Engineers are the problem solvers of life by excellence. Whenever they need to solve a problem by designing a machine, a system, a computer program, etcetera, the team in charge of the task will follow the Engineering Design Process. This process, just like the Scientific Method, involves a series of methodical steps that engineers follow in order to solve a particular problem.
The Engineering Design Process consists of several different steps, depending on the engineering team in charge of the project. However, the key phases of engineering design include starting with defining the problem, doing research about it, coming up with the specifications, brainstorming solutions and developing the best one into a prototype, and designing and redesigning the prototype. In essence, engineering design is an iterative process, meaning the steps should be repeated as many times as needed until the problem has been solved.
Define The Problem
Asking critical questions is a fundamental step in engineering design. In this process, we will try to get as much information as possible. This information will help us define and understand the problem we are dealing with. If we don’t define the problem, it will lead to a failed design that won’t work and will only delay the project.
Research the Problem
Once we have defined the problem and gained a full understanding of what it represents, we can move on to the research stage. Here is where we will identify the extent of our problem. Gaining insight into who or what the problem affects directly will help us find a solution. We also need to know what alternatives already exist and that are trying to solve the same problem we are. Identifying what has worked before, what hasn’t, and what could be of additional help is key.
Brainstorm Possible Solutions
We know what the problem is and to what extents it affects others. The creative stages of the design process are necessary. This is why a team of engineers will work better than a single one. Brainstorming possible solutions allows us to see the problem from different perspectives, and teamwork is ideal. The more people contribute to the creative process, the better.
Establish Specifications and Requirements
The next step is establishing the specifications our solution will have, and the requirements needed for the proper functioning of such. We need to know how well our product or machine will work and what it will do, instead of how. Being able to outline our specifications and requirements will avoid any step backs in the future stages of the engineering design process. Making a list on which we rank the project needs and must-haves can help determine the overall priority of each item.
Develop The Best Solution
As we have outlined our specifications and requirements, we have also gained a thorough understanding of what the problem represents and what the solution would be. This is the step where we choose the best solution and start developing a plan to carry it out. Such a plan should prepare us to move on to the prototype of our project.
Design and Evaluate A Prototype
This is where our ideas are materialized. Taking all the information and insight we gained during the previous stages of our design will translate into an actual machine or system specifically designed to solve our problem. Finishing the prototype is only half of the work since we know need to evaluate the final product and try to assess how well it will perform the task it was meant to carry out.
Test and Redesign the Prototype
It is time to see If our prototype receives a positive evaluation based on the standards that we had set. If so, we are now ready to test its performance in real circumstances. This might be the most rewarding yet nerve-wracking stage of the engineering design process. There are several possible results that can come from testing our prototype, whether it works or not. Based on the results of the tests, we will determine what we need to redesign and change.
As we mentioned before, the engineering design process is iterative in essence. We might have to go back and forth along the way. Every new test and prototype can provide different results. Achieving the best end results and ultimately solving a problem are the main goals. Revision and redesign of concepts and prototypes will help us accomplish that.