Engineers like Excel for the simplicity in doing quick calculations and developing spreadsheets. But forget about it when it comes to managing those calculations or gaining any insight behind the numbers—two tasks that the software application Mathcad does very well, though its learning curve is somewhat steeper. But that ability to capture the thinking process of engineers is becoming increasingly important to some companies who are looking for ways to capture the engineering calculations in large projects and document the inputs, assumptions, and methods behind them, says Allen Razdow, senior vice president of products and services and cofounder of Mathsoft. "Companies are beginning to realize that a calculation is not an island, and that it's important to know where a number came from and what thinking went into it." To wit, his company just landed a major contract with Lockheed Martin, who is adopting Mathcad as a standard design tool for all structural calculations for the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter Project, the largest military contract in history. With a budget of $4B, there's bound to be plenty of number crunching. New features of Mathcad, such as the ability to deploy content over a web browser, is bound to make that process a bit more manageable.
A few weeks ago, Ford Motor Co. quietly announced that it was rolling out a new wrinkle to the powerful safety feature called stability control, adding even more lifesaving potential to a technology that has already been very successful.
It won't be too much longer and hardware design, as we used to know it, will be remembered alongside the slide rule and the Karnaugh map. You will need to move beyond those familiar bits and bytes into the new world of software centric design.
People who want to take advantage of solar energy in their homes no longer need to install a bolt-on solar-panel system atop their houses -- they can integrate solar-energy-harvesting shingles directing into an existing or new roof instead.
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