1586. Application of Portable Microcomputers in Mass Properties Engineering


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G L Molczyk: 1586. Application of Portable Microcomputers in Mass Properties Engineering. 1984.



Since the power of the digital computer was first demonstrated, corporations have sought to achieve full integration of computer systems into the industrial production environment. As new generations of hardware, software, and high-level languages have appeared, the size and cost of computer systems have decreased while their capabilities and efficiency have increased. Mainframes became minicomputers, minicomputers have become microcomputers, and microcomputers have led to pocket calculators. However, even though these trends are positive, the costs and complexity of the systems have always limited the availability and access of computing power for engineering groups to basically static work stations.
This policy, although cost effective in terms of time-sharing mainframes and small personal computers, is not always effective for the individual engineer. In many engineering disciplines, mass properties in particular, the engineer will encounter problems that must be approached, analyzed, and solved at a production facility or in the field. Here the unavailability of computer access is extremely disadvantageous, and powerful handheld calculators are limited in their effectiveness. If limited time is, a factor in the provision of solutions, the cost deficiency of static computer work stations becomes exponential. Into the void that exists between the powerful hand-held calculators and the nonportable microcomputers has appeared a new generation of small, powerful, and efficient microcomputers. This paper is an argument for the implementation and use of these cost-effective devices in all engineering disciplines that require portable computer power to support product development, testing, and full-scale production.
The hand-held computer is presented as a viable engineering tool stressing the positive virtues of cost-efficiency, portability, calculating speed, usability, ease of programming, and graphics and printout capabilities. Specific examples of actual microcomputer applications and software currently used in General Dynamics’ Tomahawk Cruise Missile production program are presented. These applications included FUEL, a program that determines and verifies actual fuel loads for varaible conditions of fuel density and fuel temperature; CG, a simple three-axis weight and center-of-gravity calculation program for on-site data reduction; and CMR, a utility program that rectifies as-weighed cruise missiles to their start-of cruise mass properties configuration for the purpose of quality control assessment. Comments on the merits, limitations, and possible future applications of the portable microcomputer conclude the paper.


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