How to get skilled in CAD? Step by step guide for mechanical engineers


There are several thousands of engineers in the world today, and it is becoming harder than ever before to be different and unique. The first thing young students need to understand is that just having a degree in engineering, doesn’t make you a good engineer. Especially when it comes to fields such as mechanical and civil, students need to have hands-on experience with tools and devices to call themselves a good engineer. Having a degree is only the start and students need to build their skills on their own to become good in their field. Engineering is a vast field, with hundreds of specializations, one of them being mechanical design. Mechanical design has to do with the production and design of new components and parts. One of the basic skills that engineers need to get good at design is drafting. AUTOCAD is one of the best tools to draft new product designs and hence, mechanical engineers need to be skilled at CAD. Here’s a look at everything you need to know about CAD and how to get skilled in using it.

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How to get skilled in CAD?

As mentioned above, the only way to truly become a mechanical engineer is to work on things yourself so that you can gain the information required on your own. To help you get started, here are a few CAD projects. These mechanical engineering projects will ensure that you are introduced to the field of CAD, and develop skills with regards to drafting and simulation.

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1. Gear Train Design


Almost every mechanical system out there relies on gears for power transmission. Hence, they are one of the most important devices that mechanical engineers need to design. In this CAD project, you will learn how to design a gear train system and all the related constraints required to do so. This hands-on project will help you kick-start

your CAD journey by introducing you to Autodesk Inventor and helping you build gear shafts, spur gears and bearings.

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2. Differential Gear using Autodesk


Most mechanical systems which need to alter their speed regularly make use of either a manual or automatic differential gear system to achieve speed multiplication. This is also put to use in automobiles to allow gear change. In this mechanical engineering project, students will be introduced to the concepts of automobile CAD. By the end, you will conceptualize and develop a differential gear design using Autodesk Inventor, and even perform various dynamic simulations on it to optimize your design.

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What are the Skills a Mechanical Engineer Must Have?

Mechanical engineers conceptualize, design, build, test and maintain all sorts of mechanical devices like tools, machines and motors. Hence, mechanical engineering is considered one of the broadest engineering disciplines, with far-reaching consequences. Therefore, mechanical engineers need to have several skills. Here’s a look at a few must-have skills;

  1. Problem Solving- Must be strong analytical thinkers who can work out solutions for both simple and complex problems
  2. Analytical Thinking- Must always think a few steps ahead and test results and adjust the design whenever required
  3. Aware of Engineering Fundamentals- As mechanical engineering is based on basic mechanics and physical properties, a good mechanical engineer has sound knowledge regarding engineering fundamentals.
  4. Creativity- Must be able to come up with swift and creative solutions to everyday design problems.
  5. Punctual and Frugal- Must be able to complete tasks within the stipulated time and without taking up too much money, or going over the budget
  6. Strong Communication and Leadership skills will help in interacting with clients effectively, and dealing with subordinates efficiently.
  7. Teamwork- Mechanical engineers often work in groups to solve problems and design new components. Hence, a good engineer must be a good team player who is able to work with a diverse group of people.

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What is mechanical CAD?

AutoCAD is a software that is used across various industries to help with drafting and creating engineering drawings. Therefore, you won’t be able to get very far in the field of mechanical engineering without having necessary AutoCAD skills. It comes with various 2D and 3D drafting skills and helps engineers replicate and visualize parts and components. Furthermore, it also helps engineers assemble parts together to make devices. This, in turn, helps them understand how the completed machine will look, what its dimensions will be and so on. Also, several versions of CAD allow engineers to test for stress-strain applications, load balancing and even fatigue analysis. Such simulations help engineers understand the drawbacks of their design, and hence, improve on the initial design to create a perfect final product.

Drafters make use AutoCAD convert designs into technical drawings and blueprints which help manufacturers create structures and tools. These tools help to standardize dimensions, procedures and other such specifications. Also, the software helps mechanical engineers create prototypes which can be improved until they perform efficiently. AutoCAD enables engineers to see how well their designs function in several adverse situations. It also helps them to run cost estimates and check various factors such as volume, weight and dimension.

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How do you Become a Good Machine Designer?

  • First and foremost, you must have a passion for machines and their functionality. This makes it enjoyable to learn new skills, rework your designs and helps you stay creative.
  • Secondly, to be a good machine designer you must observe mechanical processes carefully and actually work on machinery by assembling components, taking things apart and troubleshooting them to truly understand them. This helps in building a mindset high on mechanical aptitude. This, in turn, makes it easier for you to tweak your designs, understand flaws early on, and overall develop good designs.
  • You need to be able to admit that you have gone wrong, and start all over again, as many times as it is required. Designing is a continuous process that is highly iterative. There will be times when you have to rework your design multiple times, and you will have to do it each time with an open mind.
  • You need to have a working knowledge of control systems, and learning PLC programming and wiring of control systems is a good place to start. These skills will help you fully utilize the capabilities of a machine, making your designs more efficient.
  • Having some fabrication knowledge to think like a toolmaker allows you to create designs which are easy to fabricate and manufacture. There is no point in designing something that is impossibly hard to fabricate.
  • Learn from the past, and use that knowledge to move into the future. Therefore, good mechanical designers draw inspiration from past designs to create even better present ones.
  • Don’t over-engineer things or even make things too cheap and flimsy. Find an optimal middle ground wherein your designs are not too expensive, but still robust enough to last a few years.

Tips for mechanical engineers

  1. Develop CAD and drafting skills early on to avoid issues later on in your course. This will not only help you become a better engineer but will also greatly help in improving your problem solving and spatial allocation skills.
  2. Practice heavily because the design is mainly about adjusting, balancing and incorporating elements to make everything fit together. This isn’t a skill anyone is born with but is rather something we acquire through constant practice. Once you get good at it, you will develop a recognizable personal style that will set you apart from the rest.
  3. Make sure you are familiar with existing technology related to your field because this will help you form a basis for the technology of tomorrow. Having a thorough understanding of how the tools of today function, will help you adjust with changes a lot faster.
  4. Gain as much "hands-on" experience as you can and work with as many people as you possibly can. Help with restoring cars, creating new designs, build model planes and even help with the maintenance of motorcycles. All these activities will provide you with real-world experience, which is critical in the field of mechanical engineering.
  5. Learn about the Design Process and refer books to gain insights about the entire process of designing a new component. This will help you understand more about DFMEA's, design reviews, safety hazards and PFMEA's.
  6. Other areas you must focus on are multi-objective numerical optimization, Systems Modelling and engineering, Performance Modeling, and Simulink.

The best way to get skilled in Mechanical CAD is by developing some projects related to CAD. We at Skyfi Labs have developed some online courses which will help you to get skilled on CAD. If you want to know more about CAD projects, let us know in the comments our experts will get back to you.

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How to get skilled in CAD? Step by step guide for mechanical engineers
Skyfi Labs Last Updated: 2021-03-13

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