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A Question for Readers

DrD

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Many of you have asked me various questions, so now it is my turn. Let me lay a bit of background first, and then the questions.

 

I have had some conversations recently with JAG (one of the other writers here at ME Forums) regarding the choice of software for 3D modeling and analysis. JAG has made some excellent suggestions, specifically a cloud based program called Onshape. Unfortunately, for reasons that are unclear, my computer cannot run Onshape; I have worked with their help people for several hours, all to no avail. JAG recommends this in part because there is a "free version for the hobbyist" and a relatively inexpensive "full version for the professional." That is pretty attractive, but since I can't run it, I'm stuck.

 

I gather that virtually all engineering colleges these days are teaching some sort of 3D modeling and analysis software, but that raises a few questions in my mind.

1. If your college teaches brandX 3D software, what will you do when you go to work for a small company that cannot afford anything more than 2D drafting (simple CAD), with no analysis capability at all? How will you do your job then? You probably have your own pocket calculator, but will you have your own copy of ANSYS or Pro-E?

2. What software does your school teach (every students should have an answer to this question, so I expect lots of replies on this one!)?

3. If you have used software extensively for analysis of engineering problems (beam deflections, stress analysis, fluid flow, heat transfer, etc), are you confident  that you will be able to work all of those problems if there is no such software available to you on the job?

 

I might add, as sort of a postscript, most of you know that I am older than dirt (I just had another birthday, so the situation is even worse!), so I tend to look at things from an elderly perspective. One of my great fears as a working engineer was "What will happen when I'm ask to do something that I don't know how to do?" It happened more than once, and it usually resulted in a flurry of intense research to come up to speed on whatever topic was involved. I could usually do that because I have a pretty good library, and I knew how to use a university library as well. But in terms of software, I was always concerned that I had no FEA program, so how could I do problems that others were doing by FEA? I have come up with some interesting work-arounds, including writing my own FEA for some problems, but I never wanted to be dependent on software that I could not afford to own. So, back to my questions about: How are you going to buy your own copy of ANSYS?

DrD




27 Comments




Dr D,

Too bad OnShape does not work for you. They have a partner that offers FEA and you buy blocks of computing processing hours. I have not tried that yet. I suspect renting SW by the hour/week/month will become more common. The main players have created a large vacuum to be filled by lower cost products with fewer bells and whistles. One method I have used when I did not have access to a full featured FEA, is to model the problem two ways. One as it should be modeled and then as the SW with limited capability would need it modeled. If the hand calc's agree with the SW model I have some indication my more properly modeled hand calc's are a good representation of the actual part. But this takes some judgment that develops with experience. For example I have witnessed engineers using limited capability SW to create models which were very much incorrect. A 4 legged chair is what comes to mind. Some limited capability SW may require you to fix all 4 legs to the ground. That is not how a chair supports you. Most of my clients build weldments from structural shapes so I do most of my stress calc's by hand and beam calculators. Sometimes load paths and the proportion of load down any one path is not predictable from unit to unit due to variation in weldment tolerances. Then I do worse case scenario. If a load path can take the full load you know a lower load will be fine. Much of these items are one off or very low volume and it cost effective to over build. Not the case when I was in Autos or space flight equipment.

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Hi DrD,

You have a very well point in the blog.... this also leads to piracy...

Off late There has been a trend companies starting cloud versions,  university editions , student edition . I have been learning SAS with university edition 

Hope this can help you to start

http://www.ansys.com/Products/Academic/ANSYS-Student 

 

1. Lot of analysis can be done in Excel VBA programming, MATLAB...(for small companies).. There are open source software too....

2. In India schools still teaches the basic engineering.and may be basic autocad..... FEA is a subject not a tool...  but students now take this course as add on as per the skill requirement 

3  Here comes the importance of a teacher.. Learning tools & applying tools are two different things....

 

Regards

Saurabh

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Thank you JAG and Saurabh for your comments.

Where are the responses from the other readers? These are simple questions; everyone should have some sort of answers.

DrD

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Well, apparently i'm not using any software to solve problems, as i'm in 2nd year of my study, but i'm learning to use EES software.

Besides that my institute teaches only AutoCAD. I will be learning it the next semester.

I am afraid that i like shortcuts (and lazy!) and if i use soft-wares extensively, i might get used to them so much that i end up forgetting how to do it the other way round.:P

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Sangeet,

Thanks for your comment. What is EES software?

