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6651 Views 23 Replies Latest reply: Jan 5, 2012 1:02 AM by dannymagee RSS
HarveyHensley Gold 287 posts since
Mar 25, 2011
Currently Being Moderated

Nov 11, 2011 4:44 PM

Why is Mathcad not used more by chemical engineers?

I am a chemical engineer who has been using Mathcad for about 20 years, probably version 2 or 3 as the first.  I use other specialized software for things like process simulation, fluid flow CFD etc., but when I need something special, Mathcad is the tool I use.  In fact, once I learned Mathcad, I stopped using other programming languages like Fortran, or any of the Visual languages (C, Basic....).  I've used Mathcad for a wide range of chemical engineering problems, from reactors, sprays, pipelines, optimization, stochastic simulation, dynamic models of reactors....and on. 

 

So why, when I do a search for topics with chemical engineering and Mathcad, do I find so little.  There are some professors who've posted some example problems, but very little else.  Matlab is being used a lot by chemists and ChE's, but it can't compete with Mathcad, in my opinion, mainly because of the code look and the lack of symbolic solutions.  I also don't see much interesting in the PTC Community regarding ChE.

 

PTC must must not be trying hard enough to sell into the ChE community?  Are they concentrating too much on CAD design, i.e. mechanical engineering? 

 

One suggestion to appeal to ChE's would be to incorporate an add-in that provided physical properties, including vapor-liquid-liquid equilibrium constants.  There are a couple of packages that could be easily linked in to Mathcad if you have the C++ and Visual Studio knowhow.  But that is only one suggestion.  What ideas doe others have, and do you agree that there needs to be more attention to ChE as a market?

  • ValeryOchkov Platinum 6,043 posts since
    Sep 26, 2008

    I agree with you completely.
    A small example.
    We cannot work in new version of Mathcad - Mathcad with so-called chemical names of the variables:

    ChemName.png

    But I must say that we (chemical engineers, and not only) can criticize and blame for all packages. We must be able to work with different packages, using their strengths and avoiding weaknesses.

    Mathcad has many strengths and has a good chance to stay in the arsenal of chemical engineers.

     

  • PTCEmployee 47 posts since
    Jul 17, 2007

    Hi, Harvey.

    I don't think it's so much of a case as "PTC must must not be trying hard enough to sell into the ChE community?".  As a prior Mathcad Product Manager, I think we (PTC) would be happy with any sales, just like any software vendor would!   Kidding aside - I think a subsection of engineers and techical professionals saw applicability for Mathcad sooner (or in greater numbers) than others did, and micro-communities sprung up around them.  The volume of posts on Mathsoft's prior 'collab' was a testament to that.  We ported over much of that content here.

     

    PlanetPTC Community, here, is a place for just that.  So a solution to "So why, when I do a search for topics with chemical engineering and Mathcad, do I find so little. " is to get a sub-community up nd running, or add to one that is already started.  And then help promote it - let other professionals like yourself know that this is a place to come and have like-minded discussions around chemcial engineering and how Mathcad plays role in your everyday work.

     

    Best of luck, and hope to see you here more!

     

    -Alan

  • dannymagee Copper 16 posts since
    Mar 27, 2002

    Harvey,

    I asked a question in the same vein a number of years ago, namely why no Mathcad Chemical Engineering electronic library was ever produced. The answer was put succinctly by the old Collab Jean Giraud (jmg) that there was just too much to inlcude, although Samir Khan went some way to producing one but never quite finished it, making an admirable contribution of Chemical Engineering worksheets on the way.

    I think the answers to your question are a bit more subtle.

    There will always be a biase from the PTC contributors towards their own discipline background and I am guessing here as I have no information to prove it, that the present PTC set up is more non-Chemical Engineering disciplined. The likes of Samir who as a Chemical Engineer worked for a UK Mathcad distributor at the time, and indeed trained me in the use of Mathcad, have I guess disappeared from the PTC/distributor set-up.

    Also I believe a lot of the old Collabs who were Chemical Engineering orientated have left the scene, although a lot of what appeared under the umbrella of the Chemical Engineering forum was actually related directly to Chemistry with no relevance to the former.

