New Access to PTC Mathcad

PTC Mathcad Gateway

The announcement of PTC Mathcad Gateway adds controlled, web-based access to PTC Mathcad's engineering calculations. To decide if this is important to you, you need to think through two topics. The first is the way the new PTC Mathcad Gateway helps use and simultaneously protect the IP of 'how we do things round here'. The second is the opportunity created by PTC Mathcad Gateway to make better use of engineering know-how in-house and across partner networks

  • In product development,
  • In sales and project bid teams for cost estimation, configuration and product customization,
  • In field service, for example to support calibration procedures.

It all starts from PTC Mathcad, which is a tool for engineering calculations. "Oh like Excel?" is the usual response. Well yes and no, but mainly no. The symbolic, numerical, and programming capabilities of PTC Mathcad mean that you use mathematical notations and functions - from algebraic and differential equations to Laplace transforms and integrals. Just how familiar these notations seem may depend on how much attention you gave to engineering math classes, but these are the notations used in engineering textbooks, so you won't need to search for the guru who can translate math notations into numerical methods for Excel.

PTC Mathcad Gateway is a module enabling full use of PTC Mathcad's calculation, graphing and documentation capabilities - but with controlled visibility (including the option of invisibility) of the calculation methods.

PTC Mathcad has been part of PTC's offer for many years. The new availability of PTC Mathcad Gateway opens up new ways of sharing - and controlling the sharing - of engineering calculations.

Engineering Calculations

So let's look at engineering calculations, and the first topic - how do you use and simultaneously protect the IP of 'how we do things round here'. For engineering groups in mechanical, electrical, civil, structural, aerodynamic, and almost every other engineering domain, engineering calculations represent a high proportion of their IP. All too often, this IP is buried in workbooks, personal spreadsheets, annotated versions of company standards or textbooks, and one-off computer programs. Folk-memory provides access to this IP: "…yes, that's the old documented version, it doesn't allow for the new materials we use. So speak to X, they know how to make the adjustments…."

I suppose this folk-memory approach protects the IP quite well, but it shouts 'waste', 'risk' and 'missed opportunity'. The PTC Mathcad approach is different. It uses a worksheet. You would update this worksheet for the new materials using X's expertise. Even without added text, the mathematical notation on the worksheet documents the calculation method.

Everyone who has PTC Mathcad access will benefit. No waste - everyone shares the single definition of the calculation. No risk - there aren't any handwritten notes in the margin, so you can't accidentally ignore them. And savvy engineering departments recognize that engineering calculations can be rather like simulation models. So they will be exploiting the opportunity to use the calculation to explore design options, not just confirm parameters.

Did you spot the problem just now? It's in that phrase 'everyone who has PTC Mathcad access'. This is why PTC Mathcad Gateway is a significant step. Before PTC Mathcad Gateway, you needed PTC Mathcad itself to access the worksheet. And that gave you visibility of everything on the worksheet. It was a little bit like having the source code to be able to run an app. The risks are not show-stoppers, but visibility and access to the definition of the calculation can hold you back. You can deploy PTC Mathcad to capture and use IP in a way that can be shared. But the fact that the whole method is shared means you probably keep access in-house, and maybe - even in-house - you only trust a small group of specialists. So the potential of the PTC Mathcad approach to engineering calculations is constrained, because in order to protect IP, you have to constrain access to worksheets.

The New Capability

PTC Mathcad Gateway solves this problem. It provides a browser interface and allows you to define exactly which elements of the PTC Mathcad worksheet are visible to the user. A typical deployment might limit the interface to the input parameters and the output result; perhaps with some selection of documentation, diagrams, and charts from the worksheet on both the input and output sides, it's up to you.

This means you can allow suppliers, customers, contractors, and others involved in product development to use your PTC Mathcad-based engineering calculations, without exposing the valuable IP built into the definition of the calculation.

That's new, and leads on to the second topic, that is, making better use of engineering know-how in areas outside product development, and across partner networks. Imagine a situation where a manufacturer has got more capability than can be offered via a configure-to-order approach. A simple example might be customized geometry for products such as surfboards, or display stands. A more complex example might be variable speed electric motors in which accuracy, response time, torque limits can all be specified independently to any value within a given range, not just selected from a list of values provided by the manufacturer.

This is beyond the capabilities of a typical product configurator used by a sales team. So imagine setting up the interaction to happen via PTC Mathcad Gateway and PTC Mathcad. You can provide immediate feedback of any result your engineering calculations can generate - the agility of the surfboard, the weight and load bearing capability of the display stand, the operating speeds of the electric motor. A customer who can explore these options is more likely to order, so you can deliver your competitive advantage (agile production capable of more than configure-to-order) with no additional sales time and distribution cost.

There is similar potential in service and across partner networks. By providing access to known, approved, and standard engineering calculations to people who are not full time members of the in-house engineering team, you can help these people work in ways that match the standards, and documentation specified or generated by the PTC Mathcad worksheet. This reduces the cost and time penalties of muddled communication and uncertainty, and increases the chances of right-first-time interaction.

So PTC Mathcad Gateway is an option to equip remote workers. But by providing control over access, it also creates options to think about the bigger picture of engineering data flows, and opportunities to introduce more effective ways of working.