Design engineer is a general term that covers multiple engineering disciplines including electrical, mechanical, industrial design and civil engineering, architectural engineers in the U.S. and building engineers in the UK.
The design engineer is distinguished from the designer/drafter by virtue of the fact that a design engineer takes care of the total system as well as inner workings/engineering of a design. While industrial designers may be responsible for the conceptual aesthetic and ergonomic aspects of a design, the design engineer usually works with a team of engineers and designers to develop the conceptual, preliminary and detail design and the most critical parts. He/she may work with industrial designers and marketing to develop the product concept and specifications, and he/she may direct the design effort from that point. Products are usually designed with input from a number of sources such as marketing, manufacturing, purchasing, tool making and packaging engineering. In addition design engineers deal with much more complex technological and scientific systems (aircraft, spacecraft, rockets, trains, ships, dams, bridges, building structures, urban infrastructure, machinery, production systems, propulsion systems, oil, gas, and mining exploration systems, manufacturing processes, military systems, cars, electronics, computers, power generation systems - nuclear, fossil, wind, ocean, and power distribution systems). In many engineering areas, a distinction is made between the design engineer and the planning engineer in design. Planning engineers are more concerned with designing on a more systems engineering level, and overlaps onto the operational side are often necessary. Design engineers, in contrast, are more concerned with designing a particular new product or system. Analysis is important for planning engineers, while synthesis is paramount for design engineers.
When the design involves public safety, the design engineer is usually required to be licensed, for example a Professional Engineer in the U.S and Canada. There is usually an 'industrial exemption' for design engineers working on project internal to companies and not delivering professional services directly to the public.
Design engineer tasks
They may work in a team along with designers to create the drawings necessary for prototyping and production, or in the case of buildings, for construction. However, with the advent of CAD and solid modeling software (SolidWorks, SpaceClaim, Solid Edge, Autodesk Inventor, Pro/ENGINEER, NX, CATIA, etc., for example) the design engineers may create the drawings themselves.
The next responsibility of many design engineers is prototyping. A model of the product is created and reviewed. Prototypes are usually functional and non-functional. Functional "alpha" prototypes are used for testing and the non-functional are used for form and fit checking. Virtual prototyping software like Ansys or Comsol may also be used. This stage is where design flaws are found and corrected, and tooling, manufacturing fixtures, and packaging are developed.
Once the "alpha" prototype is finalized, after many iterations, the next step is the "beta" pre-production prototype. The design engineer, working with a manufacturing engineer and a quality engineer reviews an initial run of components and assemblies for design compliance and fabrication/manufacturing methods analysis. This is often determined through statistical process control. Variations in the product are correlated to aspects of the process and eliminated. The most common metric used is the process capability index Cpk. A Cpk of 1.0 is considered the baseline acceptance for full production go-ahead.
The design engineer may follow the product and make requested changes and corrections throughout the life of the product. This is referred to as "cradle to grave" engineering.
The design process is an information intensive one and design engineers have been found to spend 56% of their time engaged in various information behaviours, including 14% actively searching for information. Furthermore, in addition to design engineers’ core technical competence, research has also demonstrated the critical nature of their personal attributes, project management skills, and cognitive abilities to success in the role.
- Architectural engineering
- Building engineering
- Civil engineering
- Electrical engineering
- Industrial engineering
- Industrial design engineering
- Mechanical engineering
- Production engineering
- Tool engineering
- Product Development
- ^ Robinson, M. A. (2010). An empirical analysis of engineers’ information behaviors. Journal of the American Society for Information Science and Technology, 61(4), 640–658. http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/asi.21290
- ^ Robinson, M. A., Sparrow, P. R., Clegg, C., & Birdi, K. (2005). Design engineering competencies: Future requirements and predicted changes in the forthcoming decade. Design Studies, 26(2), 123–153. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.destud.2004.09.004
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