So what is the Engineering Design Process and why is it important? Chances are that you've used this without even knowing! The Engineering Design Process is the process in which engineers solve problems. there are many different varieties according to google images. But in reality they are basically the same at the core and that is to: Define the problem, do research, think of solutions, build a prototype, test your solution, and redesign your solution or accept your solution. Like I said, if you google the Engineering Design Process you will get many different results, im using this one because I believe it is the most detailed.
I will apply this to a situation that happened to my car this weekend and I will show how I used the Engineering Design Process to fix my car. A non-moving car is kinda pointless to have.
Step 1: Define the Problem
So the other week I was driving in between Logan, Utah and Rexburg, Idaho when my engine started to smoke and my car stopped. Now being stuck in the middle of nowhere is definitely not a fun experience and it is definitley on my bucket list. I would definitely not want it to happen again.
In order to improve the car and make sure that this will not happen again I need to fix the problem. So what was the problem?
There is a difference between the problem and a symptom of the problem. I could say the problem was my smoking engine, but that was not the case. The smoking engine was a symptom of the problem. The problem was that my coolant cap was not tight and it fell off while driving. Because it fell off I had to make sure it didn't do that again. I needed to find a way to make sure the cap didn't fall off again.
Step 2: Do Background Research
Research is an important step in the Engineering Design Process. You can just expect to build a rocket and have it land on mars, You need to do research do you can achieve accurate results. For me It was doing research on the importance of coolant in the car (though it does kind of speak for itself) and engine temperatures. I also did research on how to anneal, or strengthen, my 3d prints.
Step 3: Specify Requirements
My new coolant cap needed the specific requirements.
- Secure- I don't want it to fall off again
- Heat resistance- Most cars run their engines around 195-220*F and I don't want my cap to melt or warp.
- Easily removable- This is the reason I didn't just duct-tape it on
- Cheap and easy to make- If I find or make a better design I want it easy to make
Step 4: Brainstorm, Evaluate and Choose Solution
You can't make something if you do not know what you want to make or have a design. You can't just nail some boards together and expect to have a solid house.
I came up with a few ideas which varied in design, material and complexity.
I ended up picking a design that was 3d printed. My 3d printer uses PLA and we know that PLA is not that tough, as I brainstormed I decided to anneal, or toughen, my print.
Step 5: Develop and Prototype Solution
I used Autodesk Inventor to design my model which was fairly similar to the original cap. I decided not to make it to fancy, because who is going to look at and admire your coolant cap?
I 3d printed my cap at 90% infill with PLA.
I have attached the file I used.
All materials have a melting point and the same is of course with plastic. When you anneal a plastic you have to heat it up until it is under its melting point. as you do this and naturally let it cool down the micro structure strengthens by forming new crystals inside. Full detail can be found here: Annealing your 3d prints. This is what will allow me to put my 3d print on the coolant tank without the fear of having the cap melt. of course I could have also used a heat resistant paint.
Step 6: Test Solution
After you prototype you need to test your design. I tested to see if my design fit and luckily it did.
Testing is an important part of the Engineering design Process. If you don't test your prototype you will never know if it works or if it needs any improvements.
Step 7: Does Your Solution Meet the Requirements?
While testing you should look for any instantiates in your prototype. There is no point in keeping a final product that works only 90% of the time because lets be honest, it will probably fail you when you need it most. If your solution did not meet your requirements now is the time to see what you can improve. That means starting over at the brainstorming step, which you build a different or improved model afterwards.
Luckily my prototype met all of my requirements and fit well.
Step 8: Communicate Results
Working on a personal basis this step my be less important, but if you're working for a company it is important for you to share your results with your fellow workers. There is no point in having someone else spend a lot of time designing a process that already has a solution.
If you're looking for a good way to communicate your results you can post your process on instructables!