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Data flexibility is key to helping engineers manage their work day


By Tom Chan

I spend a good portion of my working day talking with CFD engineers—Tecplot users and non-users alike—about their post-processing visualization needs. Over the last six months, I’ve heard from a growing number of engineers who cite an urgent need for greater data flexibility in the tools they use. This shouldn’t be that surprising since most of the work that engineers do falls into four categories: analysis, problem solving, planning, and communicating. Every engineer’s daily job involves a mix of these functions depending on their role, level, industry, and interest.

As you might guess, a discussion of how data flexibility—or lack thereof—affects an engineer’s job is much too complex to tackle in a single blog entry. So I’m going to break it up into a series of blog entries that examines each of the four categories. I’d love to hear your thoughts as well.

Today, let’s drill down on analysis.

Engineers tell me it’s not uncommon for them to use more than a dozen different applications on a given project. The typical tool set for an aerodynamicist, for example, might include:

  • One or more meshing tools like Pointwise, ICEM CFD, or VGrid
  • One or more flow solvers such as Fluent, STAR-CCM+, CFD++, USM3D, FUN3D, and Cart3D
  • A math analysis package like Matlab or MathCad
  • Several custom, in-house FORTRAN applications for specialized analysis and data reduction
  • Post-processing tools such as Tecplot 360
  • And let’s not forget everyone’s favorite spreadsheet application: Microsoft Excel

Add to this the different types of data that an engineer must draw upon to fully analyze a system (simulation data, wind tunnel data, flight test data, PIV data, etc.), and you begin to see just some of the challenges an engineer can be up against.

It’s no wonder that an engineer might spend a majority of his or her day manipulating and massaging data to get it from one application to another. It was even less wonder, then, when one told me quite directly that “the more flexible a tool is in reading, manipulating and writing data, the more useful it becomes.” These kinds of comments encourage me, though, because it’s this kind of flexibility that continues to be one of Tecplot 360’s sweet spots. It’s what our users tell me they value the most. Instead of fighting the tools and data formats, Tecplot 360 allows engineers to spend more time on analysis, problem solving, planning, and communicating.

But as far as I’m concerned, it’s never good enough. We can always do more in making our tools more flexible and easier to use. What new or additional data formats (read or write) would make your life easier? Just post a comment below or email me at tomchan@tecplot.com. I want to hear from you!

My next post: data flexibility and communicating your results.