Have you (today's young engineers) wondered how it was to do engineering design in the earlier decades i.e. the 60's, 70's, 80's of the twentieth century. The mainstay of engineering design then was an extensive usage of graphs, charts and nomograms for a variety of data such as physical properties, thermodynamic properties, friction factors, transport properties etc. These graphs, charts and nomograms served their purpose well in the absence of advanced computing machines in those days and some of the biggest chemical process plants existing today and running successfully are a testimony to their utility in engineering design done in those days.

I have myself used a lot of these in engineering design in the early part of my engineering career. The one thing that struck me about these figures and charts was that always there would be a small difference in the figure read from the chart or figure by two different individuals. Some of the petroleum related charts generated in the early 50's were so grainy and illegible that it became a herculean task to read numbers from them. However, those days we just had no option but to strain our eyes to read a number from the multiple lines drawn in a x-y chart. Many a times I would curse my luck if I had to refer to a old grainy chart related to the petroleum industry.

With the advent of advanced computing power through high speed computers and the introduction of regression analysis techniques using these high speed machines, charts and graphs are becoming obsolete today. Today using a fairly simple tool such as MS-Excel you can regress data to generate a variety of polynomial and logarithmic equations. Many enginering companies and academic institutions have taken up with earnest this task of data regression to generate mathematical equations which are simple to program and give accurate results for use in engineering design. Accuracy of the regressed data can be enhanced by increasing the number of polynomials in an equation. In these times when every minute you spend in engineering design is carefully scrutinized and costs need to be cut, these techniques are proving invaluable not only as a cost saving measure but also enhancing the accuracy of the engineering design.

As I have mentioned in my earlier blogs I am a person of the times. Leaving aside the initial hiccups I had from switching over to modern regression analysis techniques from the chart and graph era, I have now come to appreciate the usefulness of these modern methods and am now a whole hearted supporter of them since they have simplified my work and life.

I would love to hear from the veterans in engineering design their take on my views. And as far as the youngsters are concerned my advise would be to further develop techniques and methods to make engineering design more simpler and accurate.

Would appreciate comments and views from all forum members.

Regards,

Ankur.