April 20, 1998 Design News
Late developments that shape
by Laurie Peach, Associate Editor
Spring sprouts software
Spring rains are bringing summer design tools as well
as the more traditional flora. ANSYS (Canonsburg, PA)
will soon introduce DesignSpace Enterprise--a family
of design and process integration software compatible
with both Windows NT and UNIX workstations. The graphical
interface, Solid Browser, provides a common window into
solid model geometry where users can access and analyze
geometry from all leading CAD programs. Based on a new
ANSYS concept called Advanced Controls, DesignSpace
Enterprise allows analysts to set up templates to guide
design engineers as they prepare models for advanced
analyses downstream. Engineers can automatically document
and communicate data over the Internet with the DesignSpace
Web-Based Report. The software package will be released
in three phases over the next nine months. The first
release, DesignSpace for Pro/Engineer, Unigraphics,
Parasolids, and .SAT format, will be available this
quarter. DesignSpace for SolidWorks and Autodesk, including
access to Advanced Controls, will be available the third
quarter. DesignSpace for CADDS will be available by
the end of the year.
FAX Michael Morris at (412) 514-3115.
Automating factory automation
An automated factory capable of solving its own problems
is currently running on Rod Spencer's kitchen table.
Granted, the live-steam generator is only 4-ft across.
But the miniature generating plant, complete with a
butane-fired boiler, a live steam engine and electric
pumps, operates entirely through systems integration
software written by Spencer and several of his Raytheon
colleagues. The package automatically combines physical
equipment characterization as well as the operation
intents of the factory--what the plant produces under
what conditions. The Spencer compiler assembles and
simplifies physical relationships, resulting in fast,
compact, and reliable real-time software control. Spencer
says, "Today's automation often means inflexibility.
The cost for reprogramming stands in the way of adapting
to changes of equipment and experience." The system
starts with a blank computer screen. Inputting a bar
code triggers characteristic charts for each piece of
factory equipment, feeding information into the data
set. This includes data such as flow, pressure, and
temperature. "If we add a new pump, we click on
the web site of the pump's manufacturer and download
performance specifications," Spencer says. The
operator then "superimposes the process intent"
and the system does the rest. Like an engineer, the
software can effectively teach itself to solve problems
on its own. He says, "This allows the fast inclusion
of the single most important aspect of automation...operational
experience." Spencer acquired the sole rights for
his creation last year and is currently trying to secure
the $4 million in capital needed to launch the project.
He will initially focus on the semiconductor and printed
VOICE/FAX (603) 424-4028.
Customize your computer system
If you ever wanted to fine tune your operating system
to make it do exactly what you wanted, Integrated Chipware
(Reston, VA) has a product for you. At the Embedded
Systems Conference East in March, the company introduced
icWorkshop. "This is the best thing to come along
in this industry since pockets on shirts," says
Dick Peterson of Integrated Chipware. The icWorkshop
offers engineers the option of using and customizing
pre-configured software components to build real-time
operating systems. This is the first time engineers
have had such an option, says Peterson. Developers can
also customize the kernel on a component basis. Like
an engine on a car, you are usually stuck with the capabilities
of whatever operating system you have. "What we
do is allow you to change individual components, such
as the fuel injection system, without affecting the
entire engine. If a new process is developed, it usually
takes operating system developers at least a year to
adapt," Peterson adds. Integrated Chipware can
adapt icWorkshop in 90 days. Industries such as telecommunications,
automobile, oil, and aerospace are clamoring for this
flexibility because the operating system now can be
be tailored to fit the exact requirements of an industry
sector, says Peterson.
FAX (703) 736-3556.
From A to Z in nuclear fusion
The Z-machine at Sandia National Laboratory, a former
dark horse among accelerators meant to produce conditions
required for nuclear fusion, is doing much better now,
thank you. Researchers increased the machine's X-ray
power output by nearly 10 times in the last two years.
The most recent advance resulted in an output X-ray
power of 290 trillion watts--about 80 times the entire
world's output of electricity. The increased power will
be a major contribution to the Department of Energy's
(DOE) science-based approach to stockpile stewardship.
This program dictates that DOE must use giant computing
and laboratory experiments to sustain the nation's nuclear
stockpile without above- or below-ground tests.
FAX (505) 844-6367.