A mix of utilities and CAD and automation tools characterizes our first roundup of engineering applications for the iPad.
In searching Apple's App Store, it's obvious that there's a lot of low-hanging technical fruit. Most notable is the plethora of engineering unit conversion programs. We've included a few we found of particular interest to mechanical and industrial engineers. There are also many apps of value only to captive users of a particular vendor's products; we've included some with widespread user bases.
Click the image below to view our slideshow of useful engineering apps:
This native viewer for the ubiquitous DWG CAD file format supports both 2D and 3D renditions. Usability features include pan and zoom. Files can be accessed via ftp or Dropbox. $3.99. Go here.
Clearly, our starter list isn't comprehensive. Still, we believe it's a good beginning. We're also interested in your favorites for a followup gallery. Please send your picks to me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I've acquired an IPad for use in my airplane as an electronic flight bag displaying charts and other data, and it is wonderful at that. I have come to value it as away to access the internet without all the flapdoodle associated with booting a computer. It is a great device foer consuming information, but not so great at creating information.
My personal favorite engineering app for the IPad (and IPhone!) is the HP calcualtor RPN emulating PCalc app. Many of us who embraced (in the 1970's)the HP calculator logic have always been uncomfortable using those addled "regular" calculators. I do not use a handheld calculator for extended engineering calculations much anymore, as I prefer the record and re-usability of a spreadsheet, but it is nice to have a serious calculator in my pocket or on my desk when it is appropriate.
I'd love to get a tablet - but I just can't figure out what it would do for me, besides be very cool to have. The App list illustrates that the only real function is viewing drawings, which could be very useful, but a laptop can do that better - even a relatively small one. All the other Apps are available on the web, so even my Android phone can do them. As someone mentioned, a keyboard is a must if I wanted to use it for taking notes, so there, again, a laptop would be better. I saw a note about an engineer getting an Android tablet - is there an advantage to Android vs. iPad? When I can get an iPad II for $500 vs. the MUCH less capable Android based Kindle Fire for $200, it seems I'd forever regret not spending the extra $300. But, I haven't done either yet, because I just don't see it as anything more than a toy. An awesome toy.
I have to agree with Jim. After using my 24 or 25.5" monitor for design work most of the time, it is somewhat frustrating to use a 15" laptop when I travel, let alone a 10" tablet. For engineering apps like conversion programs and even language translators, my Windows phone 7.5 fits the bill very nicely and is small enough to clip onto my belt (much like my HP-21 calculator did in the 70s).
We do a lot of concept work using RhinoCad which can be "translated" into all the high end CAD systems. A scaled 3D model is copied from the laptop into a netbook together with notes, spreadsheets, sketches AND RhinoCad itself. We then go along to the client and either connect the netbook to a borrowed monitor or project it to a large screen and carry out the design audit in house. Any changes requested by the client are added directly to the CAD model using the annotation facility in RhinoCad with the objects requiring revision transferred to another layer. Moreover, if the client wants a CAD copy of what has been done it can be transferred to the inhouse CAD system via the IGES or STEP facility built into RhinoCad. The netbook capabilities and portability and the keyboard are vastly superior for design work...maybe when the I-pad comes down to the price of the netbooks we'll give it another look.
Well noted, Alex. And as far as Android goes, most companies are definitely planning to release for Android as well. Typically it's first up for Apple iOS and then Android follows in fairly short order.
As you noted, Beth, I've just mentioned one Autodesk mobile app, whereas there are actually more. Same deal with the other vendors. This is a starter list and I'll go with the suggestions to broaden and also to include Android in future iterations.
Alex: I think the whole key to making the mobile platform successful is to figure out where the mobility equation fits in with the way engineers work--be it, on the road for design reviews with customers or going home at night and needing to finish a simulation--and creating apps to meet those specific needs. Given the significant graphics rendering and performance requirements of full-blown CAD modeling or simulation tools, I don't think any one is expecting the full tool to translate to the more limited processing and screen real estate of a mobile tablet or smart phone. There would be too many tradeoffs and it wouldn't fill a need--rather, it would just be pursuing technology for technology's sake.
Autodesk actually has the largest selection of mobile apps thus far and is taking the platform really seriously, particularly for its AEC segment.
I have to agree. Running any CAD routine, the bigger the screen you have, the easier it is to truly develop your design solution.As a design engineer its more necessity than luxury when designing on a 42” flat screen, or at least two adjacent screens.I just wouldn’t be comfortable driving a little tablet as my tool of choice, unless using it for just the processor then augmenting it with a larger display. Then I could always use my pocket-folding Targus QWERTY keypad I’ve had since 2001. Gotta have a keyboard.
I can definitely see usefulness of the Autodesk App for production floor use of CAD drawings. A lot of times it would be nice to have a good viewer for drawings that can be brought to meetings or to the production line.
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