    The simple answer may be that Chemical Engineering calculations only use the basics of Mathcad and therefore Chemical Engineers have not required the help. Indeed over the years a lot of my own work has used little of the resources of Mathcad, although this may have been due to the requirements that my cleints had to understand a pdf copy of my Mathcad calcs and even a simple use of the Mathcad programming formatting left them wondering what I was doing (from real experiences). So for me the simpler the calculation format the better.

     

    I see you are a new member of this forum since March 2011, but you have obviously been using Mathcad for a long time and yet you have never in all that time required any help from Mathsoft or PTC. If that is the case then does it not answer your own question?

     

    Danny

      • dannymagee Copper 16 posts since
        Mar 27, 2002

        Harvey,

             First let me apologise for the multiple entries of my last reply but my computer was telling me it was not successful so I continued to try and send the reply before I checked to find it had been successful - many times!

         

        I have no experience of Matlab or its capabilities so I cannot really comment on your observations in published papers, which I rarely need anyway since the clients of my present employer have most things tied up in specifications.

         

        You hit it on the nail for me when you said the "natural documentation alone is reason to use Mathcad".

        I can only re-iterate that unfortunately some clients I have encountered have been confused with simple Mathcad programming tools appearing in a calculation. As to symbolic solutions I rarely use them or even need them.

         

        As to expanding the use of Mathcad I am afraid I find the younger Chemical Engineers I presently work with have shown no interest at all. It is the case that all seven of my present younger colleagues (I am the eldest by far) have squarely rejected the use of Mathcad and prefer to use Excel. I have tried to introduce Mathcad but without any success. My present employer provides access to both Mathcad and Excel, but the use of the former is exclusively in Mechanical and Structural disciplines.

        Also being trained to use a peice of software is one thing but you need to be given time to develop the use of the software to suit your specific needs and this needs corporate funding not on the job client funding.

         

        I have had several mentored Chemical Engineering undergraduates with a previous employer go on to use Mathcad in their subsequent employment. I think the latter indicates that if you get them early enough, i.e. at university or work related mentoring, then your chances of influencing their future use of Mathcad is increased substantially - I am sure PTC already know this.

         

        Sorry to be a bit negative but I can only relay my experiences.

         

        Regards,

         

        Danny

        • MikeArmstrong Diamond 4,144 posts since
          Dec 3, 2008

          You hit it on the nail for me when you said the "natural documentation alone is reason to use Mathcad".

          I can only re-iterate that unfortunately some clients I have encountered have been confused with simple Mathcad programming tools appearing in a calculation. As to symbolic solutions I rarely use them or even need them.

          I agree with this. I have only ever used symbolic's to check my calculations done on paper.

          As to expanding the use of Mathcad I am afraid I find the younger Chemical Engineers I presently work with have shown no interest at all. It is the case that all seven of my present younger colleagues (I am the eldest by far) have squarely rejected the use of Mathcad and prefer to use Excel. I have tried to introduce Mathcad but without any success. My present employer provides access to both Mathcad and Excel, but the use of the former is exclusively in Mechanical and Structural disciplines.

          Also being trained to use a peice of software is one thing but you need to be given time to develop the use of the software to suit your specific needs and this needs corporate funding not on the job client funding.

          Young engineers tend to lean on Excel because that's what they know. I work in the Subsea Oil and Gas sector and a lot of graduates come in and don't know how to use any Mathematical software except Excel. I tend to jump straight on to them and indicate what Mathcad is capable of, which is much more than Excel.

           

          Yes you do need time, but if the individual is committed enough they will teach themselves as I had to. It all depends on how much they want it.

           

          I don't know a single person who has made the transition from Excel to Mathcad and then turned back.

          I think the latter indicates that if you get them early enough, i.e. at university or work related mentoring, then your chances of influencing their future use of Mathcad is increased substantially - I am sure PTC already know this.

          I have had this discussion before that PTC need to push Mathcad onto Universities, but the problem is Matlab has already got there in most cases.

           

          Mike

          • dannymagee Copper 16 posts since
            Mar 27, 2002

            Mike,

            With my previous employer I mentored several Chemical Engineering undergraduates (one at a time) during their year out from respective UK universities, and I always assumed they knew little of anything even associated with Excel  - not that I am a power user either. Excel was the company 'standard mathematical' spreadsheet software and therefore I had no option but to use it and to train the undergraduates in the use of template spreadsheets.

