Shapes help designs follow thinking

To capture and communicate ideas, decisions, and processes, people often use pictures. Using its experience developing Aldus PageMaker for Microsoft Windows, Visio Corp. (Seattle, Wa.) recently updated its intuitive tool for producing two-dimensional technical drawings. Rather than starting with a blank page, however, Visio Technical 5.

01/01/1999


To capture and communicate ideas, decisions, and processes, people often use pictures. Using its experience developing Aldus PageMaker for Microsoft Windows, Visio Corp. (Seattle, Wa.) recently updated its intuitive tool for producing two-dimensional technical drawings. Rather than starting with a blank page, however, Visio Technical 5.0 Plus provides stencils and pre-drawn SmartShapes symbols so users can quickly express ideas, manipulate data, and connect functions.

To save precious development time, SmartShapes are configured with behavioral characteristics contained in a spreadsheet behind each symbol. This allows the symbols to resize designs without distorting, place text properly, and know when to display or hide segments. When resizing, for example, clip art would stretch a bolt design's head out of proportion and maintain an unnecessary relationship between the stem's threaded and non-threaded portions. However, SmartShapes can add length only to the stem's non-threaded portion without changing the bolt's other portions.

Building associations

SmartShapes' spreadsheet-based symbols can also be used with valves or instruments in Technical 5.0's piping and instrumentation diagramming (P&ID) library to build an "automatic association" between equipment and the pipeline where it will be installed. When the pipeline moves from horizontal to vertical, valves and instruments associated with it reposition automatically. Visio reports this ability to "glue" symbols can associate transmitters, controllers, valves, and pumps with pipeline drawings, as well as reposition and maintain their relationships correctly.

Besides associating components, SmartShapes can also be instructed to include crucial design requirements, such as adding upstream and downstream dimensioning in flowmeter installations. Because SmartShapes' characteristics can be secured against unauthorized changes, approved company standards can be incorporated in drawings, improving first-draft drawing quality and reducing development and review time.

Users can even make SmartShapes smarter by supplementing them with Microsoft Visual Basic for Applications (VBAs) dialog boxes, which can prompt for size, tags, descriptions, engineering units, node addresses, and other data. This information can be placed on drawings, tables, and applications, including control system network diagrams and control system configurations.

Alerton Technologies (Redmond, Wa.) and Echelon Corp. (Palo Alto, Calif.) are using SmartShapes, SmartConnectors, VBA, and Microsoft Active X Automation to create computer aided software engineering (CASE) tools that generate controller-specific code, perform downloads, and establish real-time connections between executing controller code and the diagram to assist with debugging. Rockwell Automation (Mayfield Heights, O.) is using Visio Technical to develop control logic for its AutoMax family of distributed controllers.

For more information visit www.controleng.com/info .


Author Information
Dave Harrold, senior editor dharrold@cahners.com




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