This article explains how software and networked information sometimes become a problem for mechanical engineers. Many mechanical engineers find themselves deeply challenged by their digital work environments. Supposedly created to relieve them of tedious and repetitive work, the ubiquitous computer systems all too often thwart collaboration among engineers. The variety of data involved in computer-aided design, simulation, and analysis is overwhelming. New-product development regularly presents translation challenges, starting with sophisticated geometry such as blended surfaces and variable-radius splines. Graphic formats also advance steadily. Software developers regularly update graphical user interfaces and enhance their data-capture capabilities. Because each drawing and its information are used again and again, every engineer who imports files into a new system has to choose between modifying as necessary and recreating them keystroke by keystroke. Recreating means that the original cannot be trusted and can entail an enormous waste of time. Manipulating information from one format to another is tedious and stressful, with big opportunities for error.

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