might not know something. In my opinion, engineers who ask more questions before designing a product, build better products in the end. Don't let your ego get the best of you! Also I believe it is extremely helpful to know as much as you can about the process or system that you are designing for, play production worker for a week if you can, you will gain valuable insight and gain allies on the production floor, both can be invaluable! Participating in design reviews can be a valuable resource. Remove yourself from your ego and listen to what your colleagues have to say and don't be so invested in your own ideas that you do not hear the other ideas in the room. Many heads have many ideas and combining ideas is a great way to make great designs. Lastly, dare greatly! Failure is part of life! Learning what doesn't work is how you work toward discovering what does! Do not let fear of failure inhibit your education, make your best design and try it, when it fails refine it, if it fails again, refine it again and try not to repeat the same mistakes. If you study the history of any great invention you will usually find a string of failed experiments that lead to a great discovery and a person who learned from their failures. Your failure will only define you if you let it.
  5. Questions I would ask of you to better advise you: 1. Do you absolutely love your current job? Do you enjoy your time and does the time fly by when you are working? 2. Is your current employer making the world a better place? Would you consider working for them for the rest of your life? In my opinion experience is as valuable as formal education. Learning is a continual and necessary exercise of life. The opportunity in front of you could turn into a rewarding career. If you have a boss that is willing to mentor you and invest in your education that could be far more valuable than a degree. $40k is a great start for a 20 year old and you still have plenty of time to work on your degree. I can recommend 4 books that I have read recently that have had a huge impact on my life: Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less Book by Greg McKeown Multipliers: How the Best Leaders Make Everyone Smarter Book by Liz Wiseman How to Win Friends and Influence People Book by Dale Carnegie The 17 Indisputable Laws of Teamwork: Embrace Them and Empower Your Team Book by John C. Maxwell These 4 books will teach you lessons that if mastered and applied will take you farther than any college degree. My mantra is "Love what you do, do what you love!" Find your native talents, magnify them and follow you dreams, you and you alone can determine where life takes you. Make the most of it!
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