New Tools and New Possibilities
This blog was written by Jim Shaver, a Junior Mechanical Engineer at Willowview Consulting.
When I was a toddler, I had a toy that consisted of a hollow box covered in holes – each with a different shape – and small plastic pieces that were designed for a specific hole on the box. The square piece could only fit into the square-shaped hole, and the star piece could only fit into the star-shaped hole.
I’m sure that my toddler-self was only interested in getting those pesky pieces back inside the box through their respective holes, but looking back now I see what I was really learning: How to select the proper tool for a certain task.
Applying Childhood Lessons
I would have to learn this lesson again as a teenager, trying to change the brakes on my car. I spent two hours trying to remove some plastic tabs which would allow me to remove the brake assembly from the car’s axle. Of course, on my trip to the auto parts store, I would find a tool made for that exact purpose. I was able to tackle the other brakes in about 10 minutes.
Using the correct tool is critical to solving a problem, whether it is stuffing plastic shapes into a box, fixing a car, or improving the design of a quadcopter. What, then, is the correct tool for an industry that values high-quality prototypes, fast development, and high efficiency? Answer: a 3D printer.
Testing in the Physical World
A 3D printer allows an engineering team to test designs in the physical world rather than only the digital one. It allows us to view our ideas as they sit on a table; to get an idea of what our designs truly look like and how they realistically behave. We can communicate with each other and with clients using a physical model, making sure there are no misunderstandings about a concept. Also, a 3D printer is a tool that can create more tools, enabling engineers to solve unique problems in unique ways.
3D printers have been gaining popularity over the last few years and are just now reaching the right combination of reliability, user-friendliness, print quality, and price. Because of the benefit it offers engineering companies like Willowview Consulting, a 3D printer makes an excellent tool to have at our disposal.
Adding to our Library of Tools
Willowview Consulting has added a 3D printer to our library of tools, and we are looking forward to an exciting future of custom-designed solutions, fast iteration, and more efficient concept communication.
As a young engineer with a long journey ahead of me, I cannot wait to see what interesting and new tools become available to shorten the distance between what sits in our minds and what sits on our table.