Mobile computing is doubtless the wave of the future, and smart phones, such as the iPhone, will play a big part in this trend. Once a month, this new section will feature a few nifty engineering apps for the iPhone.
Perhaps it is hard to believe, but even finite-element analysis (FEA) has come to the iPhone. One example, still in beta, is NEi Stratus from NEi Software., Westminster, Calif. To get going, choose one of the four basic shapes: plate, cube, cylinder, or tube. For example, select “cube.” Type in the length, width, and height, say, 4 m, 2 m, and 1 m. Select the material (steel or aluminum). Type in the load, magnitudes, and their direction. Then choose the geometry to be loaded: There are two views for selecting faces, two views for selecting edges, and two views for selecting vertices. Next, choose a constraint: fixed, pinned, or free. Next select the geometry on which to apply the constraint. The model is now set up. Tapping Solve generates a lengthy Results Report and, a few screens later, different color contour maps including those of stresses and displacements. A helpful glossary of common FE terms is at the end of the report.
Consider an app that lets users perform biomedical simulations. With ImageVis3D (open-source, free software available) and the app ImageVis3D Mobile, you can transfer data directly from your desktop to your mobile device to visualize and share datasets while on the go. Among other examples, ImageVis3D Mobile lets users manipulate, display, and rotate 3D images from computerized tomography (CT) and magnetic-resonance imaging (MRI) scans. Doctors might now just whip out their iPhones to show images to their patients that help explain a diagnosis or injury.
Just for fun, why not include a virtual 3D model of a dinosaur (or whatever) in a picture you take with your iPhone camera? Here is where 3DVIA Mobile from Dassault Systèmes, Concord, Mass., comes in handy. Open the app and models such as “Tex Rex” (a dinosaur), “Scoop Chair” (a modern chair), and “BMW Series 1” (an automobile) display in a list. Tapping on one of the models opens a window that explains how to use the gesture icons, zoom in or out, pan, and view the entire model. You can also find models through Search. For example, typing in “bottle” brought up several options ranging from “Evian” and “Dr. Pepper” to “baby bottle” and “vodka.” Just tap the heading to bring up the 3D model. Tap the iPhone screen twice to get the gesture, zoom, and pan tools, or do everything manually by, say, pinching two fingers to make the model bigger or smaller. You can also export models to your Photo Library. Take a picture with the iPhone camera in the 3DVIA Collage screen and then select an image from the Photo Library. The image opens with the 3D model on top. Various tools let you rotate and move the model and change its size. Export the “collage” to the Photo Library and e-mail it to a friend.