Reliance on
Problem Solving Software

"All matter has a tendency to
revert to a lower energy level"

When I first learned this rule in physics it wasn't long before it got twisted to mean "I will spend the least amount of energy achieving the biggest possible result". Ok, so the principle of 'working smart' is a basic rule of nature but one must always be attentive to the word 'smart' not being replaced with 'lazy'!

Software packages are the prime culprit and are superior at opening the trapdoor that many an engineer has found himself falling into. I was at a presentation of some electrical panel design software and on the surface it appeared brilliant! No jokes! I can fully understand this package managing to cut design costs by ten to one at least. But....

When questioned how does one define the various load structures, it was said that these are not defined within the package but rather set by the user before starting the design. Yip, sounds logical, but it is not practical. Unless the designer is instructed as to how to over-rate the wiring, and in what way (oversized Neutral, etc.), then using the package is only going to prove to be a faster route to disaster.

Agreed, this CAD package was not specifically designed to be an 'all solutions' chunk of software but rather a neat means to share the design of electrical distribution panels. Hopefully, however, it has been shown how quickly design faults can be propagated through the use of such software. Unfortunately, in power quality, there is no room for the "I wasn't told" syndrome.

Software packages, regardless of their use, cannot assume for the human factor. Even circuit analysis programs assume the circuit is built on one PC board. If there is some distance between components with stray inductance and capacitance to cater for, the package will only prove there is a huge gap between theoretical and practice!

There is nothing wrong with using software to produce high-speed results, as long as it is understood that software can only produce results based on what is fed in. This sounds logical but there are more stories than is cared to repeat where results have caused massive losses in income.

One of the other dangers of software, especially when there are minimal results produced - such as a min, max, and average trend graph - is that some try to create other 'hidden' results 'based on experience'. It has even been heard that if you know what you are looking for you can determine the presence of harmonics from such a trend graph! Mmm....

It is not intended to scare any from the use of software, merely to ensure that it does what it says it can do - another way of saying 'separating sales-talk from technical truth'.

Arcing  >>

| | Ask a Question |

© 19.10.02