Tuesday, March 16, 2010

CHEMCAD around the world—and some useful shortcuts

This blog entry is being written on a plane, somewhere between Mumbai/Bombay and Newark. Did you know that CHEMCAD is a global program? At last count, the software is being used in more than 70 countries around the world. I frequently visit our distributors, to help ensure that they can give the same level of support to their customers that we demand from our own employees.

While presenting some case studies of CHEMCAD use, I recently showed a roomful of engineers a hidden feature of CHEMCAD which is very useful. We sometimes hear, “Learning this feature alone was almost worth the cost of training!” So, I decided to share this trick—and a few others that I like—with our blog readers.

Engineering units are a constant frustration when you work across international borders. The default engineering units of CHEMCAD are English units, because the program was written by engineers in the USA. You probably know that the Format > Engineering Units command enables you to select different units (you can even specify local gauge pressure and reference temperature for standard vapor volume flow rate). But did you know that CHEMCAD has a handy units converter?

To use this feature, open any Edit Streams dialog and click the mouse in the temperature field. Now press the [F6] key on your keyboard. The Temperature units converter will appear, as shown at left. Type a number and then press [ENTER] to convert it. Better yet, click OK to send the converted value back to the flowsheet!

Any dialog box field that has an engineering units label should display the correct units conversion tool when you press [F6]. When you use [F6] with the cursor in a field without units, or when you don’t have a dialog open at all, CHEMCAD displays the Engineering Units Converter, shown below. Here, you can choose the type of units to convert. (Users who have been with us since the DOS version of CHEMCAD may remember that there was once a European-to-US clothing size converter, as an Easter egg.)

Since I’m talking about one overlooked but useful feature, I might as well mention a few others that I rely upon:
  • Look at the Palette pane on the right side of the CHEMCAD screen. See the capital T symbol near the top? You can use this tool to add a text box to the flowsheet. I like to use this for simulation notes, but you can also dress up your text with the other drawing tools seen here—rectangles, lines, polygons—or even an imported graphics file.

  • For text that will not be displayed on the flowsheet, just click the Notes tab at the bottom of the workspace and start typing. This is another convenient way to keep notes with the simulation.

  • If you make a plot from the Plot menu, you can then use the Chart menu to export the plot’s data points to a table in MS Excel.

  • Using a wheel mouse? Hold the wheel button down to click and drag the view of your flowsheet. You can also scroll the center wheel forward or back to zoom in or out, respectively.

  • Find the section of the CHEMCAD toolbar that contains the various ‘zoom’ items. One of them is Zoom to fit. This resizes your view of the flowsheet to fit everything in the window.

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