            However I was also the only UK Engineer to use Mathcad so as you do I introduced them to the latter and this proved very successful. I explained that essentially working alone I needed to have the confidence that my design calculations were at least logically (mathematically speaking) correct and Mathcad did that for me - I could then concentrate more on getting things technically correct.

            I had used Mathcad for seven years before I received the formal training I previously mentioned and as you indicated above if a person is interested enough then self teaching is entirely possible with Mathcad.

             

            Your point about reverting from Mathcad back to Excel is quite ironic as indeed that is exactly what I have had to do at my present employer due to the lack of interest from my younger colleagues. I have been finding the lack of good company Excel templates - i.e. not user friendly or riddled with errors, such that I take particular interest in checking Excel calculations from my colleagues and contrary to Harvey's comments about diminishing peer review it is very necessary these days - maybe it is just my age gap with my present colleagues is clouding my view!!

             

            One of my colleagues is furthering his education with an MEng at a UK university and only a couple of weeks ago he told me he is having a course on Matlab - in line with your findings. I shall be interested to see what he learns about the application of Matlab to our daily work.

            I was taught Fortran in my final year at school and at university (the latter as an additional 10week lunchtime course during my first year). I went on to use Fortran in my first job for engineering calculations on and off over almost 12years, but after an intensive two year period of little sleep I decided to step back from writing Fortran for a living and indeed I have not written any since that employment.

            My present use of Mathcad reflects this personal unwillingness to delve too deeply into computing and thankfully Mathcad does lend itself to being used at various levels.

            However I do still use Mathcad occasionally and recently I used Mathcad calculations to show a high profile engineering company that calculation examples in one of their company specification were incorrect.

             

            As I said previously I am sure PTC are aware that universities are the key to introducing future engineers to Mathcad.

             

            Danny

            • MikeArmstrong Diamond 4,144 posts since
              Dec 3, 2008

              Your point about reverting from Mathcad back to Excel is quite ironic as indeed that is exactly what I have had to do at my present employer due to the lack of interest from my younger colleagues. I have been finding the lack of good company Excel templates - i.e. not user friendly or riddled with errors, such that I take particular interest in checking Excel calculations from my colleagues and contrary to Harvey's comments about diminishing peer review it is very necessary these days - maybe it is just my age gap with my present colleagues is clouding my view!!

              Rather you than me. Some engineers do still use Excel and unless for formulas are shown I find it very frustrating and time consuming checking their calculations.

              One of my colleagues is furthering his education with an MEng at a UK university and only a couple of weeks ago he told me he is having a course on Matlab - in line with your findings. I shall be interested to see what he learns about the application of Matlab to our daily work.

              I have recently started to teach myself Matlab, but I still can't see me changing from Mathcad. I like the interaction I have with PTC. I have been testing the new products and can guarantee that they have been listening to what users wants. So your suggestions are not going unheard.

               

              Mike

      • MikeArmstrong Diamond 4,144 posts since
        Dec 3, 2008

        I started this discussion mainly with the hope of finding ways to make Mathcad either more attractive to ChE's or to find ways to better market it to ChE's.  Satisfying that quest may be difficult in this forum because we who use it don't see any problems. 

        I can't agree with this. I find the biggest critics of Mathcad are the people who use it. I do a lot of testing for Mathcad and openly state when I have a problem and so do others of this and the old forum.

        But maybe you have some colleagues that can say what they don't like.

         

        Thanks again, and I hope we can make something happen.

         

        Any proposals can be placed in the community below.

         

        http://communities.ptc.com/groups/enhancing-mathcad

         

        Mike

          • MikeArmstrong Diamond 4,144 posts since
            Dec 3, 2008

            at least to customers like me who want a bigger acceptance of Mathcad models for my business.

             

            I agree with this and have offered PTC my services in promoting the software in University's where I live. They need to lean on University's to get the students educated at an early stage.

            I hope you stay tuned and keep in the discussion.  I wish there were more contributors but that may be a symptom of the subject of the discussion.

            You might get more people involved, just give it a little time.

