How Do I Know If I’m Overengineering?

When you’re trying to design a part, you might find yourself overengineering it. Of course, you want to ensure precision and usability, but overengineering can increase time and labor costs when you’re machining different parts.

Here are some machining tips to help make your engineering experience easier—and help you know when to stop:

  • Consider the material: Unless your part is being used in a highly sophisticated aerospace application, you can probably get away with different kinds of materials.
  • Decide what kind of anodized finish you need: If you need to anodize a part, consider skipping the hard anodizing. Anodizing a part adds growth, so parts with extremely tight tolerances may grow beyond your desired dimensions.
  • Don’t pick a harder material than necessary: You might be tempted to choose an excessively hard material, simply to ensure that your part is as strong as possible. Avoid this temptation whenever possible. Using harder-than-necessary metals puts more wear and tear on the die. It also makes your project take longer to machine.
  • Keep tolerances reasonable: The smaller your tolerances, the longer you’ll need to complete the project. Tolerances of 0.002 inches or less force a machining shop to slow down and use fresh tools—but that also raises the prices and the time it takes to create a project. If you don’t need that much precision, consider setting your tolerance to 0.005 inches.
  • Don’t put too much data on one page: If your part is complex, you might be tempted to cram all the data on one page. It’s certainly a good idea to present as much data as possible, but split it up into two or three pages so that your machine shop can decipher what it says.
  • Make sure the walls are thick enough: Your walls need to be more than 0.06 inches thick, or you risk a poorly-designed part. When you add that to tight tolerances, you could be setting yourself up for a very expensive and a very hard-to-machine project. While thin walls are usually important to aerospace applications, consider asking your machine shop for advice about how you can limit weight without overengineering your project.
  • Don’t add features with no value: They might look cool, but complex features with no value can make your part a lot more expensive than it needs to be. For example, if you don’t need multifaceted surfaces, skip them. They make parts harder to machine. Think about whether there are any parts of your design that are purely for aesthetic value. If you can get rid of them, that’s usually a good idea.

Following these machining tips will help you make smart decisions about your part design. They’ll also help keep costs and production time lower.

If you have questions about how to avoid overengineering in your own projects, make sure you get in touch with the team at Evden Enterprises. We’ll be happy to offer suggestions about your part design and let you know if there’s a better way to accomplish your goals.