Academic journal article Research-Technology Management

Are We Simulating Enough? (One Point of View)

Academic journal article Research-Technology Management

Are We Simulating Enough? (One Point of View)

Article excerpt

In 1953, the U.S. government awarded a contract to the Knolls Atomic Power Laboratory for the engineering design of the Savannah River separations plant, one step of which was to separate the three isotopes of hydrogen. Tritium was to be the primary product of this plant. It existed in small amounts from which a separation factor could be measured, but there was not enough to feed a pilot plant.

As a very young engineer, I was given the job of doing a computer simulation of the plant in lieu of building a pilot plant. It was simulated on one of the first Univac computers, and as far as I ever heard, the plant was built on the basis of that simulation and worked.

This impressed me early in my career with the value of computer simulations. When GE was developing the first fan-beamed CT scan, a very sophisticated computer simulation helped tremendously in determining many of the most important specifications for elements of that machine. Debugging of the prototype scanner was simplified significantly through comparisons with the computer simulation.

I have the feeling that computer simulation has become a way of life today in large companies. A personal computer is now a thousand times faster than that 1954 Univac and computer memories are essentially without limit.

Enamored with Prototypes

In spite of this, I am disturbed to see start-up companies staffed with bright but young engineers and scientists who are so enamored with building prototypes that they don't take advantage of the benefits that a computer simulation could give them. …

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