#BadAssEngineers: Dr. Jerry Gould, Resistance and Solid-state Welding at EWI
Updated: Nov 23, 2021
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At Valence Industrial, we know that great engineers can inspire others to bring ideas and build things that no one thought possible.
Jerry’s official title is Senior Technology Leader, Resistance and Solid-state Welding. If you ask Jerry on the factory floor what he does he might say he is a welder. However, that’s far from all he is. He is a metallurgist who specializes in developing unique joint solutions for a variety of metals. He has published more than 140 technical papers and holds six patents.
We can all agree that we could use more metallurgists around the office when we get one-off requests with the 300+ steel options out there today.
He’s in the building to inspire someone who is looking for an idea or a tip to be a game changer for the day, week or a lifetime of innovations.
What do you do day-to-day in your role?
EWI is an extension of clients’ innovation and R&D teams, headquartered in Columbus, Ohio. We have worked with plant managers, at times, but our sweet spot is working with our customer’s development and R&D staff.
My job is to take technology, knowledge and interpretation to the next level. And bring it back a level afterwards so it is useful for a customer today.
Materials used for automotive construction are constantly evolving at an incredible rate. For example, one of my steel customers has 300 steels that they sell to the automotive industry, and each year they create more.
Most people test to find the right metal by brute force—testing each metal just for that particular joint. Our view is that it isn’t economical or time efficient.
Joints create specific attributes that no welder plans to deal with. When you weld, you destroy it. That's why there is a need for databasing these attributes. We get around it by drawing on our expertise in modeling and materials. It would take two and a half years to generate all the data through standard testing instead of us doing it in six months for a project using a database, statistical models and experiments.
An automotive customer will be manufacturing a vehicle with 30-40 stack ups – each with different performance attributes; and a need for an overall cost model to implement it for the next generation of cars. What we provide is experiments and statistical models to help show them the best plan forward.
We have reimagined the requirements to change metal stack ups into multi-level variables with 25-30 levels. By using that model, we dropped the amount of physical testing by 90% to create a preliminary database. It’s a tool we still use all the time so people can get quick data points.
Our experiment helped the customer get a new complex model with lots of variables on the floor within six months.
What advice do you have for engineers who don't love their current project or role?
I worked on a program for four years in California, traveling every month to create honeycomb panels for jet engines that acted as heat shields. It was grueling with all the travel. I learned an amazing amount on how to make them.
For over a decade I didn’t work in that arena. I never forgot the project because I liked it. As new demands came, high temperature vehicles came up. I could see all the possibilities for using the bi-material honeycomb in creating the next generations of products. When that material performed well for thermal management, it all came full circle. We’re now working with the original company to adopt new technology for production. It was a 20-year process.
Nothing you ever learn is unimportant. It always comes back.
I see non-compete clauses all the time. Fact of the matter is no company can take your fundamental knowledge.
How can engineers push the boundaries?
My biggest advice to engineers is to understand the tools at your disposal and work with those tools.
You tend to see any given problem has 100 different options based on the skillset of the person. If electrical engineering is your core set, you’ll bring in solutions pertaining to that. Stick with the core.
Move things into your toolbox and don’t try to reinvent your skillset that you’ve spent a lifetime developing.
Ultimately, you have to understand the solution that you are bringing. Get outside of your comfort zone but don’t go so far that you fall off of a cliff.
Who was your most difficult customer?
My most challenging customer is now a good friend, who managed the repair of aerospace components. He was a guy that had extremely high expectations of himself, and therefore, the people around him.
Every good engineer wants to expand his or her knowledge base. I tried to teach him to think differently. We really advanced what we could do for his company’s material systems.
However, what I had to realize was that the customer needed and valued was to learn and be able to defend the project to his team, rather than just the solution.
How do you mentor younger engineers?
I was more inspired by my first boss at EWI more than anybody else. He allowed me to advance in my craft decades within months. The notion to work for someone who understands everything that you tell them and is optimistic about you running with your ideas. That is a rare thing.
He motivated me to give younger engineers more opportunities to succeed and fail –building them up that they will do better and better in the future.
There are engineers that you want to teach directly, some you expect to go out and learn on their own. Part of the fun is understanding how to do it.
I had an engineer who couldn’t communicate his ideas. I told him to write a bulleted list and I’d turn it into something that made sense. I expect other engineers will research everything before coming back.
Everybody has different ways of learning and will fit into pantheon differently. It’s important for manager to consider how their employees will benefit most to move technology; and not try a one-size-fits-all approach.
How do you get inspired?
Everyone should be doing continuous education. Always understand that your competition is doing just as well as you can. The goal is to bring more into your portfolio. Venues are everywhere.
Even if you think you know it all, tomorrow you’ll learn something new.
Why should recharging be a focus?
I am a bicyclist. We’re talking 2000-3000 miles a year. It helps me deal with my ADHD. I have a bicycling community too that helps – tracking miles, communicating with other cyclists, and getting encouragement through lovetoride.net.
I also own a house in Kelleys Island on Lake Erie. The house is mostly about unwinding and relaxing. When you’re going 180 miles an hour during work, it helps me to decouple. Try to slow down the pace of life.