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What are the most challenging things in trying to engineer new products or technologies?

I am a freshman in high school; thus, I have a little while to think about my possible career paths. I have always wanted to go into the medical field until recently, when engineering caught my eye. I always see companies coming up with the newest technologies that can do extraordinary things such as save lives or make daily chores almost nonexistent. I know that technology is always morphing and improving based on findings, but I always have wondered if it is stressful to try and think of new devices that will be the future of society. I feel as if that would put me under too much pressure and I wouldn't be able to enjoy my job. Is that not the case? #engineering #mechanical-engineering #civil-engineering #computer-engineering #electrical-engineering #software-engineering #chemical-engineering #industrial-engineering


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David’s Answer

Very nice forward thinking Lauren.

I think the stress of inventing is low on my list. I worked for a large corporation where the invention side often comes from the customer's design and problem and often involves many people on my company's side.

Good news though: In manufacturing, as I was, you have the chance to "invent" many solutions to smaller internal problems. Usually, it doesn't lead to a patent. Generally such efforts are kept in the company as proprietary.

I often got the chance to influence the customer's designs, much to their gratitude. In other cases I helped modify a process on the production floor, much to my company's satisfaction.

If you are looking for the more glamorous Patent path with associated market penetration of a great new object, with lots of sales and profit, yes, the stress should be there.

The stress comes first from confirming if the invention is out there already.
Then, will the world buy your idea if totally new.
Then, can it be made at a good market price with profitability rolled in.

Either way, you will enjoy your job. The world needs bright engineering minds to keep everything working and even to facilitate with great new ideas and inventions. Remember Edison was more of a facilitator than an inventor.

The enjoyment comes from helping others and getting PAID well enough to continue helping others.

Sadly, if you put your heart and soul into the invention stress or even helping someone new with a small project, you can develop stress. Remember to keep it all in perspective, do what you can see as your strength and keep a good work-life balance always monitoring and controlling stress.

Good Luck and enjoy!
(I did work consistently in Medical Implants and have even been a HIP replacement customer, so contact me if you want to discuss that further!)

Best regards,
Dave Italiano

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Haitham’s Answer

The hardest part is to find a need for the product. If there are no need for the product to solve a specific problem, there are no need to waste your time then. The product should have a clear CTQ by a customer or business or public or you if you are an inventor. Once the CTQs are defined right it is easy from there. Example: a linkage that need to operate inside a boiler exposed to demin water and elevated temp. This need to have a 100000 thermal cycles and a minimum of 25 years of serivce life. The part should be easy to handle as no lifting and hoisting equipment can be used, the part must tollerate elevated temp. without losing its stiffness.
Now CTQs are in place, then you will need SS material special alloys that have high stength at elevated temp and can tollerate corrosion. Welding with sharp edges and corners should be avoided to prevent cracking due to thermal cycles. The linkage wieght should be minimized when structural regidity is not required to allow for one person handling. This is just an easy example to show you how the thought process should take place. It is not hard once you participate to the first project and see how things are done.

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Kalyan C.’s Answer

Hi Lauren,


Challenges to engineer new products or technologies depend on the type of product or industry. I will take an example of a product that requires knowledge from medical and engineering backgrounds.


Let's consider a CPAP device (Continuous Positive Airway Pressure, is a treatment that uses mild air pressure to keep the airways open. CPAP typically is used by people who have breathing problems, such as sleep apnea). Recently, there is a company selling the first portable miniCPAP device that can be carried by the patient anywhere, so, we can assume that the previous versions are heavy and cannot be carried around or they are inconvenient.


Here the interesting question would be, who has come up with this idea. The idea might have come from one of the team members (when he/she has seen someone suffering to carry the large CPAP device) or the market need is identified by the business development manager or the CEO or Entrepreneur.


Now the challenge is to several engineers and medical professionals, who need come up with the product design, manufacturability (mechanical), Digital technology or hardware (Electrical), software integration (computer science) and the concept of the device (medical) and sensors (chemical) and integration of all these into a small device is the ultimate challenge.


As an engineer or medical professional in medical devices industry you will try to solve part of the problem and at the end of the day the result is "a team effort". Coming up with innovative ideas is not always stressful (as nobody expects a person come up with an idea in an hour or day - it is not an exam and we are humans, not machines).


If you are considering engineering and medical fields simultaneously, I encourage you to look at biomedical engineering major. Some of the companies that hire biomedical engineers are Stryker, Johnson & Johnson, Zimmer, GE, Philips, Novo Nordisk and so on


http://sbhse.engineering.asu.edu/academics/careers-and-employment/companies-that-hire-biomedical-engineers/


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Eric’s Answer

Hi, Lauren!


It's great to think in these ways!


It is hard to come up with new, world-changing ideas, for sure. However, the vast majority of work as an engineer is not coming up with new things, but rather trying to make existing ideas actually work. For example, I spend 20% of my time at work working on Project Sunroof (google.com/sunroof), which is a tool by Google for telling people how effective solar panels on their roofs could be. The initial idea is world-changing, because solar power has the potential to greatly reduce carbon emissions and help prevent global warming (Project Sunroof has even been recognized by the UN for its importance! Number 8 here: http://newsroom.unfccc.int/climate-action/2016-momentum-for-change-lighthouse-activities/). However, I didn't come up with the idea. It has taken several software engineers and other Google employees over a year to develop it as far as we have, and there is still much more work to be done. So my day-to-day work involving it is much more about "How can we add this individual ability" or "Is there a new way to look at the data" than imagining a new world-changing idea.


On the one hand, this itself can be disappointing for some people. You usually aren't imagining something brand new that no-one else has ever thought of before. On the other hand, as you note, that would be really hard. And it can still be very fulfilling to do the longer, slower work of actually bringing one of these world-changing ideas to fruition.


Does this make sense? I hope it helps!


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Christine’s Answer

The most difficult process to get used with NEW product design and development, is that there will always be an improvement and next revision. Can be interesting optimizing a design and performance of a product while customers are the drivers for the optimization of product OR sometimes it's required to connect an Industrial Design engineer to give the product a different luck.
Performance and environmental testing is interesting, as well.

In my former experience in the automotive industry, was the most stressful field to be involved in: short leadtimes for new product launches every model year.

Advice: find a field you believe in that will make your personal objectives worthwhile, so spending extra time outside of general working hours continues to be rewarding.
Climate improvement; Aerospace and Defense industry; Cybersecurity = all of these field as hot and growing in the market while being fascinating!

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Edward’s Answer

Fail is part of the plan, you will fail at a design , make it better, be creative.

Figure out how to make it work.

As an engineer, you are wired to figure things out and make them better.

Dont be afraid to try new ways to solve problems.


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Michael’s Answer

If you are good at math and love the sciences and engineering career is a great option. You can do a wide range of activities once you get your degree. While engineering new products might seem glamorous to you, troubleshooting existing processes is much more common duty for engineers.


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