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Best program for calculations in mechanical engineering

Best program for calculations in mechanical engineering

(OP)
Hi all,

The company I work for only uses excell to do calculations. For most simple calculations Excel works fine and for calculations that have to be repeated a lot of times Excel works great once you really get to know all it's possibilitys. As a mechanical engineer, having to name units in seperate cells, transform every time you go from kilo to Mega and having to doublecheck everything because excell wouldn't know what a Newton is gets quite annoying though. Also excel's disability to plot graphs (without first having to explain what dots it should be connecting) is a quite tiresome. Because of all this a lot of my colleagues I'm trying to figure out what would be the best software we could be using.

Wishlist
I'm basically looking for a program that (in order of importance):
  • Can be used algebraricly (define quantities, define formula(s), get answer for unknown quantity/quantities
  • Understands (metric) units
  • Works fast (requires a minimum amount of mouse usage)
  • Is able to plot graphs of functions
  • Works intuitively
MathCad
I have some experience with a very early MathCad version (2001i) and I've tested MathCad prime 1.0 for a short while. In general I really like the way units can easily be converted and calculated with. In 2001i I especially liked that (once I knew what keys to use) I could really work fast and keep on typing formulas. Whilst I really liked the speed in which it could be used, the thing I really missed in 2001i was a bit of intuitive design and ease of use. When I used Prime 1.0 in my opinion they really tried to copy the microsoft way of interacting with the software in stead of making it as intuitive as advertised. Yes it looks good but working with quantity for example names I found to be really really timeconsuming. When I wanted to enter a single quantity or a several quantitys into an equation like F1=10*N in 2001i I only had to type"F.1[spacebar]:10N" if my memory is correct. With mathcad prime I had to do something like type "F", select subscript with mouse, type "1", deselect subscript with mouse and so on. If there is an easyer way it surely feels like the developers tried really hard to hide it from me... Does anyone know if Prime 2.0 has improved on this? Perhaps we should be using a later pre-prime version like 15? We don't really need the full power of this program, but I really like it's approach.

Mathematica
I've seen some demonstrations of Wolfram Alpha's mathematica and this looks quite promising. Then again, so did mathcad Prime 1.0 untill I started using it. Perhaps this could be a good alternative?

Other programs?
Are there other programs that I haven't heard of and we could be using in stead?

At the moment I'm guessing MathCad 15 would be our best option. I'd like to hear others experiences first though.

Any help would be greatly appreciated.

Since I'm not a native speaker I'd appreciate feedback on my (British) English

RE: Best program for calculations in mechanical engineering

You can plot functions in excel. Just google for some free downloads. Alternatively if you want some specific calculations done to your own requirements, then write some Visual Basic code for that. Visual Basic Express Edition can be downloaded for free, and is fairly easy to use.

RE: Best program for calculations in mechanical engineering

I don't think excel meets his requirements since it
-doesn't understand units
-can't really be used algebraically

I don't use mathcad myself but I seem to remember hearing about it making some big changes between 14 and 15. Make sure you read up on it before you decide which one(if any) you want.

NX 7.5.5.4 with Teamcenter 8 on win7 64
Intel Xeon @3.2GHz
8GB RAM
Nvidia Quadro 2000

RE: Best program for calculations in mechanical engineering

Have you looked at Maplesoft?

http://www.maplesoft.com/

John R. Baker, P.E.
Product 'Evangelist'
Product Engineering Software
Siemens PLM Software Inc.
Industry Sector
Cypress, CA
Siemens PLM:
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To an Engineer, the glass is twice as big as it needs to be.

RE: Best program for calculations in mechanical engineering

Smath Studio is a freeware program that works similarly to the older versions of MathCAD: http://www.smathstudio.com/

xnuke
"Live and act within the limit of your knowledge and keep expanding it to the limit of your life." Ayn Rand, Atlas Shrugged.
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RE: Best program for calculations in mechanical engineering

My preferred tools are Mathcad for calcs and Excel for plotting and tables. However, I'm still on M11, which was the last one I personally purchased. M15 is the last version with the legacy interface, and is deadended, since Mathcad Prime is slated to the be main product. MP fixes a whole bunch of problems inherited from the legacy program.

