Jet Propulsion Laboratory NASA engineers used Simcenter Femap to ensure Curiosity could endure the “Seven Minutes of Terror”

Product: Femap, Simcenter
Industry: Aerospace and Defense

Simcenter Femap helps optimize component and parts for Curiosity’s mission to Mars, the most challenging and demanding ever.

Sending a package to Mars is a complex undertaking

Delivering a roving science laboratory from Earth to the planet Mars requires meticulous planning and precision performance. You only have one chance to get it right: there’s no margin for error. Engineers and scientists at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) at the California Institute of Technology had to make crucial decisions thousands of times over a multi-year product development schedule to successfully land the Mars Rover “Curiosity” on the floor of Gale Crater on August 6, 2012.   They’ve been doing rocket science at JPL since the 1930s. In 1958, JPL scientists launched Explorer, the first US satellite to orbit the Earth, followed by many successful missions not only near Earth, but also to other planets and the stars.

JPL engineers use a toolkit of engineering software applications from Siemens Digital Industries Software to help them make highly informed decisions. A key component in this toolkit is Simcenter™ Femap™ software, an advanced engineering simulation software program that helps create finite element analysis (FEA) models of complex engineering products and systems and displays solution results. Using Simcenter Femap, JPL engineers virtually modeled Curiosity’s components, assemblies and systems, and simulated their performance under a variety of conditions.

From 13,000 to 0 mph in seven minutes Also known as the Mars Science Laboratory (MSL), this rover is massive compared to earlier vehicles NASA has landed on the “Red Planet.” In the deployed configuration with the arm extended, the rover is 2.5 meters wide, 4.5 meters long and 2.1 meters high. Weighing nearly a ton, the Curiosity rover is five times the mass and twice the length of its predecessors, which meant that an entirely new and much softer landing procedure had to be engineered. NASA needed to slow the rover spacecraft from a speed of 13,000 miles per hour (mph) to a virtual standstill to softly land the rover during what NASA calls “Seven Minutes of Terror.” After completing a series of “S” maneuvers, deploying a huge parachute, and then with the unprecedented use of a specially designed “sky crane,” the MSL was gently set down so as not to damage the labs’ functional and scientific components.

Those components include a 2.1 m long robotic arm, which is used to collect powdered samples from rocks, scoop soil, brush surfaces and deliver samples for analytical instruments. The science instruments on the arm’s turret include the Mars Hand Lens Imager (MAHLI) and the Alpha Particle X-ray Spectrometer (APXS). Other tools on the turret are components of the rover’s Sample Acquisition, Processing and Handling (SA/SPaH) subsystem: The Powder Acquisition Drill System (PADS), the Dust Removal Tool (DRT), and the Collection and Handling for Interior Martian Rock Analysis (CHIMRA) device.

Curiosity also inherited many design elements from the previous Mars rovers “Spirit” and “Opportunity,” which reached Mars in 2004. Those features include six-wheel drive, a rocker-bogie suspension system and cameras mounted on a mast to help the mission’s team on Earth select exploration targets and driving routes on Mars.

Virtually all of the spacecraft itself and its payload were subjected to simulation analysis using Simcenter Femap for pre- and post-processing. Simulations performed before part and system production included linear static, normal loads, buckling, nonlinear, random vibration and transient analyses. Thousands of design decisions were made using information from Simcenter Femap simulations.

In addition to the complex nature of the mission itself, engineers developing Curiosity from initial design to final delivery of components to Cape Canaveral were working against the clock. The ideal time window to send a package from Earth to Mars is a 2- to 3-week period that happens roughly every 26 months. Missing that window would have set the mission back by more than two years, so JPL engineers needed to analyze parts and components quickly and efficiently so that they could be fabricated.

The role of Simcenter Femap

Simcenter Femap is JPL’s primary pre- and postprocessor for FEA. For MSL, engineers started using Simcenter Femap early in the design stage when they were performing trade studies on various configurations or different ways to approach the mission. As the configuration matured, they used Simcenter Femap to help create the master finite element model that was used to run the various load cases.

