Thursday, February 10, 2011

The Importance of Technical Drawing to an Engineer

By Brad Painting, eHow Contributor
Image from advanced CAD program
Image from advanced CAD program
Image by, courtesy of Jeremy Levine

Without technical drawings, engineering would be a discipline of enormous guesswork. Technical drawings allow engineers to create designs, calculate forces and stresses on structures, and work with manufacturers. The ability to understand and work with technical drawings will not make someone a good engineer, but it is a necessary skill on the way to becoming adept in the profession.

Creating Designs
1. Engineers often create original designs that must be presented to others. Even if you can make a drawing understandable to yourself, it will not be readable to others if it does not follow the conventions of technical drawing. Engineers may design machine parts, composite structures or circuits that will involve the collaboration of several people. It is fine to sketch your basic ideas by hand while creatively brainstorming, but the details of the design must eventually be cemented into a format that is mutually understood.
Reading Designs
2. Engineers may not actually create designs, but analyze or perform calculations on them. A common example involves the calculation of the maximum stress on a machine part. By gathering the materials, geometry, and forces on a part from an engineering drawing, the engineer runs calculations to determine whether it will fail due to internal shear, compressive or tensile stresses.
Modifying Designs
3. Designs are rarely perfect the first time around, and usually involve an iterative process of modifying several factors. An engineer may work with a team by modifying the dimensions, geometry, materials or couplings to meet goals for safety, value and functionality. As an example, an engineer might be given the task of reducing the weight of an object by 5 percent without detracting from its functionality. A technical drawing is the only way to show exactly how the design would change.
4. A technical drawing can give machine operators information on how to manufacture an item. It is the engineer's responsibility to create the design in a way that does not call for excessively difficult or complex manufacturing processes. An engineering drawing should contain sufficient views and acceptable surface finishes, tolerances and geometries to be manufactured with the available equipment.
Computer Software
5. Technical drawings are created and modified through a number of computer-aided design programs, such as AutoCAD and SolidWorks. These programs have long moved past cutting-edge status and are now practically considered a standard part of an engineer's skill set. To use these programs effectively, one must understand the different line types, views, dimensions and information included in technical drawings.

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