Posted by: Harold Ennulat | February 4, 2010

Open Source Engineering

I did a Google search on <Open Source Engineering> and got 42 million some results.  Doing an exact phrase match narrowed the result to only 52,200 results!  Clearly this is a concept that is already being explored.

I thought about “open source” because I can still remember when “open source” software was more or less just a dream.  This movement has gained traction in the software arena to the point where my web hosting service provider is all based on Linux, a basically open source computer operating system, commonly used on web hosting servers.  Additionally there are a myriad of open source applications available along with an entire open source community.

So how about open source engineering for controls engineers?  I’m thinking about controls engineers sharing strategies and approaches to running projects and solving problems for our clients. 

For example I look at schematic drawing creation and ask why can’t this be automated to the point where I input my equipment list, instrument list, or I/O list and get a complete set of I/O schematics in a matter of minutes or hours, not days or months.  Or how about doing drive drawings from a list of motors?  I’ve had a chance to examine what can be done with some VBA code and lookup tables in a spreadsheet containing an equipment list.  I’ve also looked at the ability to write VB.net code that runs from within AutoCAD to read spreadsheet input and create the drawings automatically.  It all appears quite doable.  And yet this is too difficult for most companies to develop on their own.  This seems like a great project for an open source community to develop as a project, starting with the requirements document.

So what kind of tools are currently available as open source for controls engineers?  So far not much is jumping out at me from my own Google search.  There are some open source projects and tools such as http://wiki.developspace.net/Open_Source_Engineering_Tools and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Open_design that offer some useful links and such.  There are even Electronic Engineering open source sites such as http://www.gpleda.org/.  And for software there are a number of sites such as http://www.tigris.org/ and http://hypertriton.com/index.html.en.   For automation I found a site (but could not find the link when I went back to look).  For controls I did find this site after a couple of hours of poking around:  http://sourceforge.net/softwaremap/trove_list.php?form_cat=97.  It is not control specific, but it did contain a number of what appeared to be controls links.

There appear to be a few tools available but they require some digging to get at them.  It  is not easy to collect a set of tools that would be interest specifically to controls engineers.

Feel free to add a comment with your favorite links to either tools you use, or other references to open source engineering tools you find might be of interest to the controls engineering community.  In return, I will plan to give these links additional exposure by either rolling them into this post, or do an add on post, or possibly even add this to my website.  Suggestions are welcomed!

Updated 2/4/2010 2:02 pm  | Created 2/4/2010 11:00 am

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