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Tool Engineer


Tool engineers have created some very important and useful tools that we use every day in our lives; from high-tech industrial tools to basic drills and power saws. The scope of their engineering projects extends from the development of new designs to the standardization and updating of existing designs. Tool engineers are mechanical engineers who plan and design tools for the manufacturing process and analyze and troubleshoot fabrication tooling including jigs, fixtures, dies, and ancillary tooling. Using their knowledge and experience, they apply structural, kinematics, dynamic, vibrational and heat transfer analysis on different styles of tooling.Typical tooling design includes automatic screw machines, lathes, numerically controlled machines, stamping presses, precision grinding and honing, assembly and packaging machines and various gauges used in conjunction with the machine tools for quality

Most tool engineers start their careers as mechanical engineers and then specialize in the tooling area once they become established. All tool engineers perform similar duties in one of three general areas: research, design and testing. Researchers formulate theories using mathematical and scientific projections and determining whether or not a plan will work. Designers take research products and put them into practice, trying to manufacture them. Testers literally test the products for safety and quality before they hit the marketplace. In smaller, independent engineering firms, tool engineers may do all three of these tasks both producing and creating.

Tool engineers meet with manufacturers, lawyers and clients and make sure that tool design plans are safe and will withstand a number of conditional variables. Safety is one of the most important issues that tool engineers must contend with, especially when it comes to product safety recalls and potential lawsuits. They create engineering plans on computers which test and predict possible errors and problems within a mechanism and in this, they generate workable solutions. Although most work takes place on the computer, many tool engineers travel to factories or plants to see their work in progress.

Tool engineers use traditional and high-tech tools, such as computer-aided design (CAD) systems to create realistic geometric models of objects which can simulate and analyze the effects and potential problems of designs such as tool malfunction and breakdown. CAD models are eliminating the need for hand drawn models. They research and evaluate each project to find the most cost-effective solutions to problems while still maintaining recognized standards. They are required to constantly update their skills and knowledge in order to keep up with technological advancements in this quickly changing field.
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  Interests and Skills  
Tool engineers should have a natural affinity for mechanics, mathematics and electronics. Since imprecise calculations could cause major disasters and expensive mistakes, they must be 100 percent accurate in their calculations. Their jobs are extremely technical therefore they should be organized and methodical in their working habits. They must be good problem solvers and be able to come up with innovative and creative solutions to potential problems and design work.

They must also have strong communication skills. Tool engineers constantly deal with people from both sides of the professional spectrum therefore they must be able to communicate ideas and give orders in a clear, concise fashion.

  Typical Tasks  
  • Research, design and develop tools and machinery for all industries
  • Prepare material, cost and timing estimates, reports and design specifications for machinery and tools
  • Prepare plans and drawings of tools, machines and machine parts using CAD or by hand
  • Study the energy, environmental and safety aspects of the planned work
  • Supervise and inspect the installation, modification and commissioning of mechanical systems at construction sites or in industrial facilities
  • Investigate mechanical failures or unexpected maintenance problems
  • Supervise technicians, technologists and other engineers and review and approve designs, calculations and cost estimates
  • Work closely with civil, electrical, aerospace, chemical, industrial and other engineers, resulting in job mobility between some fields of specialization in these disciplines
  • Work with professionals from other occupational fields, gaining knowledge and skills
  • The typical workday for a tool engineer will vary depending on the project they are working on. An average workweek will run anywhere between 40 and 55 hours, yet longer hours may be required when deadlines must be met and due to other emergency circumstances (for example if a machine breaks down). Most tool engineers work in large manufacturing companies or for engineering firms. They do spend a great deal of time in an office behind a desk using a computer, yet also travel to factories and laboratories and conduct outdoor fieldwork at various sites.

  Workplaces, Employers and Industries  
  • Tool engineers work in many different capacities in both the public and private sectors. Some work for engineering consulting firms, power generating utilities and a wide range of manufacturing, processing and transportation industries, government agencies and universities and colleges. Many tool engineers are self-employed. There are also options in related fields such as natural resources, pharmaceuticals and computer industries.

  Long Term Career Potential  
Tool engineers can advance to supervisory and senior management positions within their companies. Some may decide to open up their own consulting businesses or engineering companies. Many engineering experts say that tool engineers could work as salespeople in mechanical companies since they already have strong technical backgrounds. There are so many environmental issues that will keep tool engineers on their toes. They must ensure that their products are not harming the environment.

Those with master's and PhDs in mechanical engineering can always teach at the university or college level and share their experience and knowledge with students.

  Educational Paths  
While still in high school, if this is the career path you are interested in taking, make sure you take courses in mathematics and physics. Most university programs will require these subject areas as prerequisites.

Tool engineers require a bachelor's degree in mechanical engineering with a speciality in tools. Then, they must also become registered as a professional engineer (PEng) within an association of professional engineers to secure employment and practice in their field. Some engineers also get master's degrees in their specific area to broaden their employment choices and opportunities.

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2014-15 Edition, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/
Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Employment Statistics, 2002, http://www.bls.gov/oes/2002/oes_nat.htm

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