             

            Mike

    • VladimirN. Platinum 2,319 posts since
      Sep 26, 2010

      Daniel Magee wrote:

       

      ...The likes of Samir who as a Chemical Engineer worked for a UK Mathcad distributor at the time, and indeed trained me in the use of Mathcad, have I guess disappeared from the PTC/distributor set-up...

       

      It seems that Samir Khan is currently working with Maplesoft: http://www.mapleprimes.com/maplesoftblog/contributors/Samir%20Khan

    • dannymagee Copper 16 posts since
      Mar 27, 2002

      Harvey,

      I have been unable to get time until now to add a last comment from me on this matter - I shall follow your blog from now on - but I feel I must add a response in defense of the Excel community.

       

      Having to revert to Excel over the past three or four years I have found several sources of very useful chemical engineering knowledge and freely available spreadsheets. There are a couple of websites in particular which I believe for some people and for specific disciplines will offer a more than adequate knowledge and free spreadsheet base.

      For Chemical Engineering the Cheresources.com forums provide plenty of technical know how and spreadsheets, and has stalwarts like Art Motemayor to guide the less experienced. The benefit of this website is that there is plenty of chemical engineering discussion going on as well as the request for spreadsheets - chemical engineering discussion was never a great strength of even the old Mathcad Collaboratory and certainly not of todays revamp.

      For other disciplines then MoreVision's exelcalcs.com website is proving very popular and John Doyle has admirably discussed the benefits of Excel over Mathcad in this forum. They also provide spreadsheets although most are related to civil, structural and mechanical engineering. The XLC add-in allowing formulae to be displayed can be all that is required by a lot of people at least for presentation and checking purposes - strong points for me personally - and of course strong points for also using Mathcad, but your example was spot on as I had never heard of "Rkadapt" until I started using Mathcad and the clients I have to deal with in contracting had no idea what this or similar Mathcad solvers are all about.

       

      You mentioned the furthering of AspenTech and their simulation software including HYSYS and FlareNet both of which I use on an irregular basis, and indeed it is the latter point which is the crux in respect of this type of software. As you rightly said too many chemical engineering graduates having been exposed to AspenTech simulation software at universities think it is all they need in the outside world, only to quickly be brought back to earth (in Process Contracting at least) when they are asked to do their first line sizing - usually using an Excel spreadsheet. Simulation software has it's place but it is not the tool for everyday chemical engineering if for no other reason that the cost of the software is in a different league to the likes of Excel - not sure about Mathcad.

       

      Good luck with blog,

      Danny

    • dannymagee Copper 16 posts since
      Mar 27, 2002

      Harvey,

      I have been unable to get time until now to add a last comment from me on this matter - I shall follow your blog from now on - but I feel I must add a response in defense of the Excel community.

       

      Having to revert to Excel over the past three or four years I have found several sources of very useful chemical engineering knowledge and freely available spreadsheets. There are a couple of websites in particular which I believe for some people and for specific disciplines will offer a more than adequate knowledge and free spreadsheet base.

      For Chemical Engineering the Cheresources.com forums provide plenty of technical know how and spreadsheets, and has stalwarts like Art Motemayor to guide the less experienced. The benefit of this website is that there is plenty of chemical engineering discussion going on as well as the request for spreadsheets - chemical engineering discussion was never a great strength of even the old Mathcad Collaboratory and certainly not of todays revamp.

      For other disciplines then MoreVision's exelcalcs.com website is proving very popular and John Doyle has admirably discussed the benefits of Excel over Mathcad in this forum. They also provide spreadsheets although most are related to civil, structural and mechanical engineering. The XLC add-in allowing formulae to be displayed can be all that is required by a lot of people at least for presentation and checking purposes - strong points for me personally - and of course strong points for also using Mathcad, but your example was spot on as I had never heard of "Rkadapt" until I started using Mathcad and the clients I have to deal with in contracting had no idea what this or similar Mathcad solvers are all about.

