I'm a civil/struct. design engineer. For most of my (long) career I

was using manual paper/pencil/calculator (or slide rule, if anybody

still remembers it). Lately, for complex structures I use commercial

FEM software. Sometimes I use 3-rd party calculation software (such as

PCACOL). But whenever I could I prefer to make my own calculations

programmed in Excel with sketches made by Excel's Drawing tools. With

due respect to the old and trusty paper/pencil approach (fast,

straightforward, and many times unavoidable) electronically prepared

calc's present obvious advantages. I know many of my fellow engineers

use Excel also.

Design calculations as a part of project documentation are not as

respected as drawings. Made on paper they are often lost in filings

and dusty archives. They are rarely used second time (unless a lawyer

needs it, save us God). How many times I was trying to re-use a

drawing to find eventually that I have to repeat design calculations!

Database of electronic calc's can be searchable and calc's could be

easily re-calculated for new conditions. That is just one example? Any

other ideas?

How do I do it:

Firstly, for a company I work (I'm a contractor) I prepare an Excel

template of a Design Calculation form sheet which I use for all

calc's.

I prefer (or time pressed?) to use simplified and fast approach to

Excel spreadsheet programming ? using only formulas and general tricks

(not VBA, although I promise to try). I textually describe all my

logics as full as possible and type all formulas as text. This would

make life easier for anyone checking or using it again. Otherwise, it

is generally follows format of a manual design. At one time I was

playing with MathType and Equation Editor but they are only

typesetting programs and to make text look nice takes too much time.

I'm still searching for a way to type a formula in a usual math format

and not to re-type it in the formula bar. Any ideas?

I am using Excel's Drawing Tools (View-Toolbars-Drawing) to illustrate

the calculations and make sketches. As far as I know, not many

engineers take advantage of these tools. I'm convinced that making

sketches with calc's is very important. When I first started making

sketches it took quite a time, but with practice it became much

faster. Now it takes the same time as making a sketch manually. There

are a lot of time saving tricks in Excel Drawing ? which could be

mastered with practice. I think there are needs for some improvements

(or adjustments) of Drawing Tools? but I will come to do it later.

Checking other graphic software (importing AutoCAD, for example) shows

that Excel's Drawing is the most practical and easy approach.

As with everything else, the more you use Excel the easier and faster

it became.

Any ideas, suggestions, comments, personal observations?.?

Simon Goykhman,

Toronto

snipped-for-privacy@rogers.com

- posted
18 years ago