Mechanical design consulting - what's the going rate?

Hello all,
I'm working on a proposal which, if funded, will involve a considerable amount of mechanical design work (solid modeling, etc.). Although I plan to
do some of it myself, I will clearly need some help with this.
At this point I'm just trying to estimate how much cost to allow for the consultants time. I've come up with an estimate of the number hours I think I'll need them for, but what I'm not sure about is an hourly rate. Does anyone have any idea what a typical rate (or range) would be for a good mechanical design consultant (preferably someone with an engineering degree)?
Also, if this gets funded (which I think is likely) what would be the best way locate someone? Although I'm located in the midwest (near Louisville, KY) I'm not sure it's that critical (if at all) that the person be located nearby. With the web and email a lot can be done remotely these days. Are there websites where people post for work like this?
Thanks for any help or advice. I appreciate it.
Pat
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The low end of design work starts about $50/hr, more commonly at $75 - 150, depending on if you're going direct to an individual contractor, through a real engineering firm or a placement agency. Engineering analysis (FEA, motion studies, etc) can go pretty high, say $200/hr, depending on where you go.
The best way to locate someone is word of mouth, if you know other people or companies who have used individuals or organizations for work. You can also look through the SolidWorks website for the Mfg Network, where there are tons of SolidWorks using companies who can help you out.
Good luck,
Matt www.dezignstuff.com

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Matt's nice summary is consistent with my experience in Central Texas. My company provides engineering and design services at $65 per hour, but we have very low overhead and don't have the cost of a centralized office. We all work out of home offices.
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- John

John Eric Voltin
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Pat wrote:

I and my associates charge between $80 and $120 New Zealand dollars per hour depending on work type and quantity. That about $55 to $83 in USA dollars a year ago that would have been around $45US
Cost of living in New Zealand is somewhat cheaper hence the low rates.
John Layne www.solidengineering.co.nz
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Thanks to everyone for the responses (especially Matt for the nice summary). This gives me a good idea of what to allow for labor cost.
One other question. In your experiences doing this, how well does it work to have two (or more) people working together on, say, part models for the same assembly or device, particularly when the designers are remotely located? Logistically it seems like there could be some challenging issues (like where part files are kept, coordinating interface designs, file compatibility, etc.). Any thoughts or advice?
Thanks again. -Pat
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90% of the work I do is remote. Generally things work out best when you have the work well laid out, which generally for me means bulleted lists of tasks or goals, and visual markups of concepts which are awkward in to convey in words. eDrawings are a great way to do this to show 3D geometry, but I often use screen captures in Powerpoint with circles, arrows and annotations.
Communication is really key, but that's the case whether your designers are remote or in the next cube.
In terms of using multiple remote designers, that can be a challenge. I would try to separate the work in such a way that each person's work is as self contained as possible.
Start by specifying:
- version of the software to be used (2005 vs 2006), - how or if Toolbox is to be used, or maybe make available an existing hardware library - general modeling standards, such as the use of incontext features, mirrored parts, base parts, multibody, under defined sketches, tolerance for cherries in the tree, dynamic motion in the assembly, etc - filenaming conventions so you don't have name conflicts - an effective way of handling revisions. I would recommend keeping file names the same, but putting revision levels in the name of a zip file which is transferred via FTP - boundary conditions ("your design starts at this 2" knuckle and extends to the 1/2" bolted connection on this end of the frame. leave clearance for this kind of motion...")
matt
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Pat wrote:

