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Thread: What design software would YOU like?

  1. #1
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    Confused What design software would YOU like?

    -- This is a chance to express your most insane dreams and frustrations! ---

    Hello there,

    I'm currently juggling with the idea of making a professional design software for HVAC controls.
    However, as development takes time, I would like to get a clear idea of what are the most important features I should implement first.

    -- Bio --

    First off, a little about me. I have a degree in mechanical engineering and worked professionally in the HVAC/control world most of my professional career.
    I also developed some (free!) BACnet softwares and some professional services around it https://bacnethelp.com/how-to/wacnet.
    http://hvac-talk.com/vbb/showthread....1#post16847431

    I worked many years for a control company as a system designer. By the time I left, I had built myself some pretty kickass design
    software that was automatically generating PDFs ready to be validated by engineering firms, a complete build of materials, a list of tags to print...
    The software is still in use today, many years after, with even the possibility of being added to other divisions.

    That being said, with hindsight I now know of a few little things I should have done differently.

    --- end of bio ---

    Back to the design software.
    Here are grossly what features I have in mind:

    • Complete HTML5 interface;
    • Being able to reuse the same diagrams between quotation, design and user interface;
    • Build of materials (obviously);
    • Rules based design (don't let the user plug a 0-10v temperature sensor on a controller output);
    • Multi-window support;
    • Version control (browse previous version of your project, not just the last save);



    The point of all this is to reuse the information added at each step and get the most out of it.

    Let me give you a simple example.
    You have a system diagram in your project and you design your IOs.
    "I'll put this humidity sensor on this input.... take this output to control the fan..."
    In other words, you already had a diagram, and you just told it where everything is plugged.
    Boom! User interface for free.

    That being said, I want to know what YOU need.
    I did design systems, but I am only one man.
    Surely many of you will have different needs.
    What are they? What is frustrating you to no end in your day to day job?
    Don't hold back, you might be surprised by everything that's possible!

    Imagine this https://www.circuitlab.com/, but for controls. What would it be like?

  2. #2
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    Have you seen the movie Firefox where the pilot has a direct thought control interface?

  3. #3
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    I did not! I might give it a chance, considering there's Clint Eastwood in it. ;-)

    As a semi serious answer, even if those http://www.hongkiat.com/blog/brain-controlled-gadgets/ were accurate enough, it might not give you what you think you are hoping for.
    Let's jump in.

    You see, what (I think) you would like in a device like this is being able to think "aim and fire missile".
    However, I doubt you'd really want to have to think about the winds, air density, possible counter measures, etc.
    You also don't want to have to think about unlocking the missile and firing it's propulsion while, at the same time, think about maintaining the correct yaw and pitch of your airplane.
    In this case, what you really want is to send the commands through the thought interface. You want the computer to handle all the tasks related to your command.
    If you send the command "aim and fire", it will deal with all the complex mathematical operations to guide the missile in a precision and speed that would dwarf our puny human minds.

    Now, sending the command "aim and fire" with a joystick or your mind is, for all intended purposes, almost the same thing.
    What's the most important is to ability to use the command, and a computer/programmer smart enough to deal with it.

    Back in the control world.
    You could send the command "Take all the IOs, find me the smallest compatible controller and fill it" via your mind.
    But would you have gained much? Would you feel much behind using "ctrl-q" to send the same command?
    What you really want is the command.

    This is what I'm offering here; some high level commands for your airplane.
    Let me handle the air density, winds and enemy radars while you are busy figuring out what is your next target.

  4. #4
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    I've started implementing some of the things I talked about.

    First the diagrams:


    Notice that everything works in "cells". Contrary to drawings made with AutoCAD/Visio,
    what you see is only the representation of the data, not the data itself.
    Usual drawings ARE the data.

    You might wonder what's the difference.
    We could decide to change the way we represent fans without ever touching the underlying data.

    We can reuse the data, apply it an isometric view and end up with something like this:

    This means you don't have to redraw twice the same system!


    Second, the rules-based design.



    I quickly added up the rules about how a binary input can't accept something which requires an analog input.
    Quite simple, but a bunch of little rules like that can make your life much easier.

    Keep in mind this is still in very early development!

    You can check the application at http://hvac.io.
    It's on a free hosting service, so it can take a few seconds to boot up.

    Cheers!

  5. #5
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    Quote Originally Posted by Frozenlock View Post
    Back in the control world.
    You could send the command "Take all the IOs, find me the smallest compatible controller and fill it"
    Not always a great idea.

    For one ... some of our customers require and expect some spare I/O to be available here and there throughout their building(s). So that some small add-on doesn't require a lot of effort, cost, etc.

