Which Maths & Simulation Software Should I Choose?
Maths and simulation software can often be a minefield of abstract concepts leaving you dazed and confused about the best tool for your application. Here, we cut through the jargon and make the positioning of our products abundantly clear.
The packages we offer can be divided into two groups:
- Equation-based packages, in which you write down your equations in a form and syntax that the package understands, solve or manipulate those equations using the package’s internal functionality and then view the results numerically, algebraically or graphically.
- Block-diagram based tools, in which you drag and drop blocks from a menu or pick list, which each represent a mathematical function or physical process. These are then wired together to specify the flow of the simulation, again viewing the results numerically or graphically.
VisSim | Micro Saint Sharp | Training
The numerical evaluation of engineering and scientific equations is a process that usually consists of nothing more than a finite series of additions, multiplications and exponentiations, with the occasional trigonometric or logarithmic function. In theory, a calculator or a spreadsheet could possibly provide all the number-crunching power you’ll ever need.
Engineering and scientific analyses, however, usually have several critical characteristics that these tools do not traditionally address:
- The order in which the equations are numerically evaluated is usually defined by some external engineering logic or procedure.
- The evaluation order and the equations you’re using must be abundantly clear to both you and perhaps an external auditor.
- Dimensionality is nearly always a fundamental part of the calculation procedure.
- A deliverable illustrating the calculation procedure is usually part of the final product.
Mathcad integrates the design-metaphor of a piece of paper with a units-aware mathematical engine. Consequently, it’s the most appropriate package if the above characteristics largely define your work. A Mathcad worksheet has several features:
- Equations are entered and presented in proper mathematical notation with over-line division, and superscripts for powers.
- A strict flow-of-control exists in Mathcad worksheets; they read from left-to-right, top-to-bottom. This makes the evaluation order of your equations explicitly clear and you’re not jumping about from cell to cell as you would be in a spreadsheet.
- Annotation is simple – the ease with which you can add descriptive text to your worksheet is a particularly valuable feature.
- Tools are provided to mathematically manipulate your equations or data.
- Results are viewed numerically or graphically.
- Mathcad also hosts the most user-friendly implementation of units on the market. Scaling a velocity so that it’s in furlongs per fortnight, for example, is trivially easy.
To find out more about Mathcad, click here.
Block-diagram based tools:
The diffusion of a chemical species or the operating curve of a turbogenerator are processes that can be conceptualised as continuous over time. That makes them particularly suitable for simulation in VisSim, a package explicitly targeted at the simulation of linear and non-linear dynamic systems. Blocks are selected from a menu or a series of toolbars, placed on a worksheet and wired together to specify the flow of a simulation. Each block represents a mathematical operation: perhaps something as simple as a basic arithmetic operation, or possibly a filter response or transfer function.
It’s an easy package to use; the syntax consists of nothing more than wiring blocks together. The support desk at Adept Scientific find that most queries regarding the package invariably distil down to the customer’s understanding of the engineering or scientific process under study. A corollary is that very little barrier exists between the user and the realisation of their modelling concepts.
- VisSim is particularly suitable if your system is largely characterised by feedback.
- VisSim’s ability to compile a simulation to a DLL or an executable typically increases simulation speed by an order of magnitude.
- Signal processing and communication system design, real-time data acquisition and a variety of other toolboxes are available.
- The freely-distributable VisSim Viewer enables your colleagues to run simulations and change operating parameters.
To find out more about VisSim, click here.
- You’re the production manager of a factory. Piles of intermediate materials are building up at various points in your manufacturing process. You want to know whether the benefit of less work in progress with a JIT production process is worth the increase in production time.
- A hospital manager wants to find the optimum staffing levels and distribution of equipment in an emergency ward given constraints on the amount of money that’s available.
- A helicopter designer wants to know if a pilot can process the shear amount of sensory data available and still be able to control the aircraft.
Each of these processes can be deconstructed into a number of tasks executed in series or parallel, a task simply being a process or physical activity that takes a finite amount of time to execute. By definition they’re discrete event simulations and Micro Saint Sharp is specifically designed to model these problems.
A Micro Saint Sharp simulation consists of three layers: i) tasks are placed on a worksheet, ii) the tasks are connected together to develop a flowchart of the process, and iii) timing and process logic is specified in each task with a series of simple programming statements.
- The interaction of human operators with process equipment is a common use of the package.
- The ebb and flow of work queues is a concept easily modelled in Micro Saint.
- A customer notably modelled a factory floor process in Micro Saint and optimised their capital expenditure to minimise batch processing time.
To find out more about Micro Saint Sharp, click here.
We run regular Training Courses for these products. They are designed to provide you with practical, hands-on experience and bring you up to speed quickly, so you get the most out of the software and maximise the productivity benefits to be had from your investment. To find out more about them, click here.
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