Design Engineering

General Overview

The term design engineer is very broad and can involve engineering design using computational software as well as fundamental engineering principles to develop ideal solutions for individual products or large assemblies containing many products. There are many different Computer Aided Design (CAD) software packages available each with a different focus. This was not the case 15 - 20 years ago when large companies adopted CAD software to complete engineering design. It is a significant cost to transfer data, retrain and implement a new software package so many large companies have remained with the same software (with minor upgrades). This means that the most common packages of mechanical design are Catia V5 / V6 and Siemens NX (Formerly Unigraphics).


Catia V6 showing a full vehicle assembly. Source:

Design engineering has changed in recent times due to computational technologies and new software being readily available on the market. It is considered a relatively new field of engineering since CAD becoming available in the late 1960’s. Prior to this, engineers would perform the necessary calculations based on engineering principles and convey this information to draftsman who would create 2D views on paper with hand drawn scaled views. Since CAD became available it is now very easy to conceptualise, detail and create the required 2D technical drawings that suppliers and manufacturers need.


There is a big difference between a CAD draftsman and a design engineer. This difference is purely down to the engineering capabilities of the design engineer. To be a proactive and productive design engineer, they must have skills which include knowledge of design rules based on materials and manufacturing processes, an ability to integrate new products into current systems, sound knowledge of applied mathematics and sciences, product knowledge (I.e. knowledge of automobile fabrication, aeroplane construction and other mechanical systems depending on the design engineers area of expertise), project management and an ability to break down large systems into individual components. A CAD draftsman may have a small amount of knowledge in these areas but their primary focus is on products digital mock-ups of products based on a mechanical engineers requirements as opposed to being a robust, multi-skilled design engineer.

Required Knowledge

Skills and Expertise

  • Strong knowledge of CAD systems and processes

  • General engineering knowledge specialising in mechanical sciences and applied mathematics

  • Comprehensive overview of manufacturing processes, material science and design rules depending on material and manufacturing requirements.

  • A good knowledge of how individual components interact with each other.


Software Understanding

  • CAD (Computer-Aided Design)

    • Dassault Systemes Catia V5 / V6

    • Autodesk AutoCAD

    • Autodesk Inventor

    • Siemens NX

    • PTC Creo (Formally Pro Engineer)

    • Dassault Systemes Solidworks

Example Jobs
  • Design Engineer

  • Mechanical Design Engineer

  • Automotive Design Engineer

  • Aerospace Design Engineer


UK: Institute of Mechanical Engineers (IMechE), Institute of Engineering and Technology (IET), Institution of Engineering Designers (IED)

USA: American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA)

Luke T Seal Engineering