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How I Do Mechanical & Industrial Design

By Bill Kwolek

Clients have asked about my personal methodology for designing mechanical packages. At the risk of oversimplification, the steps I take for a complete product package assignment are as follows:

  1. I gather as much information as I can about the physical product and the technology that supports it. This includes your technical material, competitive material, white papers, drawings, sketches, research reports etc.
    When appropriate, I typically use the University of Michigan Library system to research. They have an excellent online book searching utility called Mirlyn. Link to it at http://mirlyn.lib.umich.edu

  2. I research end user expectations with your marketing and sales people. If you have marketing data cards, they help me develop a profile of who will use the product.

  3. I listen to you, take notes, and ask questions until we have a clear understanding of the assignment.

  4. I spend a lot of time studying this information.

  5. NOTE: I design in SolidWorks and have some familiarity with Rhino. I provide the 3-D models in any of the standardized file formats available in SolidWorks like STL, STEP, IGES etc. to rapid prototyping and rapid manufacturing services. Even molders in China prefer these file formats. I provide the 2-D drawings in Adobe Acrobat *.pdf format. If you don't use Solidworks, you can archive these files as easily as your native files.

  6. And don't worry about communicating with me as the design progresses. SolidWorks has a powerful, free, eDrawing viewer that enables total communication of a design concept. You will love it and come to depend on it.

  7. If you don't own 3-D MCAD software, when I work on your project, you have the opportunity to give SolidWorks a test drive. Four of my clients have purchased SolidWorks based on my recommendation.

  8. Now let's get down to specifics...

  9. I gather all components you expect to include in the mechanical package. If I can download 3-D CAD models available on the internet, this saves time. If none are available, I model a “puppet” of the component. The puppet is a 3-D solid with the physical appearance and features I need to make it fit into the assembly.

  10. If the package appearance is important, I model alternative designs that capture the look and feel of a finished product, including the labeling, color and finish. I provide you with a proposal report in pdf file format, containing images & comments about the pros & cons and alternative features.
    You receive a disc containing the pdf report, the CAD model files, and self-executable viewing software which you can use to zoom, rotate, section and measure the 3-D models. If this is new to you, look for the ULD example in my 'portfolio' page under REVERSE ENGINEERING. Be sure to read the instructions.

  11. After you select and approve a final design, I model the parts for rapid prototyping or manufacturing. Part lists are built into the assembly model and can be exported as Excel files.

  12. When the 3-D assembly is finished, we discuss the package and make revisions as needed.

  13. When the final revised design is approved, I produce the 2-D drawings with dimensions and notes that can be used by fabricators. Some fabricators are able to use 3-D models to save CAM programming time with CNC machines.

  14. I produce assembly drawings with parts lists and numbered balloons if this is part of our arrangement.

  15. I design the labels and send the files to your vendor via email.

  16. I monitor fabrication, inspect incoming parts, assemble the parts, and revise the 3-D models and 2-D drawings until you are satisfied. If parts need to be modified, I either do it at my facility or arrange for the fabricator to do the modifications.

  17. When the finished package is ready, I deliver it for your review and approval.

  18. Upon approval, I send you the complete documentation package on CD-R or DVD disc.

  19. NOTE ON DATA STORAGE: I do regular back-ups of mission critical files. If you have VPN software, I can upload my files to your network on a daily basis.
    I can also upload files to my FTP site for you to download. I will issue a user ID and password to access the site through your internet browser.
    You can also purchase offsite server space to which we both have access. Offsite data storage is good practice.

  20. And...


If your project needs only a few of these steps,


If you want the design to be assembled at your facility,


If you want to use your fabrication equipment,


If you need a brochure or white paper,