Technology Bulletin 4-20-98

April 20, 1998

4 Min Read
Technology Bulletin 4-20-98

April 20, 1998 Design News

Technology Bulletin

Late developments that shape engineering

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 circuit-board industries.
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.

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