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Concurrent Engineering Blog

Why it's time to stop using spreadsheets for your engineering calculations

Posted by Concurrent Engineering on 15-Dec-2020 10:35:00

If you’re an engineer who resorts to using spreadsheets for your calculations, you’re not alone. But spreadsheets are a significant cause of headaches for many engineers, and can seriously confuse simple tasks.


Writing formulas using cells instead of variables and writing them in a spreadsheet is a minefield for errors. A cluttered, non-intuitive notation has a vast potential source for error, that can easily be avoided. Similarly, the units conversion for the velocity can introduce errors as well. 


For example, a mismatch of units for the trajectory calculations resulted in the Mars Climate Orbiter, a $327 million project, burning upon entry into the Martian atmosphere. Your miscalculations hopefully won’t result in a catastrophe of this scale, but they can certainly put you in some tricky situations. 


From an aesthetic standpoint, do you want to share your calculations with others in a format that’s more associated with accounting and admin than engineering and manufacturing? We can all agree; spreadsheets don’t leave an impactful or a professional impression.


So, if not spreadsheets, what’s the other option?

Influential engineers don't rely on spreadsheets. With PTC Mathcad, your engineering calculations are presented in an interface that resembles the same kind of computational pads that engineers use every day. 


The variables are defined using letters and subscripts. The worksheet shows the functions for the coefficient of lift and lift force and evaluates them inline. The work is also documented with text and images, capturing your intent.


We can define variables in whatever units we want, run calculations, and view the results in any other units. We don’t have to work within a single designated unit system because PTC Mathcad understands different unit systems and reconciles them. 


The ability to mix and match units, knowing they will be handled automatically provides engineers with incredible power and freedom.


PTC Mathcad has many advantages over spreadsheets for engineering calculations 

including versatile, powerful options such as:


  • Over 400 built-in functions covering a wide range of categories including Statistics, Data Analysis, Signal Processing, Design of Experiments (DOE), and Differential Equations
  • The ability to perform calculus, including derivatives integrals, summations, and limits.
  • Easy programming capability that includes conditional logic and looping constructs to define your complex functions that return single values, vectors, or matrices.
  • PTC Mathcad also has libraries available that include examples of how to set up and solve a variety of engineering and advanced maths problems.


Once you create your worksheets, you can reuse them and share them with others. This results in a portfolio of resources to make future work more seamless. 

You make a choice. Why rely on traditional accounting spreadsheets?  When you can use an application that’s designed for engineers and offers real maths notation, units intelligence, and a document-based approach. 

Get your free trial