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Design News, April 2013

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Design Hardware & Software There's No Excuse For Not Designing Virtually When design engineers want more than the default look and feel, software should be customizable and extensible, ensuring they can define appearance and behaviors. By Cabe atwell, Contributing Editor; and Shelly Gretlein, National instruments T homas Edison was at the forefront in the early days of the electrical industry. He was an empiric who spared no expense in his pursuit to push forward. Edison famously said, "I have not failed. I've just found 10,000 ways that won't work." Along came a US Navy ensign, inventor of the inverted dynamo, Frank Julian Sprague. Opposed to the trial-and-error design methods, Sprague taught the Edison Laboratory mathematical methods, aka the scientific method. Deriving optimum parameters mathematically saved quite a bit of costly experimentation. Sprague went on to use mathematical methods to correct many of Edison's electrical systems, improving performance and cutting cost. This being the earliest example that virtual design is essential. Imagine saying the same thing in the workplace today: "I have tried 9,751 different designs that didn't work, on to the next." Edison controlled the world's electrical needs, and had all of the money to show for it. Anything was possible then. Today, budgets are not the same. Companies scrap over small slices of a percent, even in a niche market. Every penny must be saved. With all the computing power at the world's fingertips, virtual design has gone from pen and paper to complete design environment populated with virtual components that can be constructed, and tested, in larger — more complex — systems. With virtually no overhead in building multiple revisions, it only makes sense to design virtually first, before a build is attempted. The virtual approach should also be applied to the testing, monitoring, and evaluating. Often enough, design on the job follows the Edison style, but it is time to go Sprague — it's time to go virtual. Before our world was inundated with rich information and vibrant visualization, embedded design applications Source: Wiki, right; National Instruments, left) Early HMIs, right, were purely mechanical, and limited in how much information could be displayed. They were replaced by the digital HMI, left, which is able to show virtually unlimited information. Design News | april 2013 | www.d esign n ews.com –48–

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