Most of the structural analysts at JPL use Simcenter Femap either for creating or viewing the results of a FEA run. The software was used for both high level-linear analysis and very detailed nonlinear analysis. These are two very different types of analysis both using the same piece of software.

Certain jobs were simply too large for one person, and in some instances engineers had to build on the work of other people who had previously used Simcenter Femap to build FEA models. Simcenter Femap was designed as a very easy-to-use package, created for analysts by analysts who are acutely aware of what engineers need and how they work. They can pick it up after six months of non-use and be back to peak proficiency in a very short time.

Simcenter Femap was critical in performing all types of FEA on all aspects of the vehicle. Each component of the vehicle had a higher-level, loads-type model built, and these models were joined to create the full spacecraft model. JPL engineers worked through various “what if” scenarios, including as many as 37 different load cases for how the parachute would deploy during the landing process.

The Curiosity mission is not JPL’s only current project. Other missions include satellites monitoring conditions on Earth, telescopes, experiments and other spacecraft.

Planned missions include the InSight mission that will place a lander on Mars in 2016 to drill beneath the surface and investigate the planet’s deep interior to better understand Mars’ evolution. There are even plans for a proposed Mars Sample Return mission, which would collect samples from the surface of Mars and return them to Earth.

JPL engineers are currently using and will likely continue to use Simcenter Femap to help accomplish these and other missions of engineering, discovery and science.

GKN Aerospace uses Tecnomatix Plant Simulation to optimize production processes.

Product: Tecnomatix
Industry: Aerospace and Defense

Global aerospace engine supplier deploys Siemens solution to identify production bottlenecks and lower costs

GKN Aerospace Engines, a business line of GKN Aerospace, needed a better tool to plan and optimize their production process and production equipment investment, a tool that would aid in strategic planning, and handle real life complexity to accurately predict lead times and consider variation. GKN Aerospace needed a new avenue to meet customer delivery expectations and identify any existing problems that could be solved before they became unmanageable. In addition, some value streams share production resources between different products, which cause crossing material flows. The production complexity and the daily base decision making, impact the lead time, and created an opportunity for a simulation-based approach, to support a continuous improvement. This led GKN Aerospace to believe that discrete event simulation would perfectly support the company’s different initiatives.

Recognizing a clear need to make their cur-rent processes more efficient, while also considering expected future production volume increases, GKN Aerospace decided to conduct a pilot program using Plant Simulation in the Tecnomatix® portfolio. Plant Simulation enables users to define a virtual model of a production plant, with all its characteristics and inter-dependencies, and use it to simulate actual production. Tecnomatix is a part of the Xcelerator™ portfolio, a comprehensive and integrated portfolio of software and services from Siemens Digital Industries Software.

“We started to use Plant Simulation as we needed a better strategic planning tool to analyze and plan production capacity,” says Alexander Hall, MOM-MES Architect, GKN Aerospace Engines Business Line, TI-IS. “Given the combination of increased fore-casted production volumes and the complexity of our production process, we have realized that the static capacity analysis tools we were using were not accurate enough.”

Pilot project takes flight

The Plant Simulation pilot project was conducted at GKN Aerospace’s plant in Kongsberg, Norway. This plant was selected for the pilot, as production volumes of their TEC/TRF product family were expected to grow significantly, creating the need to conduct a production analysis and adjust the product system to the new expected volume. The engineers in the Kongsberg plant possessed basic experience with discrete event simulation tools before starting the Plant Simulation project. One of their main goals in this virtual production project was to analyze value streams (value stream is GKN Aerospace’s terminology for a product family and its production process) and identify potential problem areas (bottlenecks, which machines are not being properly utilized, etc.) for improvement.