Do you learn any high level computer programming languages such as Fortran, Basic, C, etc?

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Hi DrD,

EES is Engineering equation solver. It can numerically solve thousands of coupled non-linear algebraic and differential equations. The program can also be used to solve differential and integral equations, do optimization, provide uncertainty analyses, perform linear and non-linear regression etc.

But i am learning to use it to solve my Themodynamics problems. It provides many useful specialized functions and equations for the solution of thermodynamics and heat transfer problems, making it a useful and widely used program.It also helps in plotting graphs.

The book i'm using for thermodynamics has a set of problems dedicated to be solved by EES only, that's how i came to know about it.

And yes I learnt C in my first semester.

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Sangeet,

What you write about EES is very interesting. Where is it available? Is there an online source for it? Is it something you will still have access to after you leave school? The capabilities sound a bit like MatLab.

DrD

 

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1. What I normally do is, I have my own copy of the software. Whether it is Solidworks, Abaqus, or AutoCAD. At my School, they teach us the manual methods and the software approach. 

2. Solidworks, Autocad, Abaqus and Ansys.

3

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Ndayi,

Do I understand you correctly to say that you have purchased copies of SolidWorks, AutoCAD, Abaqus and ANSYS, so that these are all legally held copies? Or are they pirate copies? If you can afford all that software, you must be very wealthy. How about a loan (or better yet, simply a gift)?

DrD

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Interesting post DrD. Though Im just a fourth year student(and thus almost done), I am afraid I will face a lot of problems which I havent learned yet.

For example, my internship that should leat to my degree asks for various problems on which I do not have a lot of knowledge. In short I need to upgrade their pumps for new contractors, and thus have to learn how fluids and pumps work. I had a course in pumps(law of bernoulli) but thats about it. Though I like the challenge!

On to your questions:

1: First of all, I like to begin in 2D(just some simple drawings to see how the loads apply) and work that out to 3D-moddeling. If Im done with that we use FEMAP from Siemens. If im not able to use any of these programs, I should have to learn how to do without software. Though that might get very interesting!

2:University of Rotterdam teaches the students to use Autocad(2D) and Inventor(3D) as well as FEMAP. MATLAB is also included.

3: In short: No. But as i wrote before, Im not confident at all in my skills. There is simply to much to learn, and a short time to do that in. 

 

@JAG Engineering LLC Did I just read you were in the Space Industry? Can you recommend me some books/literature? It's kind of my dream to work in the Space Industry later on. Im planning to do my masters after this, while working. But only the master Structural Engineering is available to me parttime(although everything begins with a structure :) a box to play in. Right?). Thank you!

With kind regards,

Michel

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Michel Rijkers, I was in weapon systems (missiles) from 1984-90 and then worked at a NASA facility 1991-95 (Space Shuttle payloads) while employed by a large corporation. Much has changed since then. The shuttle program is history. Private companies are finally replacing government programs. There are no books I know that will provide insight into the space industry that I can think of which would guide your career. If this is something that is of interest to you I would recommend getting a co-op (intern) position in a national space agency as they may exist in your nation or a private company as soon as possible. I spent 10 years hoping to work on space related programs and was very disappointed with the environment once I arrived.

I too found my schooling did not prepare me for what I encountered in industry. I have found in my own experience that a real world problem opens your eyes and mind to better understanding of what was presented in the class room but did not appear significant during school. Even 40 years ago my engineering school had abandoned the machine shop and other hands on tools. Imagine a lab with a few pumps that could be controlled to simulate a problem and the students having to use what they learned to diagnose, re-size or select pumps. Dr D was blessed with a deeper insight at an earlier age than me and perhaps many. You are still young so go back to the books and read with a deeper intensity for the details. When you begin to connect the dots between the text and applied problems your confidence to do the same with other types of problems will grow.

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Thank you to Michel and JAG both for very interesting comments.

Michel, you mentioned the University of Rotterdam and the spelling of your last name looks Dutch; am I correct that you are in Holland? (I know where JAG is!)