One tool that's sort of both is TK Solver, which is a tabular format worksheet program, understands units (supposedly, but I've never used it), plots, etc. http://www.uts.com/ItemDetails.asp?ItemID=0100-50-...

Another option is SMath Studio, which is a free Mathcad alternative, but harder to use in my opinion, but FREE makes up for a lot of sins. http://www.smathstudio.com/

TTFN
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RE: Best program for calculations in mechanical engineering

Quote:

doesn't understand units
-can't really be used algebraically

http://newtonexcelbach.wordpress.com/2012/10/11/da...
The Units4Excel spreadsheet provides:
■User Defined Functions (UDFs) to convert between any listed units, including compound SI units.
■A UDF to evaluate any function entered as text, including evaluation of input and output units.
■Recognition of all standard SI prefixes.
■An extensive list of non-SI units, based on the Wikipedia unit conversion page.
■The ability to add any other units to the list.

I think a lot of it comes down to individual style of working and preferences. For those who like the spreadsheet approach I wouldn't dismiss it because it doesn't have units or work algebraically, because those things can be fixed.

Doug Jenkins
Interactive Design Services
http://newtonexcelbach.wordpress.com/

RE: Best program for calculations in mechanical engineering

The learning curve for Mathematica is vertical, and I'm not really convinced it'll do the job for everyone.

As an alternative to the (excellent) Mathcad/Smath paradigm, there's the text and script based approach similar to but not as frightening as Mathematica, Matlab for the rich, and Octave/Maxima/SciLab for the meanies. These have the major advantage that they are easy to read and debug, but the initial learning curve is steeper than Mathcad. Of those 4 I'd be inclined to skip Maxima, the other three are robust and evolving.

They are units agnostic, which may be a deal breaker for you.






Cheers

Greg Locock


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RE: Best program for calculations in mechanical engineering

(OP)
Thnx for the quick responses guys!

@JohnBaker: Maple doesn't work with units right?

@ the rest: I'll check out your suggestions, some sound very promising :)

Since I'm not a native speaker I'd appreciate feedback on my (British) English

RE: Best program for calculations in mechanical engineering

Not sure what you're referring to when you ask whether Maple supports 'Units'. That being said, here's a sample from the Maple help document showing one of the pages which addresses 'Units':

John R. Baker, P.E.
Product 'Evangelist'
Product Engineering Software
Siemens PLM Software Inc.
Industry Sector
Cypress, CA
Siemens PLM:
UG/NX Museum:

To an Engineer, the glass is twice as big as it needs to be.

RE: Best program for calculations in mechanical engineering

(OP)
What I mean is that when the input is: 1N/1mm^2 the output would have to be: 1*10^6Pa or 1MPa or at least: 1N/mm^2

From the information you´ve given me I can´t really tell if maple allows me to calculate with units.

Since I'm not a native speaker I'd appreciate feedback on my (British) English

RE: Best program for calculations in mechanical engineering

(OP)
That´s probably because of my lack of experience with technical English though.

Since I'm not a native speaker I'd appreciate feedback on my (British) English

RE: Best program for calculations in mechanical engineering

(OP)
whoops, didn't try searching it because someone (that works with maple on a daily basis) had specificly told me maple wouldn't be able to do This. Anyway thnx for your input! Maple deffinately seems to be a good alternative now.

Since I'm not a native speaker I'd appreciate feedback on my (British/technical) English

RE: Best program for calculations in mechanical engineering

IRstuff,
You forgot to end your message with "mate" so Quazoosl would understand you.
reindeer

RE: Best program for calculations in mechanical engineering

(OP)
@monkeydog: I have to admit that I submitted that last post before previewing it. I still need to get used to these forums and its disability to edit posts after submission. Pardon the slag ;)

RE: Best program for calculations in mechanical engineering

You should try the very recently relesaed Mathcad Express, which is a FREE, stripped down version of Mathcad Prime 2.0. You can find it at http://www.ptc.com/product/mathcad/free-trial/?gcl...

