Meet Lynn Shen, Senior Mechanical Engineer at SHL Technologies
With her background in product design, crafting ergonomic and aesthetically pleasing products long ago became second nature for Lynn Shen. So it was fortuitous when she joined SHL Technologies and was faced with new challenges that promised to deepen her understanding of design thinking.
Making design functional
“As a design engineer, your brain is wired to create something innovative and ergonomic,” Lynn says. “It was eye-opening to see how much the art of designing a product and the action of manufacturing it differ.”
This disparity became most apparent to Lynn when she was tasked with designing a semi-automated assembly machine.
Working with another mechanical engineer, Lynn devised several concepts for the project. However, she soon learned that none of them adequately addressed important considerations such as material availability, costs, and analysis techniques.
“We ran multiple attempts to get our supposedly ‘groundbreaking’ ideas right, but we were basically ignoring major issues that the manufacturing and purchasing teams would end up having to deal with,” she says.
To create a design that satisfied each of the project’s functional requirements, Lynn turned to existing machines and products at SHL Technologies. She spent a lot of time studying how they work and analyzing how they would have been designed.
That’s when things clicked.
“I started to understand how to strike a balance between being an engineer and a designer – to see how the practical aspects of manufacturing could be integrated into something that satisfies the instincts of a designer as well.”
Lynn began to look beyond a product’s function to the wider scope of its production, from components and assembly techniques to parts compatibility and even potential costs. With this approach, she is now able to ensure that her work is optimized from both design and production standpoints and that it stands out in the industry as being practical as well as innovative.
“Successful design is founded on paying attention to the smallest detail and learning through failure.”
Downplaying her own tenacity and persistence, Lynn cites the learning opportunities presented by working at SHL Technologies as being the key to her success.
“The company, and especially the people here, have given me the space and insights to expand my engineering knowledge,” she says. “Like with 3D scanning, for example – that’s not something I thought I’d be able to learn on the job.”
Now, however, she is highly familiar with structured light scanning and can apply it in reverse engineering, product design, quality control, and even material testing.
“In addition, working with colleagues of different backgrounds and expertise encourages me to think outside the box.”
Striving for balance
Lynn also takes inspiration from an entirely different source: a hobby.
“I find drawing to be liberating,” she says. “I particularly enjoy the choices involved in capturing a three-dimensional image on a two-dimensional canvas.”
The professional advantages that Lynn takes from the pastime range from the practical to the philosophical.
“It’s an effective way to brush up on basic skills like sketching, which can make a real difference to the quality and thoroughness of my work as a design engineer.
But drawing broadens Lynn’s perspectives, too.
“As I draw, I have to determine the best way to connect lines, express emotions, and depict specific textures. Each of these decisions can greatly affect the final work, so this process requires looking at an artwork from every possible angle.”
This allows Lynn to arrive at a unique intersection between how a subject really appears and how she wants to depict it.
“Drawing gives me a better understanding of how to properly balance form with function.”
And, given that working at SHL Technologies pushes Lynn’s creative limits in a similar direction, that’s a good understanding to have.