 

Regarding work in the space industry, I have been largely spared that. When I was in graduate school, many people were extremely excited about space. We had not gotten to the moon yet at that time, and many of my fellow students were anxious to go to work in the space industry. One of my office mates, a close friend, went to work for TRW down at the Houston Space Center as soon as he graduated about 6 months after I did. I had interviewed there myself, but I thought the whole place was rather manic (even the janitors were mumbling, "we're goin' to the moon, we're goin' to the moon,....) although the were going nowhere except occasionally out to the dumpster. Fortunately, I did not accept a space oriented position, and about a year later, when we got to the moon, all those thousands of engineers were out of work. Near Houston, there were suddenly houses, boats, cars, etc for sale as people scrambled to stay afloat financially. As it turns out, it seems that the moon really is made of green cheese and just about that useful.

 

Much more recently (about 20 years ago), I did work in aerospace for a small company that built electro-mechanical components for air and spacecraft. A typical product item was a tiny, tiny electric motor with a super high ratio gear train to move the slats on the wings of an aircraft. It was fun stuff,  but not at all futuristic (no Buck Rodgers, no ray guns, no jet backpacks, etc). I dealt with the federal bureaucracy in terms of the FAA, the Federal Aviation Authority, and had some magnificent arguments with them about how to do mechanics problems. The fact that they were in aerospace did not really make them any different from other incompetent government employees.

 

There is good work to be found in all sorts of industries. Even such a staid industry as the railroads offer opportunity; they have a lot of unsolved problems. A lot depends on what sort of engineer you want to be. Do you want to do the least possible to get by, or do you want to dig in and look for more understanding? Each of us has to choose.

DrD

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I had not touched on the massive layoffs topic. With the small companies now involved this may be a thing of the past - for now. I wanted to study aeronautical engineering when I was very young. One day walking across campus I had an epiphany. Mechanical engineering is more stable. It was after the moon landing so I had witnessed the layoffs. Same was true for Boeing in that era. As a hiring manager I have seen ME's hired in all industries and Aero's skipped over. The most common fear was the Aero Engineers were use to bloated government contracts and would not work well in private industry.  Right or wrong that was the case.

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Thank you both for your insights :) I did my last internship at a chemical plant, and the lead engineer said something similar. He worked for a private company on aluminium cases for a rocket(I believe the Ariana 5, but Im not sure about that), and he said that the design was from the '80s. They didn't want to improve and the work was slow and without challenge. He was gone within 5 months he said.

That troubles me though. I expect agencies such as NASA & ESA(which is in Europe and hence, in my country(indeed, The Netherlands)), provide great challenge for their engineers and have a good work environment, focused on improvement and new stuff. Though at this moment ESA is doing a great job(like the Philea lander and Europe's soon to be new navigation satillites(Galileo System)). Or at least, I think they do. Most things are exaggerated(though in my opinion thats thanks to all those guys who studied Economics and are only good in doing that: exaggerating (did study economics for 1.5 yrs, and I'm really happy I study something good now). 

So on the question of I want to do the least possible to come by: No. I want to face challenges, maybe call in some help from the lead engineer or do a few courses here and there, and make sure all products I design are good(quality as well as safe). As I mentioned, I want to do a master Structural Engineering. I'm also looking for a course into Thermodynamics and Aerodynamics. Maybe even a course in Electrical components. It all appeals very interesting to me.

Quite interesting you said that though. I had a similar argument with a lead engineer of a company where I did a internship interview(got the internship, but I decided to do my internship at another company). He told me a lot of engineers just dont know what they are doing and think they know it all. He even had a few discussions with some professors. Though they agreed with him in the end(he doesnt have a bachelors but is in the field for over 40 years now). I had to agree with him that even in the field of engineering, a lot of folks just.. do stuff. And are not interested in if its safe or not. They just dont care and do the least possible to come by. To bad..

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Two questions come to mind:

1) What does this mean?

2) What does it have to do with the subject of this post?

DrD

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Hy DrD,

On 6/3/2016 at 2:28 AM, DrD said:

 Where is it available? Is there an online source for it? Is it something you will still have access to after you leave school? The capabilities sound a bit like MatLab.

DrD

Actually I got a copy of EES software from my seniors. So I can use it after I leave school. If you want to use it you have to purchase it from their website.

Alternatively you can use Engineering suite which is a similar of EES, but it doesn't do much. And its free to download.

thank you

Edited by Sangeet Bhattacharya
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Sangeet,

You say you got a copy of EES from your seniors. I presume that you mean then that this is a pirate (illegal) copy. Will you feel safe to use it after your graduate. Getting caught with an illegal copy could be must damaging to your career.

