We all need tools to do our jobs. The quality of the tool ultimately determines the quality of the work. Mechanical engineers require a high level of skill coupled with a wide array of tools both physically and virtually. There are many virtual tools out there for engineers, in this post I’ll highlight a few that help with the job at hand as well as maximizing the cost involved.
But first, a little story.
A couple of months ago, my 12-year-old son was involved with a district-wide science and technology project competition. Each student was given full autonomy over what they wanted to create, provided it was something that could help the environment. My son designed and built an energy-efficient paper shredder. For two months, he worked hard designing and constructing a prototype from Lego. We discovered he had a mechanical engineering mind, and it got me thinking, what tools are in his future?
Engineers are great creators
I am certainly not a mechanical engineer by any means, but I did some research into what engineers do, what they create and how they create it. I wanted to be able to explain to my son what he should think about as he explores different career options nested in engineering.
Through the wonders of the internet, I came across the staple engineering software applications like AutoCAD, Mathcad, Finite Element Analysis (FEA) software and programming languages like VB and Python that he may need to learn someday.
Useful apps for engineers
For now, though, I wanted to find simple applications that he could use on his phone or on the web to give him a little exposure to the engineering world. Handy and straightforward apps that every mechanical engineer should have -especially if he is self-employed or are a part of a small firm.
Here are some helpful apps that I came across:
Mechanical Engineering is a high-rated app for Android that gives users easy access to a treasure trove of engineering concepts in both text and video form.
This app is a handy reference for students and experienced Mechanical Engineers who need to research various topics like the strength of materials, piping, emerging pollutants and fluid mechanics.
Price: Free with $9.99 Premium option
Available: Google Play
The Engineering Cookbook is a reference book that has been brought over to iOS and Android devices. It contains many concepts, diagrams and explanations of fan theory, motors and drives, heating and refrigeration concepts. The app also includes a handy reference for many popular engineering formulas and conversion factors.
Sketchup is a powerful 3D and 2D modelling application that is not difficult to pick up and use. My 12-year-old son has used it in a middle-school class!
With a wide variety of industries that it serves, Sketchup is a very robust tool. It even interfaces with 3D printing! Included with Sketchup is a model library called the 3D Warehouse, where you can import premade parts to add to your creation.
Price: Free (for personal & learning use) and professional paid versions
Available: Web with iOS and Android viewers (desktop software available for Pro plans)
Katana is a complete production planning and material inventory control application. If you’re a start-up looking to manage your production costs of the widgets that you’re producing, Katana helps you take control of the entire process. From ordering, materials, inventory and managing costs, Katana is your base.
Serving almost every imaginable industry from e-bikes to electronics, to eyewear, Katana is a smart manufacturing app that helps small-business engineers generate profit from their work.
Price: 14-day free trial (no credit card required) with various monthly pricing plans available.
Dovico is a fully-featured employee costing application. As an engineer, your most precious resource is time. You can’t go out and buy more of it, and if you’re working on projects for clients, you’re selling your time. That’s why you need to keep meticulous track of the time you’re spending.
As your engineering team grows, you will need a tool to handle labor costs. With its easy-to-use employee timesheet, you can be confident that all time is accounted for and quickly reported on. Dovico provides a robust reporting engine capable of producing every time costing formula imaginable.
Set up a project, enter some employees, track time, report and bill clients. Dovico Timesheet helps you at every step along the way. Sell your engineering time with confidence.
Price: 30-day free trial (no credit card required) with limited free and fully functional pro versions available.
Available: Web, iOS and Android
Engineers have a vast imagination, and the sky is barely the limit. Creating something from what appears to be nothing is their craft, and the power to move society forward is their purpose.
I’m proud to witness my son building from his imagination. Who knows where it may take him. Whether or not he becomes a mechanical engineer is irrelevant. Knowing that our next generation has the ingenuity and the tools to build a better future is all the comfort I need.
From learning how to do something new, refreshing what you already know, to fine-tuning your processes and maximizing your time, there are some fantastic software applications out there completely geared to engineers of all types.
Free Dovico Timesheet for up to 5 employees and 10 projects – Unlimited time entries & reports.