Where would we be without researchers and prototype developers? Well, nowhere really. By all accounts, they’re pretty important. These are the guys who work behind the scenes: they conduct research, prepare and test equipment and develop early models of products before they even begin to be manufactured.
This area of engineering involves conducting research, making prototypes, doing endless testing and experimenting, honing your industry knowledge and basically making things as perfect, cost-efficient and durable as humanly possible.
Research and prototype development engineers can work in various fields of engineering, from aeronautics to agriculture, but their actual roles and responsibilities in any specific area of the industry remains similar across all. Pretty much all large companies and organisations will employ research engineers and people who specifically work on developing prototypes.
What makes a good research and prototype development engineer?
You’ll need to have an acute eye for detail, great research skills and a knack for being a good problem-solver. These might seem a bit basic, but they are seriously the type of thing that all employers will be looking for.
Your route into research and development engineering really depends on which area of engineering you’re working in. However, most employers will look for candidates with a relevant engineering or scientific degree.
Research and prototype development engineers are the clever people that get their heads screwed on right and then use their technical knowhow to research, scrutinise and develop new ideas for engineering systems and devices. This process begins once a client brief has been received and research and development teams are given an objective to work towards.
Understandably, part of the work involves developing prototypes, testing them and researching ways to make improvements that will make them work to a higher standard.
When it comes to research, it’s all about getting your head into the books and ejournals. You might also liaise with other industry experts to get some help. You’ll be conducting scientific investigations too and amassing a wealth of research data.
What is a research and prototype development engineer in charge of?
It’s very rare that research engineers work alone. It’s all about teamwork. Think of them like a team of comedy scriptwriters coming together after days of research, sitting around a big desk and sharing their ideas, concerns, opinions and findings.
However, there’s one huge difference: this is all about engineering, not comedy. Essentially, these guys work to determine the feasibility of a proposed solution, how much it will cost and how long it will take to produce.
After the research has been carried out, it’s then a case of evaluating everything and reporting your findings back to the client. One the project has been signed off, we come to the prototype development side of things. Here, you’ll work closely with the quality assurance team to help design and implement prototypes that will determine which direction the actual product will eventually take.
If you take a car, for example, every single element of that vehicle, from the doors to the gear-stick, will have had a prototype which preceded it. Basically, everything is put to the test and researched thoroughly before going into production.
Since you’ll be working on a variety of products, systems and solutions, it’s difficult to tell you about a (proto)typical day for a research and prototype development engineer. However, this also means that it’s an exciting career path to take, with no monotony in sight! If that appeals to you, then one of our engineering job listings might just be the push to develop your career.