My wife and I recently became the proud owners of smart phones, and we’re now discovering the marvelous multitude of apps. Being avid birders, the first thing we did was load complete field guides into our phones, which have now become as indispensible as binoculars on our nature walks. Amazing!

Our experience got me to thinking about apps for manufacturing and design engineers. Myriad apps are available for engineering reference books, industrial catalogs, industry standards and regulations, and trade magazines. (Alas, ASSEMBLY is not yet among them, though you can get the magazine digitally.)

More intriguing are apps that promise to make engineers’ jobs a little easier. Numerous apps are available to calculate fastening torque, takt time, overall equipment effectiveness (OEE) and other numbers. Incredibly, most of them are free. Here are a few that I found:

Lean Calculator. This app calculates key statistics for lean manufacturing, including takt time, demand, available time, resources, lead time, cycle time, work-in-process, throughput and OEE. Price: $0.99.

Laminates Calculator. This app allows engineers who work with composites to design laminates from more than 30 preloaded resins and reinforcement records. Price: Free.

Line Lab. This app lets engineers quickly apply queuing theory. It calculates wait times, asset utilization and total processing times. Price: Free.

Martin’s Engineering Tools of the Trade. Developed by Martin Sprocket & Gear Inc., this app contains more than 200 formulas and conversions needed by mechanical engineers. It includes formulas for design horsepower, drive speed ratio, outside diameter of gears, circular pitch for gears, worm ratio, gear ratios, mass, kinetic energy, largest pulley load, centrifugal force, direct current, shear stress, polar moment of inertia, and measurement conversions. Price: Free.

Autodesk Force Effect. This app simulates design concepts on your phone, letting you bring engineering to the point of the problem. Price: Free.

Electronics Engineering Toolkit. This app is a collection of calculators, simulators, and circuit and application examples. Price: $3.99.

Engineering Professional. This app contains more than 650 formulas for chemical, civil, electrical, environmental, hydrological and mechanical engineering. Price: $11.99.

Engineering Toolbox. This app aids in the design of bolted joints. Price: $4.99.

Equation Library. This app contains a host of formulas for general math, physics, heat transfer, fluid mechanics, thermodynamics, stress and electricity. Price: $0.99.

Mill Turn Calculator. Developed by the Society for Manufacturing Engineers, this app determines feed speeds for turning and milling applications. Complete with a material selection guide, this app is ideal for machine tool operators. Price: Free.

Part Tracker. This app helps track the progress of a project. Use the camera on your smart phone to take photos of each step. The app then allows you to add descriptions of each part in the photo, set part assembly order, tag parts with identifiers, and write assembly instructions. Price: $0.99.

PEM Spec. This app allows engineers to quickly look up critical installation dimensions for various fasteners made by Penn Engineering.

REFA Time. This app helps engineers carry out time studies. Price: Free.

Do you have a smart phone? What apps do you use on the job? What apps would you like to see? Share your thoughts!