Your link for the Engineering Suite does not work (at least it did not for me).

DrD

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DrD,

Yeah but you see the price of the software is just too high for me, $600 (64 bit version), its equivalent to my fees of one semester.

But if i use it after graduation, i will make sure that i have a legal copy. (Thank you :rolleyes:, i don't want to ruin my carrer.)

I have fixed the link, now it should work.

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Hi DrD,

For #1:

I'm gonna tell you what I did when I got my first job, it was while I was interviewed, indeed.

When the questions ended I ask them about what 3D CAD, CAE softwares they had and they asked me "what software you recommend us" (I think they were still tested me) and I showed them all the capabilities Autodesk Inventor (since they were using Autocad which is from Autodesk) have. They were impressed, hired me and bought the software.

The first three months I was doing 3D models, renders and drawings of all the equipments they had built for presentation at an exhibition in which they sold $2'500.000 USD in equipments. The following months I was doing design optimization for several machines and structures and later deploying a good manufacturing system, all of that was possible due to the use of the acquired product design suite of Autodesk.

So I think if a company could benefit using certain software (CAD or CAE) they would consider purchasing those software and it depends on one as engineer and end user prove to them the value of investment.

For #2:

My school taught Solidworks for 3D modeling, CAD and CAE. EES and Matlab for solving a wide range of engineering problems. In addition to that we learn to program in Java in order of not relying on third-party softwares.

For #3

I have an interesting experience related to that question.

After year and a half I quit and started to work as independent. One thing I noticed was the time spent on each project and after a while I realized I was overestimating the need for programs to design everything. Then, I started to rely more in mathematical-logical reasoning and common sense and now find that 80% of the projects I can perform by hand perhaps with the help of excel macros and the remaining 20% requires the use of specialized softwares. And I'm more productive now!

I note that many colleagues have become so dependent on the use of CAE that in return they're losing their capacity of analysis, deduction and troubleshooting. And it's something that as I read, it has been observed in other professions where technology increasingly plays a predominant role.

So in response to your question, first I would verify whether the extensive use of such tools is justified, and if so I would recommend the company to acquire those tools as long as the investment is guaranteed. Another thought that I would add is that these softwares should not make one feel more confident but only more productive.

For the last question, I will continue to work as an independent until to get sufficient funds to acquire certain softwares and use them to do things that are entirely on another level.

Regards.

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Hi DrD,

The use of computer software in engineering and the balance between manual calculations compared to software to solve problems has been a big question for a while now. Unfortunately I see examples where the increase in computer power have allowed more a dominance to use software instead.

At my University in Melbourne, Victoria (Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology (RMIT)) we learnt using AutoCAD, Inventor (3D) and Matlab. This was a little frustrating when I graduated as I found most engineering companies in Australia preferred using SolidWorks. Then what was more disappointing is when I started working for a company who licensed AutoCAD, they had "Technical Engineers" who did all the work on AutoCAD for the design engineers (me). So now over time I have not used AutoCAD at all and fear that I have lost a lot of those skills. I am fortunate enough that I have the option to pay roughly $1000 to do a 8 week course on advanced AutoCAD skills back at RMIT.

I really appreciate the posts from those who have the opportunity or decide to continue to complete their work using manual mathematical completion. It may surprise you that I work for a company who restrict our use of manual mathematics in favor for their software when it comes to completing their work. This is in their opinion to reduce the possibility for calculation error, which intern reduce their liability for errors that result in engineering failures.

Thank you for everyones contributions, it has been a fascinating read!

RyanTW

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Hello sir 

1. I have my own copies of software but they are buggy as they are pirated. I like to work in AutoCAD which is basically 2D. Although i work with them i am capable of working without it . I can work with simple drawing equipment. I am capable of working with drafter and other drawing instruments.

2. My college taught me to work with Creo( ProE) and AutoCAD.

3. For analysis i like the material testing lab and am trained to use UTM and spring testing and column  testing etc. So no big deal i can do analysis without software.

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Dear Pankaj,

Do you think that the pirate copies are something you can take to work with you? I doubt it, so what good are they for you?

I think you are confused about the word "analysis." As I used it here, the intent is to describe calculation, modeling, etc, not experimental measurements. The testing lab is not much use at all when the device only exists in someone's mind, and there is no hardware to test. Without some calculations, it may be very difficult to ever get the money to build even a prototype.

DrD

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