What can you tell me about the future innovations happening at Echo?
Joe: Echo Engineers pride themselves on listening to what the market needs, then moving as fast as possible. An example is our new Instant Silicone Prototype offering. We developed it very quickly. One of our engineers, Sam Newblom, previously worked in tooling development. He was able to bring that experience of ‘how do I make something that makes something else?’, and just run with it. That’s a cool thing about working at Echo. We not only work on our day to day but are able to think and dream of how to make something better. Instant Silicone Prototypes are a really good example of that.
What engineering experience did you have before joining Echo?
Joe: I graduated from IUPUI with a Purdue degree in mechanical engineering. My first work experience was as an aerospace structural analyst for Comlux Aviation. They design the interiors of private jets. I analyzed all modifications to the aircraft structure and then submitted reports to the FAA explaining why the changes were safe to make. That was a really neat experience. I also worked at Boeing in St. Louis. They do a lot of the military-type work there, so the F18 is built there, the F16, etc.
What would you say is one of your proudest accomplishments?
Joe: It happened at Echo. I took over our FEA and validation programs, and we’ve really upped our game in terms of virtual and physical product testing. We now test and optimize our designs using linear and non-linear FEA, then validate those designs in the real world through statistically valid, repeatable physical testing. As an engineer, especially one with a love of structural design optimization, it’s a big deal.
How has that played out in projects for Echo customers?
Joe: We recently completed a program with almost 30 fluid routing clips for a major automotive Tier 1. These are small, plastic clips that attach to a car and run the brake and fuel lines throughout the vehicle. The initial designs were supplied by the customer and came with loads of performance and safety requirements.
I inherited the project about 9 months from start of production and there were several problems. Physical testing revealed that the parts surpassed crash test requirements but fell short in other key criteria. Progress had stalled and the project was at serious risk. Full-stop. No excuses.
My team and I immediately jumped into action. We used FEA and sensitivity analyses to identify critical design changes. We purchased the needed test equipment, created a massive amount of custom test fixtures, and built validation plans with test witnesses. We did all of this with the constant involvement of our Tier 1 customer.
Several design iterations and tool modifications later, we delivered clips that met all the specifications—and delivered them by the original start of production date! It was the most hectic, stressful, and proud moment of my career. I know that this experience is what enables us to take on and deliver amazing, complex, cool projects for our customers today. We are constantly breaking new ground on innovative solutions to complex problems because our amazingly talented engineering team was forged in that fire.
Wow, after all that, what do you do to relax?
Joe: I love working with my hands, so anytime that I can work with my hands, I take it. I love designing and building furniture, and I’ve done a little bit on the side, I’ve even sold a few things. I started in college. I lived in a house with 3 other guys… and the reason why I started woodworking in college was because we had this house and it had no furniture. So I was the roommate saying, “Hey guys I built our dining room table, it also folds out into a regulation-sized ping pong table—so we’re good.” It was a lot of fun.
What should people know about Echo before you get back to work?
Joe: We very much want to walk hand in hand with our customers to come up with meaningful solutions. A lot of our designs require custom types of tests, and not necessarily custom in the sense that this testing hasn’t been done before, but just by the nature of the product’s shape and the stresses it experiences in use. If somebody is installing a component onto a customer’s part, we need to be able to replicate that. We like to take that step and go above and beyond to make sure that our customers are fully satisfied with their product in the end.