One great advantage of the PC as an engineering tool is its ability to communicate technical documents uniformly across an organization. For Mark Biegert, director of hardware development at Optical Solutions Inc., Minneapolis, Minn., the goal of communicating processes, procedures, and other requirements to the EEs and optical physicists in his department was only attainable via a PC-based scheme.
Biegert plays a key role in developing Optical Solutions' systems for delivering broadband voice, video, and high-speed data to homes and small businesses. "When I came here, we didn't have a standard tool for technical communications," says Biegert. "We needed easily learned and standard ways to perform our computations and share them with each other."
Biegert settled on Mathcad, Mathsoft's applied mathematics package. Mathcad allows the company's engineers to easily perform complex computations through a simple interface that displays calculations as they would appear on a written page. One frequently performed task relates to component specification for photodiodes or lasers. Biegert says that there may be 10 functions that engineers must specify for a given component to perform. Mathcad's real-math notation and self-documenting nature enables the engineers to see all of their computations and quickly generate reports that document all of the steps they performed to reach a given solution.
Once an engineer specifies the routines for a standard component in Mathcad, Biegert can then release a .pdf version to Optical Solutions' documentation system and an HTML version built into a standardized company template for the Web site. The result is an archived document that can be used by various constituents company-wide.
"Recently, when a customer was having a deployment-related issue, I was able to generate a new customized worksheet based on previous work that I had completed and archived, so it just took minutes," says Biegert. "That's a real advantage because we often have to modify computations slightly. I converted the new file to a .pdf document and e-mailed it to him. If customer service gets another call with a similar problem, they can pull up that worksheet online."
For Biegert, Mathcad's value is that it creates an immediate record of exactly how every step in a design is completed. "Our engineers can work efficiently, adapt and reuse relevant worksheets that they have archived, and share a record of their work all the way down the line," he says.