Re:engineering - What does it mean to be a part of a full service Engineering Services company?

For me, it means to apply my creativity in practical ways. Whether it’s talking to a client, vendor, or working as a team, I come into work to learn something new.  Like this week I had to design a test fixture for the Abstat sensors. The fixture is a simple box that can hold electronic components and holds the sensor being tested in place.  Sounds simple right? I mean, it’s “just a box”....

Here’s the current design of the test fixture:

And here’s the Abstat sensor:

Currently, all the wires are exposed and the circuit boards are open to dust. The blue box is meant for the Abstat sensor to sit and be tested on but there are only unreliable flanges to hold it down.  My job for the next few days is to design a test fixture that is cost effective, reliable and efficient while staying in the given constraints. The goal of the new design is to protect the electronic components and hold one sensor in place so it can be tested in a manufacturing setting.

One thing to take into account is the material - it can dictate the number of features of the design. For example, for a material such as plastic, more ribs are added to stiffen the box; however, for metal, it would not need these features because it is already strong enough. A plastic box can easily be designed on SolidWorks with a lot of complex features and easily be 3D printed whereas a metal box is much stronger but will most likely take a long time to machine the same features. There is also the possibility of making the fixture out of acrylic which is more cheap than metal and 3D printing. It generally has the same design/feature constraints as metal but can be more cost effective if the box does not have to be really strong.

There are too many decisions to make and too many tradeoffs.

But wait.

There is another solution: why make the entire fixture one material when I can combine the two materials? I designed the small part of the box with many features to be 3D printed; these are the features that cannot be easily machined. For the rest of the box that has simple holes for screws, I could make out of acrylic because it is more cheap.  Choosing materials is only one part of the design process, now it’s time to CAD.

-Brenda Pham, Staff ME