Tooling engineers are mechanical engineers who specialize in industrial tool design and tool adaptations. Clients or vendors in need of a new or adapted tool will present needs and specifications to a tooling engineer. The engineer then manages the development of the tool according to a planned schedule and cost specifications. Throughout the process, the tooling engineer works with other employees to design and create tools. The engineer is responsible for making modifications to a design until the tool does the job intended.
Tooling engineers must have bachelor's degrees in mechanical engineering or a related engineering specialization. Most colleges and universities do not offer specialized engineering degrees; therefore, students interested in becoming tooling engineers should select schools that offer training in industrial, mechanical or tool engineering and design. Degrees require extensive coursework in mathematics and applied mathematics, sciences and general engineering. Many universities offer special engineering programs that allow students to obtain a bachelor's degree and a master's degree at the same time, while specializing in one particular area. Other schools offer cooperative education arrangements in which students work as interns or apprentices as part of their degree program. While these programs typically take longer than four years, they provide students with valuable work experience and income.
Engineers in any field often work as general engineers or in an engineering team before gaining specialization in one area of engineering. Specific problem-solving skills are needed for different types of engineering. As a result, many engineers learn their specializations on the job. Tooling engineers are often in management or senior engineering positions, which means that most entry-level engineers would not qualify for the positions until they have completed several years of engineering experience.
Ongoing Training and Professional Development
New advances in tool engineering and tool making can help tooling engineers to expand their knowledge of new technologies, manufacturing processes and materials. As a result, tooling engineers must attend conferences or workshops to stay knowledgeable in their field of expertise. They must read trade magazines, become members of professional organizations and take online workshops or courses when necessary. There are several different advanced professional certifications for engineers, available through universities or professional organizations.
Tooling engineers often have to work in a team with other workers to produce the items clients are looking for. Tool designers who are specially trained in computer-aided design (CAD) may create 3-D images of tools according to an engineer's specifications. Tool makers take the tooling engineer's plans and build the designed tool based on the technical information provided in plans and drawings. Prototype tools must be tested and retested; engineers often have to make adjustments to designs or parts or create new tools all together. As a result, tooling engineers must be able to communicate with others, problem solve and be a productive member and leader of a tool design team.
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