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  Differences Between Industrial Design, Mechanical Engineering, and CAD  
  In the marketplace for resources for the physical design of products there are practitioners who call themselves either mechanical engineers, industrial designers, or computer aided design (CAD) operators. They are not the same, although they often compete for the same jobs. Here is a brief, admittedly biased, characterization of each:

Industrial Design
This discipline applies the knowledge of ergonomics and the artistic skills to create attractive, user-friendly, innovative products. The approach to product design is sort of outside-in. There is sometimes a little wishful thinking employed in that the products defined by industrial designers have a tendency to stretch the laws of physics to achieve the designer’s vision. Good industrial designers, of course, would deny that assertion. Still, the tendency is there.

Computer Aided Design
Computer Aided Design (CAD) is a family of elegant software tools for creating geometrical forms. Think of CAD as a tool… like a hammer. Everyone who picks up a hammer to pound a nail is not a carpenter, and after a while, if you carry a hammer around with you, all problems start to look like nails. There are many good designers who are skilled in the use of CAD systems, and there are many not so good designers who are skilled in the use of CAD.

Mechanical Engineering
Mechanical Engineering is essentially an academic discipline at the college level that focuses on the way things behave when they are subjected to various types of forces. In product design the MEs emphasis is on achieving functionality. As opposed to ID, mechanical engineers typically take a sort of an inside-out approach. Thermal and structural analysis are sometimes used to predict the behavior of the product under various kinds of stress. There is less attention paid to appearance and more attention paid to functionality than in industrial design.

Which type of resource should you use?
Here’s where it gets a little muddy. Modern Industrial Design firms often employ mechanical engineers as part of their staff, and modern Mechanical Engineering firms (like Redpoint) often employ Industrial Designers. Both types of firm typically employ CAD operators. The difference really is one of emphasis. It really is the outside-in versus the inside-out thing. The choice should be driven by the product itself. There are some products where the appearance requirement dominates; those products should properly go to an industrial design firm. Products where functional and performance issues such as survivability, reliability, or manufacturability are paramount would best be executed by a mechanical engineering firm.
Where do you go to find these resources?.
With Redpoint Engineering you get the best of both worlds; experienced in Industrial Design and Mechanical Engineering all under one roof. Contact us today for a free consultation!
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Each project team is dynamic. Utilize only the resources needed. Never pay for inexperienced practitioners.
Each project team is dynamic. Utilize only the resources needed. Never pay for inexperienced practitioners.
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