Machine Designer

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Machine Designer


Next time you put money into a vending machine to buy a bag of potato chips, stop for a moment and consider the person who designed the machine. What are the technological steps involved, from the design stage to the final product? Machine designers blueprint a multitude of machines that create conveniences in our lives. For example, they design automated assembly machines in factories, heating systems, coffee machines, blenders, electric lawn mowers, hydraulic test machines and even bubble machines (used by DJs), to name a few.

Along with designing and building machinery, some designers test mechanical equipment for manufacturing companies, especially on machines they personally design. Machine designers may work independently or provide technical support, design, maintenance and services for mechanical engineers. Their work centers on designing and improving our existing mechanical structures and machinery while investigating economical and environmental solutions in these creations.

Machine designers work in laboratories conducting scientific studies and research prior to designing products. They also use computers, including CAD systems, to create products, test data and find potential flaws within designs. It will take a long time for a machine design to actually become a real product because designers must subject their machines to every test and conditional trial possible before the approval and production stages. Other factors they must take into account when designing are safety, the environment and legislation. Machine designers consider such questions as; is this coffeepot going to scald a person's skin if they come in contact with it? will this industrial box assembly machine pollute the atmosphere by consuming too much energy and therefore emitting excessive toxic fumes?

Machine designers also work in teams with engineers, technicians and tradespeople. They must be very knowledgeable about materials and equipment needed to design, construct, operate and maintain technical products. They adopt scientific, mathematical and engineering theories when designing machines and often estimate construction and material costs ahead of time. Machine designers 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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ECPI University
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Programs Offered:
  • Mechanical Engineering Technology - Associate's
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  Average Earnings  
Lowest 10% of Earners:
Median Salary:
Highest 10% of Earners:

  Interests and Skills  
What interests and skills does it take to become a machine designer? First, they should be natural inventors and love to create new mechanical products. They should be good at sketching, drawing, mathematics and mechanical problem solving and be able to visualize three-dimensional objects from two-dimensional drawings. Communication skills both in person and in writing are crucial because designers work with engineers, scientists and clients. They should also enjoy obtaining and analyzing test results, finding innovative solutions to problems and taking a methodical approach to their work.

  Typical Tasks  
  • Prepare designs, drawings and specifications for machines and related components
  • Conduct cost and material estimates, project schedules and reports
  • Run tests and analyses of machines, components and materials to determine their performance, strength, response to stress and other characteristics
  • Design moulds, tools, dies, jigs and fixtures for use in manufacturing process
  • Prepare layouts for new machines, tool designs, plants and equipment
  • Inspect mechanical installations and construction
  • Prepare contract and tender documents
  • Machine designers usually work indoors in offices, laboratories or manufacturing facilities and spend the majority of their working hours on the computer or conducting experiments. Some designers may travel to power plants and inspect the design of their products. Machine designers generally work regular five day, 40-hour weeks, with the possibility for longer hours in order to meet project deadlines.

  Workplaces, Employers and Industries  
  • Machine designers work for private companies and in the public sector. Consulting engineering companies, industrial, fabrication, manufacturing and construction companies, mechanical equipment sales companies and processing companies (e.g. in the chemical, oil, gas, pipeline and food industries) generally hire machine designers. In the public sector, they can be found in government and regulatory agencies.

  Long Term Career Potential  
With experience and education, machine designers may obtain employment as computer drafting specialists, designers, planners, inspectors, cost estimators, quality assurance coordinators or even purchasers. They can advance to supervisory or managerial positions, or become self-employed in consulting or other service businesses. With further education, training and experience, it is possible for machine designers to become professional mechanical engineers.

Some machine designers will decide to work independently on a freelance basis and try and sell their products to companies and organizations. Although freelancing is very difficult and risky, if the designer is successful in selling his or her product, they could become extremely well known and respected in the mechanical engineering and design community.

  Educational Paths  
Completion of a two- or three-year college program in mechanical engineering technology is usually required for machine designers. A certification in mechanical engineering technology or a related field is available through associations of engineering or applied science technologists and technicians, and may be required for some positions.

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2014-15 Edition,
Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Employment Statistics, 2002,

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Programs Offered:
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  • Mechatronics - Bachelor's

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