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What are does it take to design cars or aftermarket car parts?

I wanna work in the automotive industry designing cars or aftermarket car parts. I am 19 from California, and am currently enrolled in community college classes and plan on becoming a mechanical engineer. Would a minor/classes in graphic design be advantageous as well? I also have taken an online automotive technician course. Just looking for more advice, I've talked to a few people who are mechanical engineers and they all agree ME is the direction to head.
Thank you in advance

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Syamsul Anuar’s Answer

Automotive design is the process of developing the appearance, and to some extent the ergonomics of automobiles.
You need to master the CAD to design the part. the more exposure with CAD will make you more handy and easy to convert your idea into the design. the more advance in CAD will help you to do the simulation and further studies on your design. It will be great since design can be consider under R&D phase of every product. The key is get handy with CAD.
Thank you comment icon Thank you for the response! Does this mean that I should focus primarily on acquainting and using CAD programs? I.e., if I focus my energy and time developing skills on CAD and trying to network, could I skip undergraduate and go straight to the workforce? Or is it still beneficial and worthwhile to acquire a degree as a mechanical engineer? Caleb
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Shawn’s Answer

I have been in the vehicle engineering arena for almost 30 years. These are my observations about having significant input and many different experiences:

A. Aftermarket parts tend to be cheap knock-offs, not highly engineered. Job is done by CAD operators fixing models scanned in using a tool looking like the State Patrol’s radar gun.
B. Learn and become well versed in the major CAD packages, I.e. NX, CREO, Solidworks. More and more frequently, the engineers are doing the modeling in parallel to the engineering (CAD operator need is reducing).
C. A BSME is minimally required with a MSME being more valuable.
D. Become proficient in not just being able to do an FEA but interpretation is of more importance. Anyone can apply loads and restraints. Not everyone knows which loads and constraints are truly correct. Even fewer can make true conclusions about what the shaded FEA means (insufficient elements through an area, animalistic data, is Von Mises, Max Principal, or Min Principal stress the appropriate plot to look at, ….). Way too many say the VM is all green, so all is good. This is rarely the truth.
E. Body surfaces and interiors are typically referred to as Class A surfaces. Engineers have very little sway in these arenas. This domain belongs to stylists.
F. If you start at an OEM designing spare tire hold downs, you will be doing the same thing at retirement. This is principally true of Detroit’s Big 3. This is slowly changing, not quick enough.
G. Being a Tier 1 supplier to the OEMs is where you get the most influence and design responsibility for automotive parts. The OEMs lean on Tier 1 suppliers for being the experts in the different fields. In this capacity, you learn very rapidly everything necessary to ensure the OEM’s opinion is justified, I.e tons of hands on work.
H. Every time you hear, “But that’s the way we have always done it”. Challenge that statement with what’s the reasoning for that and improvement requires the continued evolution of designs and means. I have always found upon digging “That Way” was a temporary stop gap put in place a decade or more ago to keep product flowing. It just became SOP which no one ever reasoned is it still applicable?
I. Take calculated risks with documentation of the reasons for and against taking the line of action. Invariably, the risk will pay off with plenty of rewards once the bugs are or led out. Put another way by many of my managers: “If you aren’t making mistakes, you aren’t doing your job”. This is the only way to advance the knowledge. Playing it safe all of the time does not lead to revolutionary changes.
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Mickael’s Answer

Hi Caleb,

Adding from Syamsul Anuar's answer:
I believe designing parts or car requires a lot of physics from components to aerodynamics.

But maybe CAD does that for you. I am not sure.
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Brayden’s Answer

Hello!

I would agree that if you want to go into the automotive space then a ME degree is the way to go. Here you will learn a lot of the physics and structural based knowledge that will be needed to perform analysis to better understand the type of forces a car component may see. The automotive industry is huge so it will really matter where in automotive you want to pursue when suggesting a minor. For example if you thin that being a body designer would be cool then you will run a ton of fluid analysis and look at the resistive forces that occur when a car is traveling at a certain speed and look at if you change one thing how does that affect the drag of the car. If you want to pursue more structural based work than having a background on elemental analysis and stress and strain and being able to do FEA analysis will be big.

Hopefully this helps! Good Luck!
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