While one of Control Alt Design's core strengths is Mechanical Engineering: we are unique in that problems are not viewed through filters of a given discipline.
It is not sufficient to have individual silos of engineering disciplines: each needs to communicate with the others to realize a cohesive, working whole. That is why our engineering resources are not "just" for example mechanical engineers--but problem solvers with a principle focus on the mechanical aspects of a given situation.
The approach to engineering at Control Alt Design is that of simultaneous engineering, meaning that a master schedule is developed to coordinate the various participants according to when their contributions are critical, not only for the specific problems each faces but more importantly so that a cohesive and inter-meshing solution can be realized without superfluous iteration caused by the typical "siloed" approach.
First understand the overall challenge, then parcel it into individual problem-sets that can be solved individually and tested independently prior to integration with the other problem sets. Create a master plan from which each role may be unambiguously defined.
From the master plan: create a master assembly, even if still general in nature. From this begin to work "bottom-up" and create the individual components, each having well-defined boundary conditions that mesh with the other components' boundaries according to the master plan. Likewise create sub-assemblies that obey the overall boundary conditions and integrate the components and sub-assemblies into the whole.
Will the product be shipped? How many can fit onto a skid? Is the packaged product "weight over volume" or "volume over weight"? What is the retail setting for the product? Does the product require some level of interaction in the retail setting? What shipping exegencies must the product survive? Have you registered your SKU and obtained your barcode?
All these questions must be answered before any package is engineered and certainly prior to the overlay of packaging graphics.
Many products articulate, move or have kinetic components. During design: these non-static attributes must be tested so that no negative interactions remain.
Determining the best material and process for a specific product depends on a matrix of usage, cost, product lifetime and user experience expectations. Often, there is more than one choice available for a given component and a comparison matrix must be created. Frequently, such a matrix includes "Failure-Mode-Analysis" where statistical contributions to failure modes are ranked against materials and processes.
It is not enough to create a part. The entire part, sub-assembly and product must be strategically process-engineered so as to be able to return the maximum bang for your investment dollar. "Are screws needed or are snap-fits a better choice?"
"Does the assembly require a fixture?" "Can one part serve the function of two?"
This is what is known as a hybrid modeler, capable of creating solid representations as well as surface representations of forms and freely intermixing the two. It is also very well suited to "top-down" design because of its ability to have "multi-body parts" each of which can then be calved-off into child parts. SolidWorks has become the de-facto standard across the globe for engineering and toolmaking.
This is a more traditional CAD tool, though also very capable of both solid and surface modeling. It is somewhat more restrictive in workflow but it is favored with "big engineering" concerns such as those found in the automotive and aerospace industries because of it's data management tools.
While computer simulations are very valuable--in all but the largest dollar-value projects it is hard to find a realistic substitute for actual physical testing. This is very much a part of our workflow.
One would be challenged to find an engineering firm paying more attention to manufacturing documentation and unambiguous communication to the vendors' shop floors. Most of us have manufacturing backgrounds.
This is the pre-eminent computer-aided-manufacturing software and is used to guide our machining with precision.