01 Aug What it Takes to be a Successful Mechanical Engineer
Rich Perlberg has been a lead engineer for CCTY Bearing Company since 2003. He began working on off-road vehicle bearings and steering assemblies as soon as he joined the team. Since then, he has designed cam side rollers, steering assemblies and all-in-one ball joints.
His experience began with a college internship at GM proving grounds and spans more than 35 years. Perlberg draws on his expertise when revamping bearing designs based on individual application needs.
“The one constant is that bearings need to be more compact, but carry the same load or higher loads,” said Perlberg. “We find ways to do so by testing different seals and coating materials, and tightening the overall design parameters.”
For example, Perlberg designed a spherical plain bearing with the seal pressed inside the bearing. This boot seal allows the bearing to flex and turn, while providing extra space for grease. The application is ideal for ATV steering assemblies and sway links.
When not working on customer applications, Perlberg designs new bearings. He is a co-creator of the Square Ball Universal JointTM, which is a u-joint comprised of just six parts. A traditional u-joint can have more than 20 individual components.
His advice for those thinking of entering the mechanical engineering field includes a solid education, experience and an aptitude for discovering answers to mechanical-related questions.
Get as much personal experience as you can. Engineers by nature are inquisitive. Take apart bikes, cars and machines – and then figure out what makes them tick. Better yet, learn alternative ways to get them work.
Look for an engineering school with a co-op program. Some universities have programs that allow students to alternate semesters working full-time and school – returning to the classroom for the second semester. These are not internships, rather real-world opportunities. Students are paid a salary and make connections that can last a lifetime. Schools begin these programs as early as sophomore year.
Personality plays an important role. Engineers who are able to delicately influence change – whether it’s with a client or team – are given more opportunities than someone who cannot see alternatives other than the ones they propose. Having the ability to negotiate, be a team player and stay flexible are important attributes. Above all, Rich believes in being persistent.
“To become a successful engineer, it is important to be tenacious,” explained Perlberg. “We had a project for a material handling OEM that lasted nearly a year. When you look at the testing as getting you one step closer to the solution, you have the right mindset.”
Product innovation is dependent on client needs and manufacturing capabilities. A successful mechanical engineering fills the gap between the two.