Component Connection

Apps Replace Engineers, Possible?

It’s no big news to point out there’s an app for just about everything from how to fix your Windows 7 registry to how to safely run blindfolded with scissors in hand. And most of these instructional, and sometimes destructional, tools are either free or cost a paltry sum by today’s standards; starting at $0.99.

There are what one might call applications for electronics engineers out there on the web, usually a basic design tool for a specific component or circuit and a part selector. These are  offered by semiconductor and component companies and the part selector chooses, you got it, from the company’s parts. No criticism intended, these are viable, valuable, and time-saving tools.

One fine example is XP Power’s power-supply app and web interactive product selectors that promise to ease the process of choosing a power supply. Available from XP Power’s web site, users can search by component type (AC/DC or DC/DC) or by application like medical, industrial, LED lighting, military, etc. And using power rating, input voltage, output voltage, and mechanical format in the search parameters provides one with a choice of over 2,000 models in the company’s catalog. Of note, it is also possible to search for supplies specifically classified as “green power” components. When search results are final, the user selects the appropriate model number, downloads the datasheet, and/or checks if it’s in stock at the company’s authorized distributors: element14 and/or Newark.

Complimenting the selector, XP Power offers a free app for use on Apple iOS or Android-based smartphones and devices. In function it is essentially the same as the web-based tool.

Of course there’s a somewhat narrow yet reasonably diverse range of EE apps available on the web. Some examples include the latest version of Thomas Gruber’s Electronics Engineering ToolKit Pro, iPhone apps for electrical engineers from MEP Construction World, an Electrical Engineering Pack for Android OS, and Cool iPhone Apps for Engineers by The Burns & McDonnell Team. You can also check out a plethora of offerings from Adafruit Industries.

Question

Most of the apps available are fairly basic and there are some that are a bit involved. As of yet, or at least to my knowledge because I lead a sheltered life, there does not seem to be any easily downloaded apps that perform complex and complete designs, and in a way that may be something to thankful for. For example, as integration levels escalate and designs, particularly on the consumer end, continue to become standard, run-of-the-mill items, there seems to be no need for numerous part makers; one or two may do. If true, comprehensive design apps begin to evolve and proliferate, how many engineers will do? Any? Maybe more? For another approach, check out Tools Enable More Analog Innovation In 2012 by Rob Reeder.

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