    Secondly, if one tries to utilize ALL available IO, fewest number of controllers, you often end up in a situation where the installers are making some excessively long cable pulls. Man hours for pulling cable quite easily adds up to more expense than the cost of an additional controller and a single network cable run. It's like the difference between Centralized and De-centralized control. De-centralized is often cheaper in the end, for large installations (consider that it's quite a bit more difficult to pull ... properly ... a 30 cable bundle than it is a single twisted pair comm cable hundreds of feet, not even discussing added copper costs), yah don't have to find a LARGE, available wall space for mounting controls in any one spot (often difficult to next to impossible without forcing other folk to re-route and move their stuff), and then there is the other issue. The other issue being that if one uses unitary controllers, those able to go ahead and carry out their last instructions all by themselves even if the network cable is cut or otherwise interrupted, then when failures (inevitable) do occur much less of the overall system is affected. Whereas if one uses one central controller to do bunches of stuff (and I have controllers available to me that can easily handle over a hundred inputs, BO's, AO's, etc if it fails ... the building could be in a world of hurts. So many things affected at the same time that the situation is not just a nuisance, it's a friggin all out emergency and yah might be liable for a lot of collateral damage and expenses.

    Just some thoughts.
    A site where I stash some stuff that might be interesting to some folks.
    http://cid-0554c074ec47c396.office.l...e.aspx/.Public

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    Quote Originally Posted by osiyo View Post
    Not always a great idea.

    For one ... some of our customers require and expect some spare I/O to be available here and there throughout their building(s). So that some small add-on doesn't require a lot of effort, cost, etc.
    I absolutely agree! I often designed systems where it was required for the controllers to have 20% free IOs.

    The automatic filling was a simple example. One could also make a rule about filling 80% of the controllers. ;-)

    (Or simply warn the user if he tries to export a project with controllers dangerously full.)

    Quote Originally Posted by osiyo View Post
    Secondly, if one tries to utilize ALL available IO, fewest number of controllers, you often end up in a situation where the installers are making some excessively long cable pulls. Man hours for pulling cable quite easily adds up to more expense than the cost of an additional controller and a single network cable run. (...)
    I once worked in an enterprise where electricians were paid more than control technicians and some engineers!
    If an hour a design could save 30 minutes of pulling cables, it was considered a win.

    An automatic filling of controllers would indeed be highly dependent of the kind of job you are doing.
    Designing a control system for heating a complete college or a system for heating 3 rooms in an office will require a different approach.

    What I learned, and perhaps frustrated me the most, in controls is that
    we are always doing the same thing... but it's different each time! ;-)

    I do appreciate your inputs! Thank you very much!

  7. #7
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    ALC does that for the most part already, has for years. You tell Equipment Builder what it has and it makes the program, graphic, and the SOO.

    http://www.automatedlogic.com/eikon-for-educators/%20/
    "It's not that I'm smart, it's that I stay with the problem longer”
    Albert Einstein

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    Thanks, I'll look into this!

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    Quote Originally Posted by controlgeek View Post
    Have you seen the movie Firefox where the pilot has a direct thought control interface?
    Yeah, but I don't think with commie-talk.

    kontrol out
    "Good" - Jocko
    "Open is as open does." - Forrest Gump
    "Can't we all just get a Lon?" - Garry Jack
    "BACnet: integration or interrogation?" - The Janitor
    "Interoperability? You can't handle interoperability!" - Nathan R. Jessup
    “What’s that? Aaa… open protocols? Don’t talk about…. open protocols? Are you kidding me? Open protocols? I just hope we can hardwire an interface!” - Jim Mora Watch it here!

  10. #10
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    "I once worked in an enterprise where electricians were paid more than control technicians and some engineers!"

    Exactly where do you live where this isn't this the case?!!

  11. #11
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    I was always happy with just automating what I was already doing which was using Excel for points lists and BOMs then using Visio for the drawings/schematics.

    Kyle in the following video did some good work on his Aircuity Systems though I would prefer the Excel portion to be replaced with a windows application or a database then kick it out to Visio.


  12. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by control$ View Post
    Exactly where do you live where this isn't this the case?!!
    ...true in this part of the world as well.

    ...don't even get me started on Fridgies!
    1 + 1 = 3 ( *** for very large values of 1)

    ...everybody wants a box of chocolates and long stemmed rose

    Be brave. You cannot get eaten by an imaginary tiger.

  13. #13
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    Visio rocks.
    What Kyle did was something I started programming myself too about 10 years ago for populating drawings from Invensys MNL programs and it was a massive time saver. eventually left invensys and all that remains is the background template and controller stencils. I may still have VBA CODE as well.

    Seeing it in action reminds me of just how useful that little tool was back then

    Hmmm...maybe time resurrect it only with different controller templates.

    ...excel is a database...and it has a very useful gui too

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