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Are Engineers Ready to Go Mobile?

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Droid
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Tablet screen size key
Droid   5/11/2012 9:35:24 AM
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I am enthusiastic about the freedom that these new mobile apps bring.  Particularly being one of those individuals that has creative moments at odd times of the day.  

While I have experimented with apps on my android based phone, the screen size is simply too small to be practical for anything beyond very simple viewing.  The larger screen size of tablets is definitely the key to making mobile design apps viable.

With cameras on these devices and location / position sensors, I believe we will also be seeing rapid advances in technology similar to Dassault's Natural Sketch which will allow for overlaying/viewing designs and physically existing structures together (perhaps almost in real time).   This is something that wouldn't have been practical from your computer workstation.

Beth Stackpole
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Re: Tablet screen size key
Beth Stackpole   5/11/2012 10:20:28 AM
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Droid, you are definitely getting where this is going. You are echoing most of what the design tool vendors are telling me about their mobile strategies. I think the phone apps are just place holders and in some cases might deliver useful functionality. But I agree the real changes will come with the tablet devices and making use of their unique capabilities ilke GPS, cameras, etc.

Dave Palmer
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Platinum
Smart phone
Dave Palmer   5/11/2012 10:43:00 AM
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I never thought I'd get a smart phone, but Sprint had a promotional offer on the Samsung Replenish (made from ostensibly eco-friendly materials) in which the phone was free and the monthly cost was the same as regular phone service, so I decided I'd try it.  I've had it for a year now, and am definitely hooked.

I use my smart phone often in meetings.  It's more convenient than a laptop, and allows me to do most of the things a laptop could do: check my e-mail and calendar, read PDF and Office documents, search the internet for a piece of information, etc.  It's also a great tool on the plant floor, or when visiting suppliers.  I can take photos (or record videos) and e-mail them instantly.  Often, this is a lot better than trying to describe something over the phone.

A Windchill app would be very helpful for me.  It would allow me to look up part numbers and drawings anywhere.  This would save a lot of time in meetings when someone asks, "What's the tolerance on that dimension?"

Although a tablet would have a bigger screen and a more powerful processor, you can't beat the convenience of something you can carry around in your pocket.

Beth Stackpole
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Re: Smart phone
Beth Stackpole   5/11/2012 2:04:02 PM
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Dave, I think you are describing the initial resistance by many of your peer engineers perfectly. But once you get over it and get used to the utility of being able to access email and key materials on the fly, you definitely get hooked and are perhaps more open to exploring some of your more traditional engineering tools on these platforms.

Most of the PLM vendors are working on mobile capabilities for the PLM systems (note, I did not say mobile VERSIONS of their PLM systems). No one has drunk the mobile punch enough to believe you can run a full-blown PLM system on a phone or even a tablet. But you can benefit from some of the capabilities on a mobile device.

Rob Spiegel
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Re: Smart phone
Rob Spiegel   5/11/2012 4:33:22 PM
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Beth, I think your article answeres the question that was prompted by the emergence of mobile devices for design engineers. Do they actually need these mobile apps? By the way, I'm impressed by your use of "obviate."

Charles Murray
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Blogger
Re: Smart phone
Charles Murray   5/11/2012 6:54:02 PM
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This technology serves as part of a much larger trend -- that is, the tendancy for our offices to follow us everywhere. This could be great or scary, depending on how you look at it. Tools like these could enable us to spend less time at the main office, but more time working. The walls between work and the rest of our lives are crumbling, bit by bit. 

mrdon
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Gold
Re: Smart phone
mrdon   5/12/2012 11:46:35 AM
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Beth, as mentioned in the article mobile apps are designed as an extension of the corporate structured suite of CAD tools not a replacement. When Jeff Hawkins created the PDA, his vision was to replace the desktop PC. Today we still have desktop PCs with computing power matching Cray machines.

Greg M. Jung
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Platinum
The sooner the better
Greg M. Jung   5/12/2012 5:25:23 PM
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I eagerly await more and more CAD tools apps for tablets and smartphones.  However, given the large assemblies and high processor power that our designs need, I'm thinking that these apps for me will be an extension of our existing 3D CAD tools at best (at worst they will be too painfully slow).  I am hopeful that processing power will catch up to the need in the long term.

Jack Rupert, PE
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Platinum
Re: The sooner the better
Jack Rupert, PE   5/13/2012 3:13:30 PM
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True, Greg, but do we really need all that power when we're out in the field?  If it's just a layer or two that is being looked at or simple notes / mark-ups being made, the high-power stuff can be done later.

Greg M. Jung
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Platinum
Re: The sooner the better
Greg M. Jung   5/13/2012 9:54:28 PM
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Yes, I do agree with you Jack that many times mark-ups in the field would be great on a simplified representation of the part or assembly and this would be adequate and powerful.  However, as the design engineer, I'm eager for the day when I can pull up the entire CAD assembly and do some focused work in the field (to offset the extra emails and task assignments that accumulated during the time that I was out of office).  Maybe in the not to distance future...

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