“To design or to analyze? Aye, that is the question.” My apologies to the Bard.
I spent the first half of my career in design. But even as a designer I was always a numbers guy. I wanted to know why some things worked and others did not. And I found that the numbers could actually help explain the workings of things. An example:
I designed the first IR missile active jammer to go into the Navy’s service (AN-ALQ-123). The IR source was fragile and had never been qualified for military use. I was frustrated by the reluctance of the structural engineering department to support me. They wouldn’t touch the quartz, Lucalox and niobium that the source was made from. Nor would they let me anywhere near their finite element code. So, I had to run the tests to determine its fragility and then analyze my mounting design to assure that the IR source could survive the “cats-n-traps” of carrier take-offs and landings. I even had to write my own source code for the analysis. It worked! The design was a grand success and hundreds of -123s entered the Navy’s inventory. It even made the cover of the Old Crows monthly magazine. I was a proud papa.
I still design. Here’s a view of a newer design job. It’s an active stand-off sensor
consisting of a zoom lens with five moving lens
groups, all servo controlled, plus a sixth movable lens group to control the
focus at a distant target. I gave my client all of my design files and
they took it from there. The last I heard, the prototype was working just
fine. There’s a really hard part to design consulting though: Letting
someone else adopt the offspring.
Numbers are a lot less sentimental. I do a lot of analysis these days but I still think as a designer. Luckily, as an engineer I can work both sides of that street.
I’ll be talking-up my design tools to the analysis folks at the MSC Software Users’ Conference in Santa Ana on October 5th. (Just as I talked-up my analysis tools to the design folks at the SPIE Symposium in August.)
Will I see a few of your cheerful faces there on the 5th?