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Computers make life easier at Deere

  Computers have made our lives easier, as Mike Mack well knows.
  Mack is the director of the John Deere Product Engineering Center and he recalls the days 30 years ago before computers were much in use.
  "Gear design was then a very tedious process, but one requiring painstaking accuracy," Mack says.
  "All calculations were carried out to eight decimal places and they were very, very lengthy."
The calculations were performed manually with the help of a mechanical calculator.
  An Engineer, practiced in the technique, would spend about two days preparing the calculations for one gear mesh.
  "When he finished, he hoped - but could not be certain - that he had not introduced human error into his calculations somewhere along the way." Mack says.
  The lengthy process wasn't a good use of an engineer's time. So in 1956, Deere bought some computers, which at that time were large machines. And the company wrote a computer program for gear design.
  "As you might guess, the popularity of the gear computer program spread quickly throughout the industry," Mack says.
  "The two-day manual method was reduced to about 15 minutes on the computers of 25 years ago and today the operation is completed in seconds on our present computer equipment."
Today, about 400 design procedures are stored in the computers at Deere's Engineering Center.
The most recent application of computers to the design process is the area of computer graphics.
  "A number of our drawings are now generated on a video display terminal and stored as digital information in the computer," Mack says, noting that this system will eventually replace drawing boards and drawing files.
  "The real payoff," Mack says, "is realized when the design process interfaces with the manufacturing equipment and the design data stored in the computer is transmitted directly to the machine which produces the part."

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