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AFT Impulse 20th Anniversary: A Perspective From the Original Impulse Developer

Twenty years ago today I was working desperately on putting the finishing touches on AFT Impulse 1.0. At the time, AFT was a pioneer in every sense of the word. AFT was the first and only company developing visual, drag-and-drop pipe flow modeling software for Microsoft Windows. And AFT Impulse was set to become the world's first visual waterhammer software for Windows. We already had orders for AFT Impulse before it was complete, such was the demand!

The day-to-day demands of getting AFT going as a company was slowing down the completion of AFT Impulse. So I turned over the day-to-day tasks to the two engineers I had at the time. One of the two, Jeff Olsen, is still with AFT as V.P. Technology. I took my computer and huge CRT monitor home to work in my basement for some long and uninterrupted hours, days and weeks. 

Besides the customers who wanted and needed AFT Impulse and had already placed orders, I had plans to drive with my family to California from Colorado to visit extended family there for Thanksgiving. I desperately wanted to leave for this holiday trip with AFT Impulse complete. For non-American readers, Thanksgiving is a major American holiday that occurs on the fourth Thursday of November. On November 21 , 1996, I finished work on AFT Impulse 1.0. And AFT had it's third major pipe flow modeling product in its third year as a company.

The backstory on AFT Impulse is that when I first began working on AFT Fathom, I envisioned it doing waterhammer in addition to steady-state analysis. In other words, AFT Fathom was supposed to be more like what AFT Impulse is today. This is discussed is another article I wrote: Where Did the Name "Fathom" Come From? which is also discussed the original meaning of the acronym "FATHOM".

Back in 1996, waterhammer analysis was still the domain of highly specialized experts. As I have often said, AFT Impulse was designed to make it so that waterhammer analysis could be performed by mere mortals. In other words, I wanted to make waterhammer analysis accessible to engineers who were not specialists.

In order to do this, we needed three things. First we needed an intuitive graphical user interface for model building. Second we needed a robust computational waterhammer solver. And third we needed to build intelligence into the software that would compensate for the lack of specialized knowledge from the anticipated users. Those things are what AFT Impulse was designed to accomplish.

AFT Impulse 1.0 did not have a steady-state solver built into it like it does today. That would not come until version 2. So users needed to determine steady-state condition using alternate means. We had a link between AFT Fathom 2 and 3 that would create files with steady-state results which could be transferred into AFT Impulse. In practice users found this link to be cumbersome and they made many mistakes trying to use it. Which meant a high technical support load for us. That is why in AFT Impulse 2 we got rid of the link and just put a steady-state solver right into AFT Impulse. In hindsight that was a very good decision. AFT Impulse was not completed until early 2002, and it had numerous new features including being upgraded from 16-bit to 32-bit.

I have taught dozens of training classes on AFT Impulse and have been gratified to see how widely it has been applied by our engineering users in industry. Today AFT Impulse is an internationally recognized waterhammer simulation tool depended upon by many of the world's leading engineering firms. The last twenty years has been quite an adventure!

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Tuesday, 28 March 2023
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