Matt summed it up very well, as usual.
I'm currently working remotely for several clients and have set up an ftp server specifically for this.
Edrawings are a great way to communicate and I also set up my SolidWorks PC to allow remote access via TightVNC. Clients can view the model as I work on it or they can take control while we are discussing the model over the phone. All the client needs for TightVNC to work is to have Java installed on there PC.
John Layne www.solidengineering.co.nz
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Thanks Matt and John for the additional information.
I agree that good communication and organization is important regardless of the work arrangement, but probably even more so when working remotely.
I was particularly interested in the logistical issues of this - how well ftp-ing large CAD files back and forth and keeping related designs coordinated works in practice. Apparently well enough.
Out of curiosity, is doing such CAD work over a terminal server connection, such a VNC or Microsoft's RDC, a practical option (where Solidworks would be running on the remote computer)? Although I'm sure it can be done, I'm not sure what the user experience would be like. It would, however, keep all the files together and avoid the need to ftp.
Thanks again.
Pat
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I think you could use a remote connection to check things, but I wouldn't want to work that way. It's not the same as being there.
Most of my projects have been a small number of parts, but the individual parts get large. FTP has been working well for me.
Matt
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Pat (and others), take a look at "Unison" file synchronization software (http://www.cis.upenn.edu/~bcpierce/unison /). It's freeware, developed by the University of Pennsylvania, and looks very interesting. I haven't had a chance to try it out, but it looks like it could fill a niche need for those of us who do remote collaboration often. It appears to be at least somewhat similar to Availl (http://www.availl.com ) which touts itself as being appropriate specifically for multi-site CAD collaboration, but which costs thousands to connect even just two sites. I don't know whether even Availl really does what it says it does (at least as well as it says it does it), but it does appear as if this KIND of site mirroring and file synchronization application may have some benefits worth considering.
If anyone has had experience with Unison in particular or any of the other file synchronization applications out there in general I hope they'll post something about their experiences.
'Sporky' www.h2omarkdesign.com
Pat wrote:

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Pat wrote:

It would be impractical to work over TightVNC the screen refresh is not acceptable for anything other than using it for design reviews, even with a broadband internet connection. Besides my Spacemouse wouldn't work!
I use PDMWorks to control the logistics of working on large projects. The site holding the master data has a dummy PDM account for each remote user. The person controlling the master data logs in with one of the dummy accounts and checks out data on behalf of the remote user this data is then put on the ftp site for the remote user to download and work with. After the remote user has completed a part / drawing assembly it is uploaded to the ftp site and checked back into the vault with the dummy account.
Obviously this is not entirely fail-safe if the remote user is working in context to other parts that are being worked on there could be problems. One person needs to have a clear picture of who is doing what and how that relates to what someone else is doing. But these problems are not insurmountable.
John Layne www.solidengineering.co.nz
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I am inexperienced in this type of thing, but additional questions I would have would pertain to my liability in the design work such as: is it necessary to have a PE stamp, do I need liability insurance to cover my @$$ if I or someone working for me makes a mistake or if the client is just a litigious freak.
Ken

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Definitely a consideration, especially if developing a consumer product. Fortunately the end user is not the public, and nature of this project is more R&D (which the customer understands) so this is less of an issue.
Pat
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Ken wrote:

These are certainly concerns when acting as a consultant, but attorneys have told me that as long you're incorporated and the corporation has an easily definable list of assets there is little danger of losing anything other than those assets. Certain situations exacerbate potential danger -- for instance, unless you are both a PE AND you keep very careful engineering notebooks you should stay away from stuctural design, especially that which incorporates human elements where humans could be injured if a structure fails. Also, be concervative about product design when the product itself could produce injurious results. I've turned away several potential clients recently for this reason. One wanted to design a special underwater breathing apparatus for general public consumption -- definitely a red flag. One simply has to ask oneself how you might conceivably end up liable. We live in a very litigious society, but you really don't need to lose any sleep over designing a new soap dispenser.
'Sporky' www.h2omarkdesign.com
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Unfortunately having a P.E. license complicates things. You can be sued personally for your professional activities if you are licensed (this is true for anyone with a professional certification, lawyers, doctors, CPA's, etc). I know this from first hand experience. If you are licensed, and are doing consulting work you should carry liability insurance (sometimes you can get it from your homeowners insurer under a personal umbrella liability policy or "PLUP"). Don't drop it once you finish the work. Carry it as long as the statute of limitations for such things is in your state. In some areas it's 10 years!
If you are licensed and work for a company ask for a letter of defense and indemnity from your employer which extends beyond the term of employment. This is because you can also be sued personally for doing work for an employer. Your employer has an obligation to provide for your defense (which they can abdicate) but are not liable for any judgments. If the employer abdicates their responsibility of defense, you will have to provide for your own defense and then sue them later to recover the expenses. Needless to say this often isn't an option for many individuals as effective legal defenses in cases will exceed $100,000.
Failing insurance get whoever you are going to work for to provide you with a liability release. PLEASE consult a lawyer on the language if you can talk your client into it.
Trust me, defending yourself against a suit is going to cost you more than you can afford. The general fallback in this situation is to declare bankruptcy which will protect your personal assets but has some rather unfortunate impacts on you personal finances.
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