Inventor in Training10 Jun, 2015 By: Cyrena Respini-Irwin
User Profile: Ernesto Mosqueda is always striving to expand his design skills — and to use his growing knowledge to improve everything around him.
It's not surprising that machinist Ernesto Mosqueda works at Disneyland — a place built around bringing imaginative visions to life. From the earliest days of his career, Mosqueda has had a knack for spotting opportunities for improvement, designing practical solutions, and putting them into action. His lifelong commitment to learning has supported this drive to invent, leading him from drawing on graph paper to designing in SolidWorks.
Cadalyst: Currently, you perform preventive maintenance on theme park rides and attractions. How did you become interested in this type of work?
Ernesto Mosqueda: Starting when I was 7 or 8 years old, I helped my Dad in his garage. I was intrigued by all those moving parts — taking those engines apart and putting them back together. Before I could go out and play, I had to put in a couple of hours helping out in the garage.
My father never let me give up when I was tinkering with things, and I've done a lot of things — welding, fabrication, design, landscaping — I've been all over the board. He also made me appreciate starting at the bottom and working my way up; I learned the value of gaining experience.
Tell us how you were introduced to CAD.
More than ten years ago, when I was a self-employed designer of food-processing equipment, I did everything on graph paper. I could draw in 3D and understand the front, back, and sides of parts, and the customers would approve the work based on those drawings. Dimensions, callouts, exploded views, detail views — they seemed to understand the designs just fine. But there were a lot of things that couldn't be done on paper, such as seeing clearances and materials, and conducting motion studies.
Later on, when I was working at Day-Lee Foods, my boss was using SolidWorks to design a conveyor system that would roll tortillas to make frozen taquitos. I saw him rotating a 3D object on his computer screen and thought, what software is this? I had to know more about it; I was really curious about the software and its abilities.
How did you get trained to use the software?
When I was Googling SolidWorks to find out more about it, I stumbled upon SolidProfessor training videos on YouTube. I eventually took an in-person class too, but I learned more through the videos; I can skip all the redundant questions from classmates, and review anything I want to see again. For me, learning is easier when it's visual. The video training is like my personal teacher I have at my disposal 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
What kinds of devices have you designed with SolidWorks?
After about a year of becoming more familiar with the software, I designed a conveyor to transfer 1-gallon metal cans from room to room for labeling and packaging. With motion simulation in SolidWorks, I could see how different amounts of drag affected the transfer: If the lip of a can caught when turning a corner, it would lose speed, but if the transfer was too smooth, the cans would slam into each other and get dented. Before the conveyor was installed, the employees were doing double the work: loading the cans into a steel basket by hand, then moving them via forklift. We eliminated the forklift traffic, as well as the need for two or three people to handle each load.
In 2008, I was hired as a maintenance manager at Del Real Foods. Right away, I thought I could improve a lot of their equipment by modifying it. They were using a char marker — a kind of squirrel-cage cylinder of metal bars — to make grill marks on chicken. But the bars were tack-welded into place, so the cylinder would buckle with changes in temperature, and it would only last a few months before needing to be replaced.
I came up with an alternative design: a solid cylinder of stainless steel, grooved lengthwise, and hollowed to reduce weight. I drew it by hand first, then asked the company owner to invest in SolidWorks so we could create a digital drawing and send it to an outside machine shop for manufacture. The new cylinder lasted at least three years, and is probably still on the machine today.
And in your spare time, you're working on an invention to help a member of your family — and hopefully other patients too.
I'm designing a lightweight exoskeleton for the hand that is easy to put on and take off. My mother-in-law has rheumatoid arthritis, which bends her fingers about fifteen degrees off vertical, so she can't grasp things. An exoskeleton would allow her fingers to bend at the joints, but keep them from skewing to the side.
I'm building a prototype out of Popsicle sticks, which are easy to cut and shape; ultimately I want to try carbon fiber, aluminum, and plastic materials. Some of the questions I need to address are how to secure the device at the wrist — with Velcro, a buckle, or a slap bracelet–style closure — and how to accommodate different users' hand sizes and finger lengths. The goal is to make this an inexpensive device that's affordable for everyone who needs it.
It's a lot that I'm taking on, but I think I'll be able to swing it; it's an invention that comes from a necessity.