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Low-priced package for simple flowsheets.

Low-Priced Package for Simple Flowsheets

After reading the review for Freelance Plus, my company bought a copy to make Lotus 1-2-3 and Symphony graphs more presentable. I also found it useful for preparing simple flowsheets. Dawn Graphics have now introduced Flowplanner to fill this latter need. This low-priced package is available as shareware and can be downloaded from a computer bulletin board or copied from a friend.

Flowplanner was designed for process engineers who have decided that Autocad and Intergraph are `cover-kill' for simple flowsheets, piping schematics, and process and instrumentation diagrams. It comes complete with the symbols a process engineer would use and requires no particular skill or training. Diagrams are created by interacting with screen commands and positioning the cursor.

A few drawbacks seem important to this writer. 1. It is not compatible with Autocad or Intergraph systems. 2. While high quality output can be sent to a plotter, only a screen dump is available for dot-matrix printers; this limits the quality. (Editor's note: While this may appear a severe limitation, the solution is a package which saves the plot to file and the subject of an upcoming review.) 3. Editing an existing drawing is fairly slow. If a mistake is caught immediately, the `OOPS!' key (F10) can be pressed, and an erasure is made; however, if another entry is made, the mistake cannot be corrected. The drawing has to be reloaded and each element of the drawing sequence must be stepped through to the point at which the mistake was made, at which time the `OOPS!' key will erase the mistake. Although this does work, it is fairly awkward and time-consuming. There does not seem to be a way to select any item which requires correction. (There is a method of altering the ASCII file which contains the instructions for the drawing, but this requires some patience as well.)

The most useful function of this software is its template selection. These can be used to create most unit operations and valves. The modest price makes Flowplanner perfect for students with courses in process design. The chemical engineer who has no access to more extensive packages will find it serves quite nicely for quick piping schematics and flowsheets and produces output suitable for presentation or a technical proposal. It is not adequate for detailed engineering.

Although there are some frustrating idiosyncrasies associated with connecting lines, and editing, it will do what it claims. While version 1.9 does not support a mouse, according to Dawn Graphics, version 2.0 will and also a Polaroid Palette. When available, it will be able to provide engineers with flowsheet slides for presentation.

For the casual user, this package is ideal. As shareware, you can legally try it before deciding to purchase. It is easy to use, and the instructions supplied are not required reading to get a useful drawing. According to the creators of Flowplanner, it was "conceived as an interactive program to permit casual users to produce presentation quality line drawings, particularly for technical topics. There are many excellent computer aided design (CAD) systems available, with broad-ranging abilities to produce line drawings. Using most of these programs, however, requires some time devoted to the development of skills in applying the broad capabilities of the system and some level of continuing use to maintain those skills."

"Flowplanner was created to provide a system for more specialized use, but one that could readily be used by someone only casually familiar with personal computers and pen plotters. The major simplifying concept used in Flowplanner is the restriction of its diagramming activity to a single discipline. This version of Flowplanner is designed for use by engineers working in the process industry (chemicals, pulp and paper, food processing, etc). It is capable of producing general line graphics such as schedules and organization charts, as well as process flow diagrams. Using Flowplanner, you draw in a very intuitive way, much as you would use a straight edge and drawing templates. Figures are placed and sized by simple visual interaction with the screen image."

HENRY K. MIYAMOTO, MCIC MacLaren Plansearch, Willowdale, Ont.
COPYRIGHT 1989 Chemical Institute of Canada
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1989 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:process engineering diagramming software
Publication:Canadian Chemical News
Date:Sep 1, 1989
Previous Article:Process control education: are we teaching the right stuff?
Next Article:SPC orchestrates better process control.

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