Help finding CAD professional path?
I am kind of new around here. I have recently developed some interest in CAD applications and mechanical design and I have been thinking about taking a related course.
I have been doing some research and from what I have seen it appears that workshop experience is very valuable in order to get a job as a CAD technician. Now, the only kind of related course available where I live is a Mechanical Engineering HND in which there is only a CAD course. The rest are Thermodynamics, Maths, Materials, etc. I have also seen that in many job offers they ask for knowledge of Mechanical Engineering design of components, understanding of material properties so that leads me to think that undertaking such a course would be the right option.
I was wondering if any of you guys could give me some advice to help me out with my decision because I am really not sure about what to do.
Whether you plan on going to college/university, or just taking a few courses, here are some tips and tricks that will be guaranteed to help better your career path that I suggested on a previous post on this site. I guarantee these will help you 100%.
Make sure you can learn different design/engineering softwares to make the transition from learning to work easier. Learn a few of them like Autocad, Inventor, Solidworks, and Creo. 99.9% of the time you will be using softwares like these in your work field.
A course you should take also is metallurgy. I didn't take it in school but really wish I did. It will give you a better idea of how certain metals act and react under certain environmental conditions, as well as machining/welding ability for its use in designs.
Also take a machining/shop class that focuses on metal work. It will give you the perspective of the machinists that will be making the parts you engineer. It will help with design simplicity to make machining more quick and efficient, as well as easier on the machinists in the future as well.
A welding class would be good too. Same reason for the machining course.
The stuff you really have to know is GD&T, and all the modeling capabilities each software has available to it.
If you could also study the calculation capabilities the softwares have like Stress analysis and flow simulation, that will give you an advantage over other candidates because several employees in the field do not know how to perform these simulations in the software.
Jonathan made a lot of great points. I'll try not to reiterate too many of them for redundancy's sake. :)
Be a good student. Not only in whatever classes you take but more importantly, to those who take you under their wing. Ask lots of questions... never let your own pride get in the way of your learning. Be open to and invite constructive criticism. You cannot work in this field as a thin-skinned lone ranger that doesn't work and play well with others because most design efforts of any scale are collaborative in nature. Cling to and absorb knowledge from the brightest sources, always. More experience will help you separate the wheat from the chaff in this regard.
Most of the learning begins on the job... and it ends with the last breath we take.
Learn how YOU learn. Once you've got that, you're only a book, tutorial, hands-on experience, etc., away from expanding your knowledge. No tuition required.
Well defined career paths were a feature, the normal, when I started out in this industry, this has been pushed aside somewhat these days. There were three main options, tradesman, with a formal apprenticeship, technician engineer, with a diploma course at a technical college, or polytechnic or a degree option at a university. Some would start with an apprenticeship, get a thirst for more knowledge then go to polytechnic, get a diploma, and sometimes go off to university and end up with a degree as well.
The engineering technician did the bulk of the production of workshop drawings in the production team, this involved detail design of mechanical components, gear trains, belt drives, clutches, bearing arrangements and the like, the degreed engineer looked after the overall design checked drawings for accuracy and design intent and was responsible for project being completed on time and budget. On occasion an experienced tool maker or pattern-maker would be moved into drawing office to work on tooling and casting set ups. All the drawings were produced manually as CAD was not a mainstream tool with just a few boffins just starting to look at this approach.
When 2D CAD exploded into the market this only changed slightly, open minded engineering technicians adopting the CAD technology with its productivity advantage over the old manual approach, some technicians who did not take to using a PC as a tool dropping out of the industry along with a few from a computing, and not engineering background getting into CAD. This was the start of engineering best practice and sound design being diluted in the production of good engineering drawings.
3D model based CAD - CAM is now the direction engineering design and manufacture has headed. The important thing is to not loose sight of this technology being just another tool, not loosing sight of the engineering component. Much of this software enables a skilled engineer to produce quickly and accurately works ready projects.
The big question to answer is what training is required, and as this is seldom free, this needs to be good value and useful. My opinion is the engineering component is the most important, the core subjects maths, physics, chemistry, a knowledge of machine components and how they work. Concentrate on the basic modeling principles that can be applied to all of the main CAD packages and be comfortable using as many of them as you can. Youtube and tutorials from CAD software produces can teach you a lot. learn to produce drawings that comply with drafting standards as that is how it should be.