Mechanical engineering is a broad field that encompasses industry, business, medicine and even law. Planning and designing mechanical objects is the primary focus of mechanical engineers, whether they are producing engine and motor components or complete devices like refrigerators and robots. Design programs like AutoCAD help mechanical engineers do their jobs by helping them create preliminary designs and spot flaws before production, saving time and resources.
What is AutoCAD?
CAD stands for "Computer Aided Design." AutoCAD is a line of two-dimensional and three-dimensional design software produced by the Autodesk company. It includes a powerful suite of features to improve workflow and create true-to-life maps, diagrams, structures and schematics. CAD software is equal part design and analysis. The design is needed to produce models and prepare component production, and the analysis helps calculate stress levels, the influence of forces and the influences of finite elements in a design. According to a General Electric survey, 60 percent of manufactured parts errors were related to incomplete, ambiguous or impossible drafts -- problems easily corrected with the support of software like AutoCAD.
Design Production and Troubleshooting
At the earliest stages of a design project, mechanical engineers can use AutoCAD to start sketching ideas and analyzing them to determine the best solution for a given problem. The software makes the process quick and easy; it eliminates the need to draw new blueprints for each version of an idea and simplifies redesigns. The software additionally helps interpret these designs, locating flaws, errors and inconsistencies the mechanical engineer might miss. Alternatively, the mechanical engineer can use AutoCAD to determine the source of a malfunction in an existing product by putting in the specifications and allowing the software to find the problem, allowing the engineer to be more efficient by going straight to the problem and finding a fix.
Simulations and Scenarios
One of the most useful functions of AutoCAD is its ability to provide a graphic simulation of how a constructed machine will function. Once a design prototype is complete in the software, AutoCAD can generate a simulated version of the prototype and show it in action. This is a function impossible for the mechanical engineer to otherwise reproduce without investing the time and resources in developing a real-life prototype. With the help of this simulation, mechanical engineers can determine if the machine will work as intended and make any necessary tweaks or fixes before it goes into production.
Quality Assurance and Control
Thanks to the analysis components of AutoCAD, mechanical engineers can simulate a variety of environments and stresses upon a prototype. This allows them to determine the functionality of a part or machine in extreme environments or under high-stress conditions difficult to test outside simulation. These simulations also provide a demonstration of a prototype's expected performance over time, allowing accurate estimates to be made on a machine's functional life span before requiring maintenance or replacement. AutoCAD allows mechanical engineers to produce useful specifications and give clients exactly what they need in an efficient time frame.
2016 Salary Information for Mechanical Engineers
Mechanical engineers earned a median annual salary of $84,190 in 2016, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. On the low end, mechanical engineers earned a 25th percentile salary of $67,070, meaning 75 percent earned more than this amount. The 75th percentile salary is $106,420, meaning 25 percent earn more. In 2016, 288,800 people were employed in the U.S. as mechanical engineers.