Product engineers apply science, math and original thought to develop new products or new product solutions. Traditionally, this consisted of drawing out new products by hand, then building them. But this was laborious. Today, engineers rely on computers for much of the process. Using computers and specialty computer software, engineers can design, test and make changes to products in minimal time. Computers help them complete the task at hand much more quickly.
CAD, or computer-aided design, is the process of designing new products using computer software. Such software helps designers and engineers take their ideas from a concept state to a model in a 3-D environment. CAD software, such as that from SolidWorks, features a user-friendly interface to allow engineers to bring their ideas to life more quickly. And when you're engineering a new product, being fast to market is key to staying competitive.
Typically, when engineers are developing things such as airplanes and automobiles, they'll put the product through wind tunnel testing to make sure that drag is minimized. Drag slows the speeds of such vehicles, which can lead to a reduction in fuel economy. CFD, or computational fluid dynamics, software has allowed engineers to do such testing virtually. Using a computer, they can take their CAD designs and put them through wind tunnel testing in 3-D. This saves time, in that they can immediately calculate such effects without having to physically test them.
An important stage in product development is prototyping. Engineers create one-off models of their parts to test for form, fit and function. Some companies have prototyping machines in house, while others outsource for these test parts. Computers have made outsourcing for prototype parts much easier. Prototyping service providers, such as Quickparts, offer online quotes for such services. Furthermore, computers also make it easier to exchange this information. Engineers can upload their CAD files to websites and select what materials and technologies they want used to create their parts.
Before computers, when design changes needed to be made, engineers had to open up the blueprint, and in some cases, redo the entire thing. But with computers and CAD software, if changes need to be made, engineers can open the appropriate file and make them within minutes on the computer. Computers facilitate the ability to make corrections quickly, so engineers can develop their products with ease and speed.