Some engineers may think of the iPhone as just a fad for youngsters who like to IM, play games, and take pictures with their phones. Not really. The iPhone can be a useful engineering tool and there seem to be more engineering apps every day. Here is a sampling of our favorite, many of which are free.

The recent buzz about energy efficiency makes it fortunate that engineers can now use the Baldor Energy $aving Tool (BE$T) to determine the annual operating costs and kilowatt hour (kWh) usage of an electric motor. Users select from menus existing motor data such as rpm, voltage, horsepower output, and number of phases. The program compares the efficiency of the existing motor to a comparable Baldor Super-E NEMA Premium efficient motor, shows results, and suggests a replacement Baldor motor. Our test analysis for one motor slashed annual electricity costs by $120, enough for a 46-month payback. Also, calculations in this case showed the Baldor motor to be 84% efficient as compared to the existing 50%-efficient motor.

Tough economic times seem to be continuing. So to be on the safe side, you might want to try the Engineering Jobs app, touted as “the world’s largest network of niche career communities.” Upon opening the program, enter your email address, first name, and phone number and then select an industry such as Engineering & Architecture or Education, Training, & Library. Buttons at the bottom of the screen let you search for jobs, select career articles, and save your results. Clicking on Search brings up a screen to enter a job title, keywords, or company name. Typing in “mechanical engineer” for Cleveland, Ohio, for instance, brought up about ten results. These included an aerospace engineer position at Booz Allen, mechanical engineering team leader at Overhead Door, and field service engineer at Eaton.

For a great time waster and to help eliminate stress, there might be nothing better than Slayer Pinball Rocks, a 3D, interactive pinball game based on the metal rock band Slayer. The hyper-realistic game has a nightmare backdrop of skulls and gore inspired by the band’s latest head-banging screamer, World Painted Blood. The game includes ear-splitting music and guitar-shredding mini-games. Working the screen in a flipper-thrashing frenzy ups your score. Save your score and compare it to world and local rankings.

Need a lot of engineering information packed in a portable format? Check out the Martin’s Engineering Tools of the Trade app. Clicking on the Contents icon at the bottom of the screen brings up choices including Bearing, Belt, Gears, Kinetic Energy, Engineering Data, Metalworking, Shafts, Sprockets, and Conversions. The Bearing section, for example, lets you determine the required length of a sleeve-type bearing by typing-in the bearing load, allowable pressure, and bearing diameter. You can save the calculation and add it to a Favorites section. The Engineering Data section is also chock-full of information including references for torque ratings, electrical formulas, and NEMA frame designations. There are formulas that let users calculate the volume of any flywheel or find the radius of gyration in feet for a flywheel rim. An efficient Search function lets you easily pinpoint areas of interest.

Last but not least is the WolframAlpha “computational knowledge engine.” Just open the app and input whatever topic about which you want to make calculations or glean objective facts. An Examples section gets users going, showing them how to do basic operations like converting a decimal number to another base or computing a Doppler shift. Or, just type-in a topic of interest. For example, entering “fractal” brings up various choices including the Koch snowflake. The app calculates the shape using a determined number of iterations and lists information such as the snowflake’s dimensions. Click an icon at the bottom of the window to get a history of the fractal and a description of how the shape is mathematically developed.

Sources: Authored by Leslie Gordon, Senior Editor, leslie.gordon@penton.com