There's hardly any object in your home or school that hasn't been created thanks in part to a mechanical drafter-designer.
A mechanical drafter-designer is the person who
takes an idea and turns it into a drawing. It's this drawing that
allows the object to be made.
In recent years, computer-aided design (CAD) has
changed the face of the occupation. CAD allows drafters to create a
drawing on a video screen at computer workstations. This means those in
the occupation don't have to draw as well as they once did. Plus, the
computer also handles much of the mathematical requirements.
Even so, good drawing and math skills are still required of top-notch workers.
A big part of working in the mechanical drafting
field is being comfortable with numbers, says mechanical drafter
designer Tom Gilbert. That's because numbers are the language used by
drafter designers and everyone they work with, from engineers and
machinists to suppliers.
Numbers allow everyone involved in designing and
building something to "speak the same language." For instance, every
part in a motor has to be designed and built. And every part in that
motor has to fit with and work with all the other parts. You can't just
say, "This part should be as big as an apple." Everyone has a different
idea about how big an apple is. So, that's why numbers are used.
Numbers are precise and mean the same thing to everyone.
Once a mechanical drafter designer has calculated
the numbers, the numbers must be interpreted. That is, the mechanical
drafter designer has to decide, "Is this number the right number?" Once
that judgment is made, the design and drafting process can continue.
Mechanical drafter designers use computers to help
them do many of their calculations. For instance, Gilbert uses the CAD
system to check stress and strain, calculate distances, and conduct
other types of analyses. Still, it's very important for Gilbert to
understand how the calculations were done and to work them out himself.
That's because it's sometimes much easier to calculate a distance or
angle by hand than it is to draw it in CAD.
"By the time I draw it on the machine, I could
have easily done the calculation either by hand or calculator," he
says. Many of the technicians that graduate from schools today don't
have the ability to do this. Instead, they rely heavily on the
computer, adds Gilbert.
"It limits them! Yes, you have to be able to use
the computer, but as a tool," states Gilbert emphatically. For his
business, he needs drafters who are flexible and can work in a variety
of situations. For example, much of his company's work involves
"fabrication drawings." These are the drawings used in fabrication or,
in other words, manufacturing. When Gilbert is called out to the
factory, he doesn't want to lug around his laptop computer --
especially into a dusty, dirty environment.
In these cases, Gilbert does many of the calculations right on the spot, either in his head or on a simple calculator.