Thursday, August 14, 2014

A New Blog Series: Did you know . . . ?

We’re starting a new series of topics here on the blog, which will highlight some of the more useful applications and features of CHEMCAD. Some of these will be high-level, powerful ways to use the program, and some of them will be day-to-day, quick methods to get useful information and analysis. Beyond that, we’ll cover some of the things you may not know about CHEMCAD licensing and support. We’re rolling out our first few topics today, and will be adding content on a semi-regular basis.

Be sure to watch for these blog entries! In the meantime, you can read on to discover why we’re doing this.

When I first got into the process simulation business 20 years ago, software was used in a slightly different way than it is today, mostly owing to the speed of computing and available software development tools back then. Large simulations took a long time to run—often they were left to run overnight. (Those of you who remember coming into the office in the morning only to find that your simulation failed to converge sometime after midnight, I sympathize!) Also, because of the perceived complexity of the software, simulations were often run only by in-house experts.

When graphical user interfaces came along, users could finally do simple calculations easily, to get quantitative and qualitative process data and display it in graphical form. I remember, for example, when CHEMCAD users found they could quickly calculate bubble and dew points using the simulator to get insight into their processes without having to build an entire flowsheet.

Nowadays, of course, this type of work is taken for granted. Many of you regularly connect simulations to spreadsheets, math solvers, plant data historians, SCADA systems, and more. Computing power has advanced to the point where incredibly complex simulations can be run multiple times per day (or even left to run at multiples of real-time for operator training and advanced process control). And today, simulations are run by people with a wide array of job functions within an engineering group.

Let me get back to the point: process simulation has developed a wealth of features beyond simple heat and material balance calculation, yet we find most users only use about 20% of the power available to them. Some of this is due to the complexity of features; if you think of the additional equipment geometry data required to run a rigorous dynamic simulation, it’s often regarded as “too much effort,” despite the potential benefit! Other times, users simply don’t realize that a feature is available. CHEMCAD has a wealth of features and power just hidden from view—in some cases on purpose, as we strive to keep complexity from hindering your day-to-day workflow.

Our staff can easily communicate about these features when we have one-on-one conversations with customers. Our sales, technical support, and training staff are always on hand to explain and walk through applications of the program, but it isn’t every day that we get a chance to speak with you. If we tried to make a brochure or set of documents to cover everything we want to showcase, we’d end up with hundreds of pages for you to navigate.

What we hope to accomplish, then, is to spark some ideas here with short descriptions in blog format. They’ll be quick reads which you can compare to what you’re trying to accomplish in your role as a chemical engineer. We hope that some of them will be immediately useful, and maybe you’ll store one of them away in your brain and use it later for that “aha!” moment.

We encourage you to jump in with your comments—let us know which of these topics are new to you, how you might see them helping in your simulation tasks, or what else you’d like to see covered in future blog entries.

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