Mathcad in its Prime

Engineering calculation software plays an unglamorous, but vital role in design. Paul Fanning looks at a new version of Mathcad.

By its nature, engineering calculations software is never likely to be the most glamorous or attention-grabbing of subjects. However, its role in streamlining and optimising critical design processes is undoubted and often crucial. PTC's Mathcad has emerged as one of the leading packages for engineering calculation, allowing users to simultaneously solve and document engineering calculations in a single worksheet, reducing costly, time-consuming errors and redesigns, while promoting true engineering collaboration.

A new generation of Mathcad – Mathcad Prime 1.0 – has recently been launched and, while Mathcad Prime 1.0 will operate from the same locked license file as the pre-existing Mathcad 15.0, the company is keen to emphasise that these are totally separate products. One consequence of this fact is that Mathcad Prime does not yet have complete function/feature parity with its predecessor and is unlikely to do so until Prime 2.0 is launched later this year.

Given this, what reasons are there to upgrade? The fundamental selling point of Mathcad Prime, according to PTC, is that it allows engineers 'to spend more time engineering and less time documenting'. The main drivers behind the new launch, then, were increasing ease of use and reducing time spent on formatting documents.

While PTC's Senior Application Engineer Thomas Devaraj is unable to put an exact figure on the time that may be saved, he believes that the changes arrived at in Mathcad Prime will take out an entire stage of formatting. Mathcad presents calculations, text, and images in an understandable format to enable knowledge capture and reuse and design verification, which results in improved product quality with faster time-to-market. Mathcad's integration with other PTC products including Creo Elements/Pro (formerly Pro/ENGINEER) and Windchill enables increased productivity, improved process efficiency and better collaboration between individuals and groups.

Highlights of Mathcad Prime 1.0 include its new, task-based interface - promotes productivity while enabling users to learn unfamiliar functions or features quickly and easily. Mathcad's document-centric calculation environment enables users to quickly and easily create detailed, professional engineering design documents that include complex calculations, by using live standard math notation with text, images and graphs.

Additionally, documents are easy for non-Mathcad users to read and understand, thus supporting effective communication of designs and engineering knowledge across the enterprise. Advanced mathematic exploration is also possible with Prime as it offers powerful capabilities along with an environment to display, manipulate, analyse and plot data with full units support.

Dynamic units support – full support for units throughout all calculations created in Mathcad Prime 1.0 also improves process efficiency by helping to reduce errors and increase the accuracy of results. Fundamentally, Mathcad Prime 1.0 enables users to focus on solving complex engineering problems with less time spent on formatting design documents. That content is captured in a presentable format, so it is much easier to solve the problem and interpret the engineering intent. The result is good design decisions that are supported by well-structured and legible documentation.

Paul Fanning

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