Eric Hooimeyer, the engineering manager of the minerals processing technologies for Outotec offers inputs on the evolution of CAD and engineering tools. Eric says that in the olden days, computers were not used, but now we use computers to design and draw instructions to build our equipment and make sure things will fit together when it arrives on site.
According to the information provided by Eric Hooimeyer in his copy of “Marks Handbook” dated 1941, computing machines had ceased to be a luxury item, but were expensive and thus the type of machine needed to be selected for the type of work to be done. With the help of the computing machines one could add, with or without listing, or could do calculations involving multiplication and division. The last type of machine was fed the information using punched cards to define the calculation to be carried out.
Eric Hooimeyer adds that, on entering the workforce in the eighties, the first exposure to computers was seeing engineers do structural analysis. The engineer would develop a list of numbers that defined a steel structure and enter these into a computer terminal that would be connected to a bureau where calculations were done. There was no graphical interface to see what the initial list of numbers meant and great care was needed as each computer run was quite expensive and time-consuming.
Further Eric Hooimeyer says that, at this time the concept of CAD was only related to design in all but the largest engineering houses, where CAD drafting started to be seen. He says that we all drew on the drawing board and developed skills in writing consistently and laying out a drawing as a piece of art that clearly relayed enough information to manufacture with minimum effort by the draftsman. Manual drawings became an expression of the draftsmans craftsmanship and skill.
For more complex projects, there was a skilled group of workers who would make a scale version of each component to show that there were no clashes and demonstrate to customers what the final product will look like. These scale models were pieced from a catalogue of plastic items and glued and fastened together.
By the late 80’s, Outotec saw the development of the personal computer and corresponding move towards readily available CAD design and drafting systems. Outotec worked in DOS environment and learned Fortran and Basic to write their own programmes. Outotec also saw the move towards graphical representation of tabular data input in the design software. CAD drafting packages during the period were glorified drawing boards with very simple graphical input.
There were two main directions in drafting packages. Outotec had the high end packages like Eagle driven on dual-screen mainframe computers with very high capital cost. These could produce good quality, high-intensity drawings.
Outotec also had the development of AutoCad. As Microsoft developed a new operating system called windows, Outotec saw a rapid change in the way of design and drafting packages. By the early nineties, drawing boards were disappearing and being replaced by PC workstations. Outotec started to design in 3D as the software with improved interfaces. Outotec began to lose the art of design and developed more automated processes to carry out the same work. Having the “recession we needed to have” at this time also helped to drive towards reduced levels of employment while maintaining work volumes. Outotec saw work teams reduce up to 40%.
Outotec is now heading into the next revolution in design. Outotec are seeing the big push into 3D modelling. This allows it to use the computer to simulate the final product and develop the manufacturing drawings. Outotec can programme steel cutting tools to profile our beams and plates ready for joining.
What we do need to remember is “What is it we need to produce?” We need to produce clear instructions on flat 2D pieces of paper to enable our manufacturing contractors to correctly understand what the final product will look like and what special instructions must be followed.
Outotec still need to clearly give written dimensions etc., to minimise incorrect interpretation of how to manufacture. The means to get to this end may be changing, but the end result is still the same: pieces of paper with lines and text to describe something.