The Best Engineering Resources for Mechanical Machine Design

This article explores some excellent resources recommended for engineers who do mechanical machine design. These resources come highly recommended and should be on your bookshelf (or in your toolbox)! The following are presented in no particular order.

Omer Blodgett’s Design of Weldments

This resource is phenomenalDesign of Weldments explores topics such as stress and strain, how materials work, calculating compression and shear stress…the list goes on and on. It is easy to read for the complexity of material. There are a few sections particularly helpful. For example, section 2.12 discusses the buckling of plates and considers edge supports. Section 3.6 focuses entirely on torsion and deflection of open sections and how to design with torsion in mind. Section 7 highlights numerous load cases for loading beams. These are organized in a user-friendly table.  One  can explore how to load in any imaginable way…fixed, free or guided ends, they are all included. The section has formulas for end reactions, moment at maximum and any point along the beam and max deflection. This book is a must! Find it on Amazon. It can also be purchased through Lincoln Electrics. 

Steel Stock Lists

This resource is one to own, preferably in print, but also, one to have in hand often. This is your one-stop-go-to when it comes to selecting a material. This book contains all the materials available you can imagine including: shapes, common uses, material descriptions, grades, etc. If you have a material in mind, but need guidance about the best shape or grade—you will get the answer here. You may be interested in finding out about hot or cold rolled materials, exotic alloys, tubing and pipe… look no further than this book. In addition to material availability, most suppliers offer processing services including plasma or laser cutting and tube cutting.  Most importantly:  The data section is indispensable as the following topics are discussed:

  • Material tolerances
    • Plate thickness
    • Tubing OD and ID based on forming procedure and wall thickness
    • Rectangular tube corner radii
  • Uses for polished materials
  • Grades available for plates
  • Chemical compositions
  • Machine-ability
  • Material hardness

This is the one book I carry with me every day! You can get it from any steel supplier for a reasonable cost. Several excellent steel suppliers with stock lists available are: Ryerson

EM Jorgenson

Other steel suppliers with extensive online resources: Central Steel and WireOlympic SteelOneal Steel

Mechanical Engineering Reference Manual for the PE exam

Written by Dr. Michael Lindeburg PE, this helpful manual gives a grand overview of your engineering college courses. Tons of references, tables, synopses of math, circuits, structures, basic engineering, pressure vessels, thermodynamics, gears, springs, etc, are right at your fingertips with this essential work. It is designed to be a guide for studying for the PE exam and best of all it is concise and to the point. Find it on Amazon.

Hydraulic Specialist review manual

The International Fluid Power Society offers a test that allows you to become a Specialist in this vital area of engineering. This is the review manual for that test. Take the Specialist test—it’s worth it! Learning will progress from simple to complex, and you will discover how to design with hydraulics, understand filtration systems, specify pumps, and so on. Find it Here.

Human Factors Design Handbook

This is a fantastic book on ergonomics. Every product developed in some way interfaces with a person.  In general, this is an area that many designers struggle with. This book can change your understanding of what the human body is capable of. It can answer questions like, how high can I reach when I am standing, or sitting? What kind of force can my hand squeeze with when my wrist is straight verses turned? What is adequate lighting for a task? What light is  best for work at night? Find it on Amazon.

Load & Resistance and Factor design

This is a great reference for gaining knowledge about different shapes of steel. If you are working in the field with a piece of steel, take your measurements and check this book to see if what you are doing will work. A plethora of information is included for all structural shapes, such as, angle irons, channels, combinations, Ws, Ws with dimensions, structural Ts and column design. Beam and girder design is also included. This is a wonderful resource designed for a structural engineer. It can be found on Amazon.

Fundamentals of Engineering Supplied-Reference Handbook.

Conversion factors, calculus overview, properties of shapes, volume, surface area and center of gravity are a few of the items to be found in this resource. Finding the centroid of a half circle and other odd shapes is also there. Basic equations for fluid mechanics are explained and lots of formulas are included as well as valuable general information. This resource originates from the National Counsel of Examiners for Engineering and Surveying. A used copy can be located on Amazon

Machinery’s Handbook

Everything you want to know about machining parts is in this book.Detailed specs for screws are one of this book’s strengths; such as, how far do I space the screws in order for the wrench to be utilized properly? How do you cut teeth? You cannot get much better than this reference on the machining side of things. Don’t be like me though, make  sure you get the large print edition on Amazon

Geometric Dimensioning and Tolerancing

Geometric Dimensioning and Tolerancing (GD&T) is the method that communicates the designer’s intent to the fabricator and inspector. Most people assume that adding dimensions to a print is enough. Unfortunately, this is not the case. GD&T allows the designer to  communicate what is necessary in a part feature so that it will properly work with the mating part(s). You are giving information on how the relationship between parts needs to be maintained for a successful joint. It all starts by choosing reference coordinates for someone to fixture a part or weldment. For example, if one  is hand drilling a hole pattern, how far off center can the holes be before there is a problem?

GD&T can communicate that. Another great feature of GD&T is that by communicating the intended use, you can actually allow “bonus” tolerances in your designs. This book is a handy reference to how GD&T works and answers the question of how an engineer should dimension things so that the fabricator can know what features to hold the part or how to fixture the part for a welding or machining operation. Truth be told: It is a bit complicated, but it will bring your understanding of engineering to another level. Find it on Amazon.

Ugly’s Electrical References

This is a necessary resource for electrical engineers. Every engineer isgoing to design something that uses electricity. You might want to know if you sized your wire correctly. Do I need to derate the current because of wire length? And many more questions like that are answered in this book. It starts off by reviewing Ohm’s law and quickly builds to electrical power distribution from 120 VAC single-phase to 480 VAC three- phase. It also covers such topics as voltage drop, number of wires that can be run in a conduit and circuit protection. Find it here on Amazon.

Barnes Distribution Fastener Facts

This resource is a Maintenance and Engineering reference guide. Everything you want to know about fasteners can be found in this book. Do a pdf search for this resource  as it may be out of print.

*Start building your library and obtaining your tools today! These resources have personally served me well for years. Your engineering designs will be strengthened by your unencumbered access to these resources.*