What do you do when you need help with an engineering problem? It can be difficult to find resources that are trustworthy to provide you with reliable information. Many times the things we are engineering are used by people, which means they also have the ability to be misused by people. That means that we need to be diligent and precise in using sound engineering practices. You any be wondering what sound engineering practices mean. In a nutshell, it means that the methods and procedures you are using to “engineer” have been established and are widely accepted as safe when used in the correct manner.
I have listed some of my favorite references that I can rely on and a few new ones to try out. This list beats using Wikipedia or Google search by a long shot. Usually, you can find exactly what you are looking for in these resources and know that many other people and engineers have checked and used this information also.
I am calling these references because you should always double check everything. If your name is going on a print, a part or a project, you better know everything about it and why you made the decisions you did. In other words, you need to be accountable and approach engineering design with an ethical mind.
#1 Machinery’s Handbook
This is easily the number one reference to use when doing anything with design calculations, manufacturing or metalworking. It is a catch-all reference and has been one of the best ones for over 100 years. These copies do not come cheap, new they can run anywhere from $70 to $120, but they are packed with reference material, charts and data that can be continually used. It is often referred to as the bible of machining and metalworking.
Chances are if you work in a manufacturing facility or engineering company someone has this book. Ask to borrow it sometime. The other great thing about this book is that it is updated every single year, so you can be sure it has the most up to date data and information in it.
What I use it for
I do not do any machining, but anything I design has to be made somehow, right? How do I make sure I am calling out the right tap drill on my drawing, have the standard clearance for a through hole or hand tool? I use this book.
Engineers Edge goal has the goal of being the go-to resource for engineers, designers, and manufacturing professionals. They provide a variety of in-depth information for simple to complex problems. They have engineering calculators, downloadable excel sheets, GD&T reference information, and 3D printing help.
Engineers edge has a community of guest contributors that publish articles on anything and everything engineering related. It is a goldmine of information. They also offer classes, engineer books and equipment, and reference charts.
What I use it for
I use the site mostly for the calculators and excel sheets. They have a lot of great calculation information that I use to double check my work sometimes. There is every kind of beam bending, loading and stress calculation you could ever think of, as well as plate deflection, torsion, torque, and shearing. They even have a section on heat transfer, civil engineering, manufacturing, bolt/thread stress and electrical equations.
They also provide an explanation of the variables and show all of the equations, so you can be sure you are using the right information in the correct way. Once I have used a calculator while diligently checking my work, I can return to it when I need information quickly but do not want to do the hand calculation. This saves me time searching for the right equations and working through the math.
To get the advanced calculators and excel downloads you must have a membership, there are different price ranges and they offer student discounts. Personally, I think to have all this information readily available is a huge benefit that can make your more confident as an engineer. Think of it as being backed by hundreds of other engineers that have put together the information you are using.
MIT offers a significant amount of courses online, and anyone can audit them for free. Many people use this to brush up on basic skills in their field, further their education on their field or learn something new and interesting to them.
You could essentially work your way through an entire degree with these classes. Depending on the class video lectures, assigned problems and solutions, projects and lecture notes can be provided.
Why I want to try it
I am looking to expand my knowledge in a number of engineering areas. I can go and search through the offered topics and tailor my selection to exactly what I need. Plus MIT is one of the best engineering schools, so you can be sure the information you are getting is top notch.
This site is both an engineering resource and collaborative community. They have just introduced a new collaborative function called ProjectBoard. Anyone with an idea or design concept can create a public project board, that has the functionality of a whiteboard, google docs and Instagram. Anyone can contribute to the board to help solve the problem. They also have many forum pages for questions and discussions.
Their site also provides resources in the form of webinars, white papers, ebooks, tutorials, and audio. Most of the webinars are free to attend and include a multitude of subjects from how to use meshing methods in FEA to ERP systems and their effect on manufacturing.
Engineering.com also has a stories section, where you can get all the latest and greatest info on the technologies being used in a specific engineering field. Stories such as these keep you current and up to date with the engineering world, they also have the ability to spark creativity or plant a seed for a problem you may face in the future.
Why I want to try it
I just registered to get their newsletter and emails. There are a few webinars that I am going to sign up for! This will not only help me be a better engineer, but also a better mentor to my interns. I want to make sure I am up on the latest and greatest for them.
#5 Engineering Standards
Your company most likely has a copy of the most recent, or fairly recent engineering standards for the industry it serves. Most of these standards are created and regulated by professional engineering societies. The standards are what the industry should be practicing to ensure safe and sustainable engineering
For example, ASME is the American Society of Mechanical Engineers
These standards dictate a lot of information that is critical to safety and practicing sound engineering. ASME writes codes and standards based on scientific information, statistics, and research. It is important that they are available to you for referencing and reviewing for engineering design, standardization, performance testing, nuclear plants, construction and pressure technology… just to name a few.
Engineers and students are able to become members of these professional societies at a reduced rate and gain access to important information. Most societies have chapters medium to large cities around the US. If you are interested see if your work will pay for the membership.
What I use it for:
I turn to standards to make sure I am compliant many aspects of my job. In many cases, these standards are how the quality of products are measured and tested. To ensure I am practicing sound engineering, I turn to the bodies of work that rely on research and statistical information.
These are a few of the resources I continue going back to and a few want to try out next. I am always looking for more ways to grow and become a well-rounded engineer. There is an infinite amount of knowledge out there, but finding information that you can rely on is important.