       

      You mentioned the furthering of AspenTech and their simulation software including HYSYS and FlareNet both of which I use on an irregular basis, and indeed it is the latter point which is the crux in respect of this type of software. As you rightly said too many chemical engineering graduates having been exposed to AspenTech simulation software at universities think it is all they need in the outside world, only to quickly be brought back to earth (in Process Contracting at least) when they are asked to do their first line sizing - usually using an Excel spreadsheet. Simulation software has it's place but it is not the tool for everyday chemical engineering if for no other reason that the cost of the software is in a different league to the likes of Excel - not sure about Mathcad.

       

      Good luck with blog,

      Danny

    • JeffH Copper 6 posts since
      Dec 29, 2011

      Just a few thoughts of my own here:

       

      As a ChE graduate student (back in the day - version 1 or 2) I made extensive use of Mathcad with the encouragement of one of my professors.  We had a friendly competition based on who could come up with the most elegant Mathcad solutions to homework problems in Advanced Thermodynamics.  I used it here and there in other classes, but mostly to check my work, since most of my other profs wouldn't accept (or didn't trust) Mathcad generated work papers.  I still found it useful and even located a typo in Bird, Stewart, and Lightfoot that could not have been discovered with hand calculations.  However, none of my colleagues seemed to catch on to how powerful Mathcad was for these types of calculations.

       

      Many years later, my son is now enrolled at a major university in ChE.  The students are all provided with "enterprise" use (or severely reduced cost licenses) of a standard set of software to use.  This collection includes MatLab and Excel, but not Mathcad.  This certainly has something to do with the proliferation of MatLab and Excel into the ChE community.

       

      I have for some time bemoaned the lack of ChE references and handbooks as Mathcad e-books.  I think they don't exist because the task is daunting as a public effort and would provide little revenue to a commercial effort.  Can you imagine trying to capture Perry's handbook as an e-book? The width and breadth of ChE technical material is daunting, to say the least.  Additionally, the publishers of ChE texts are probably just not interested in seeing their work in an electronic form, especially when they can charge what they do for texts (what does a Perry's handbook cost these days?).

       

      So in summary, I see two major hurdles in getting Mathcad into the ChE mainstream:

      1. Creative (and competitive) licensing of Mathcad at the university level and finding ChE professors/departments willing to be champions
      2. Major hurdles of time investment and publisher resistance to e-book version of standard ChE handbooks

       

      It's up to PTC to do something about #1.  I think the engineering community has to be willing to invest the time, money, and effort into #2. It's a pickle. Maybe Harvey's Blog is the place to start. More of us ChE's who have seen the light need to be willing to go out and evangelize for Mathcad.

       

      Jeff

      • dannymagee Copper 16 posts since
        Mar 27, 2002
        Currently Being Moderated
        Jan 3, 2012 8:21 AM (in response to JeffH)
        Re: Why is Mathcad not used more by chemical engineers?

        Jeff,

             There were a couple of attempts to incorporate Mathcad into (chemical) engineering teaching books. The one that springs to mind is the Schaum's series of Interactive Outlines which included 'Fluid Mechanics & Hydraulics' and 'Thermodynamics for Engineers' both of which incorporated Mathcad examples. Obviously I don't know the commercial success of these specific books but with the overall success of Schaum's books they would be near the top of my list on collaboration.

         

        Danny

        • ValeryOchkov Platinum 6,043 posts since
          Sep 26, 2008

          Daniel Magee wrote:

           

          Jeff,

               There were a couple of attempts to incorporate Mathcad into (chemical) engineering teaching books. The one that springs to mind is the Schaum's series of Interactive Outlines which included 'Fluid Mechanics & Hydraulics' and 'Thermodynamics for Engineers' both of which incorporated Mathcad examples. Obviously I don't know the commercial success of these specific books but with the overall success of Schaum's books they would be near the top of my list on collaboration.

           

          Danny

          See also please http://www.springer.com/chemistry/physical+chemistry/book/978-3-7091-0530-6

          • dannymagee Copper 16 posts since
            Mar 27, 2002

            Valery,

                 My apologies for not listing your references. Unfortunately in 30+ years all of my work has been related to detailed (Chemical) Process Engineering and not to empirical Chemical Engineering, so references I have used initially come to mind. Unfortunately my maths, though once my best subject, is all but a lost memory and thankfully does not need to be anywhere near the level you and your co-author have generously exhibited in your stated reference.

             

            Danny

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