Think Beyond the Calculator

by Luke 24. November 2009 08:56

Part of my job is to help create great software. That's probably not a surprise to you. The other part of my job might be, though. That job is to help change our perspective (as engineers) on what software can do. The simple fact is that we've been using computers in our work almost exclusively as glorified calculators.

Excel? Calculator. Matlab? Fancy calculator. Super-computer time? Big parallel calculator. Code you wrote? Also probably a calculator. CAD/CAM software? Ah, now we're getting somewhere...

CAD/CAM software has offloaded the process of turning a part blueprint into a manufactured component from the machinist, who would interpret the drawing and devise a series of machining tasks, to the computer, which today can go from a CAD drawing to CNC instructions to finished part with little to no human intervention. But what about all the work that leads up to the CAD drawing?

We already have software that can make decisions about how to turn a design into a manufactured part. What are all of the decisions that need to be made to go from concept to that design? That's where we are focused. The future of engineering is creating tools that make decisions to help us, not simply building more powerful calculators.

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