I posted some additional details in the PTC: Mathcad forum at http://www.eng-tips.com/viewthread.cfm?qid=334626

==========
"Is it the only lesson of history that mankind is unteachable?"
--Winston S. Churchill

RE: Best program for calculations in mechanical engineering

BTW, I just downloaded Mathcad Express two days ago and have only had about half an hour to spend with it. It appears so far that the old key sequences work for subscripts (. and [), square roots (\), and fractions (/). I haven't tried them all yet.

==========
"Is it the only lesson of history that mankind is unteachable?"
--Winston S. Churchill

RE: Best program for calculations in mechanical engineering

(OP)
That sounds great, I'll give express a try!

I'm testing evaluation versions of both maple 16 and MC15. Although Mathcad works quite well Maple seems to be able to meet all of my requirements with the greatest ease. It just works so much more intuitively than mathcad.

RE: Best program for calculations in mechanical engineering

I find Mathcad pretty intuitive and Express is much easier to use than my old Mathcad 8. I just took a look at the Maple website and it does look very easy to use and it obviously has a lot more power than Express. But, it's also very expensive, even more than Mathcad Prime. For occaisional users like me, free is MUCH better. smile

==========
"Is it the only lesson of history that mankind is unteachable?"
--Winston S. Churchill

RE: Best program for calculations in mechanical engineering

Unfortunately, they elected to make the basic SOLVE block a "premium" feature. Aside from the transparent use of units, Given-Find is probably one of the more useful functions.

TTFN
FAQ731-376: Eng-Tips.com Forum Policies

RE: Best program for calculations in mechanical engineering

@IRstuff:

"Unfortunately, they elected to make the basic SOLVE block a "premium" feature."

Well - the whole point of "Express" is to be a teaser - if they gave you access to the most powerful tools, there wouldn't be much incentive to buy a full licence!

http://julianh72.blogspot.com

RE: Best program for calculations in mechanical engineering

Yeah, but the problem is that if I can't even try out the simplest one of them, what would entice me to get the package?

TTFN
FAQ731-376: Eng-Tips.com Forum Policies

RE: Best program for calculations in mechanical engineering

I think you get a 30-day full trial licence, after which it reverts to the limited Express licence, so plenty of opportunity to test out whether Mathcad Prime 2 is for you. It's a pretty good offer, really!

http://julianh72.blogspot.com

RE: Best program for calculations in mechanical engineering

IRstuff…

Funny you should mention the solve block. I was working on one yesterday in Mathcad 8 (modifying an old document for a new project) and decided to try it in Mathcad Express. OOPS!

Earlier this year I downloaded the one-month trial of Mathcad Prime 1.0/Mathcad 15. At ~$1.4k I had no plans to buy it, but I wanted to try it out. When a PTC rep called a couple months later to "make the sale" I told him that I couldn't justify the price for a program I used maybe 10 hours a month and that Mathcad 8 was continuing to serve my needs. I suggested that PTC re-adopt the old Mathsoft model of a two-tier program with reduced features for a reduced price. I told him I could justify a $300 program without programming and certain other features. I told him what I used and didn't use in Mathcad 8 (e.g. I haven't done a DifEq since college and that was long before Mathcad and I almost never use symbolics). The solve block is one of things I told him I used fairly often. I still think a $300 version with an intermediate set of features and functions would hit the sweet spot for most Mathcad afficianados.

==========
"Is it the only lesson of history that mankind is unteachable?"
--Winston S. Churchill

RE: Best program for calculations in mechanical engineering

It just seems to me that they could have allowed you to use the SOLVE block for free, as a reminder of how great the program can be. Otherwise, it's just a fancier graphing calculator with units conversions, which is pretty good, but...

TTFN
FAQ731-376: Eng-Tips.com Forum Policies

RE: Best program for calculations in mechanical engineering

I use Mathcad M15 and have been part of the Beta test team for MC Prime 1, 2 & 3. MC Prime 3 is due next year and should be more like the functonality of MC15. The graphing is something that PTC are working on in earnest so will be better than EXcel I believe in MC Prime 3. Some think MC is a bit cumbersome for muliple problems but I like the simplicity of presentation and units handling. Fault finding is a breeze and the whole math and units are there to see. The maths can be printed to PDF to go into a report or provided to a customer. Parts of the maths can be hidden if you choose to keep the equations under wraps.

I used Tk Solver in a DOS version. The thing I liked about TKS was if you knew 19 of 20 variables it would solve for the 20th. The 20th could be any one of the variables so you didnt have to re jig the equation to get a result. It also handled Boolean algerbra neatly. You could insert a gues and it would converge rapidly. Not sure how the Windows version stacks up. Probably the DOS engine with a fancy front end.

I hate spreadsheets as they are too hard to fault find and errors can creep in and you dont see them.

“The beautiful thing about learning is that no one can take it away from you.”
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RE: Best program for calculations in mechanical engineering

(OP)
@Johnbridge231: Do you have any experience with mathematica? I'd like to know how it works from a user perspective.

@Stanier: Is MCP3 still heavy on the mouse usage? I'll look into that TK Solver you referred to, that program is new to me.

RE: Best program for calculations in mechanical engineering

Quote:


I hate spreadsheets as they are too hard to fault find and errors can creep in and you dont see them.

I like spreadsheets because they are flexible, intuitive, powerful, and are the quickest way to verify and fault find the output from other applications. With a couple of add-ins they will do all of the things listed in the OP. That doesn't mean that a spreadsheet is necessarily the best solution for any individual, but I wouldn't automatically dismiss them either.

Doug Jenkins
Interactive Design Services
http://newtonexcelbach.wordpress.com/

RE: Best program for calculations in mechanical engineering

I'd recommend that you consider spending some time learning Octave/Matlab. Octave is free, so you should be able to use it wherever you go. It's powerful, you can do anything from solving ordinary differential equations to complex matrix operations to processing gobs of data. It's beautiful, Octave/gnuplot can produce publication-quality charts in 2d and 3d.

  • Can be used algebraically (define quantities, define formula(s), get answer for unknown quantity/quantities
    Being a programming language, you can do all of the above in Octave/Matlab. Admittedly, I don't often find myself having any great need for computer algebra software.
  • Understands (metric) units
    I'd recommend that you work in a consistent set of units when doing calculations, but there is an Octave package out there for doing conversions which may be helpful.
  • Works fast (requires a minimum amount of mouse usage)
    Octave is fast. Matlab is faster. When it comes to mouse usage, you can use whatever editor you want with Octave. I use VIM as my editor; takes some getting used to but it's extraordinarily powerful and customizable. You can set up syntax highlighting and autocompletion. Matlab's editor is also quite good and allows you to set up breakpoints and lots of other nifty features.
  • Is able to plot graphs of functions
    Both Octave and Matlab produce publication quality graphs (EPS, PDF, SVG, PNG, TIFF, etc). I sometimes find that Octave/gnuplot makes better plots than Matlab. Here's a plot that I made in Matlab to answer someone's question about Matlab elsewhere in Eng-tips:

  • Works intuitively
    I suppose intuitively is relative; powerful tools have learning curves. Still, once you get a handle on the language, the help files (especially for Matlab) are fantastic. If you need to learn how to use a new function, the help file will have a description of the function and usually several examples of how to implement it in code.
You might also look into are Python with SciPy, NumPy, & Matplotlib... that's what the cool kids are using these days. Actually, Python is a full-fledged programming language, so it's probably one of the most flexible tools for solving engineering problems out there. I can't say whether it's better or worse than Matlab because I haven't used it nearly as much, but it's open-source, free, and probably worth a try.

Some other good problem solving software:
Excel (Excellent spreadsheet program, mentioned by others)
R-Project (Popular with statisticians; makes excellent plots)
Maxima (Computer algebra)

Good luck in your search. I hope you find some software that works well for you.

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