Production simulation with Plant Simulation can consider the effect of variability, an important factor that strongly impacts plant performance. In Kongsberg they have planned and unplanned variability. Examples of unplanned variability include machine failures, lack of material from suppliers, and non-conformance. In an environment with a lot of uncertainties, the simulation is a robust production digital twin that takes into account these issues and, in turn, improves decision making in the areas of machine investment and process improvement. Simulation is also a major component of GKN Aerospace’s digitalization initiative.

GKN Aerospace created a simulation model with Plant Simulation, simulated real-life historical production scenarios to validate the model accuracy, and used the model to test future production volume increase scenarios and options. In addition, the capability of Plant Simulation to visualize the production process in a dynamic 3D environment was powerful as it helped GKN Aerospace’s employees to better understand the layout, production process and material flow.

The Plant Simulation pilot project had three main targets: evaluate the applicability of Plant Simulation for GKN Aerospace, pro-duce a simulation template that will ease the use of the simulation tool in other pro-duction sites and analyze the expected volume increase in one of the plant product families (or value streams). All three targets were met successfully with Plant Simulation.

Another, somewhat unplanned benefit, obtained from the Plant Simulation pilot was that it gave GKN Aerospace a better understanding of how production related data is handled within the company, allowing them to identify several potential areas of important improvements in systems integration and data flows.

Finally, all the insights obtained with Plant Simulation were gained through the creation of a realistic production digital twin model without interfering with the actual production.

“We have a lot of planned and unplanned variability in our plant,” says Ragnhild Hansen, technology/project engineer, GKN Aerospace Kongsberg site. “For example, handling non-conformance is an unplanned activity that has a strong impact on our pro-duction performance. Plant Simulation helps us analyze the impact of variability on the plant performance, as otherwise it’s almost impossible.”

Martin Asp, MOM-MES Architect, GKN Aerospace Engines Business Line, TI-IS says that GKN Aerospace’s production system is very complex and includes variability in both volume and product mix. “It’s a system within a system , with a lot of interdependencies, which makes it challenging to analyze without a suitable tool,” he says. “As such, we have found Plant Simulation is a tool that can handle this complexity and highlight beneficial insights.” GKN Aerospace also used the unique capability Plant Simulation possesses to represent material flow paths and volume with the Sankey Diagram to help demonstrate to their management team the complexity and many interdependencies of GKN Aerospace’s production and material flow. In a Sankey Diagram, the width of a line represents the volume (material or technicians) flowing or moving in this route (a similar concept is common in train or subway maps). An example for the importance of material flow paths analysis is the single heat treatment work cell, which supports several value streams.

Plant Simulation showed GKN Aerospace’s production team that facility equipment breakdown and maintenance was impacting production of their leading turbine rear frame product by only four percent, which contradicted their original projections. On the other hand, Plant Simulation revealed that manual production impacts 72 percent of the lead time, clearly showing where optimization can be most impactful for GKN Aerospace. “We realized we needed to change the static production analysis we were doing to a dynamic one, so we started to use Plant Simulation,” says Mikael Carlsson, MOM-MES Manager, GKN Aerospace Engines Business Line, TI-IS. “We decided to include non-conformance processes in our simulation model. Predicting lead times for rework orders is a challenge for our business. Using different scenarios in Plant Simulation we can see the impact on lead time of different types of rework. By using Plant simulation we were able to identify a bottleneck caused by rework in combination with main production flow. We resolved this by adding a new workstation.” With Plant Simulation, GKN Aerospace can simulate an entire production line and come up with concrete conclusions to potential performance improvements. Such a dynamic simulation considers pro-duction and material flow dependencies between machines and production cells.

“We found the capacity and utilization results obtained with Plant Simulation were 30 percent more accurate than our previous methods,” says Hansen.

Positive early returns

The Plant Simulation pilot project provided GKN Aerospace with a software tool that can handle its strategic target to reduce pro-duction lead time with the expectation it will ultimately result in a competitive advantage since Plant Simulation assists with testing and validating production scenarios, saving time and money.

GKN Aerospace also used Plant Simulation to calculate production capacity and visualize the material flow. The simulation also helped easily identify bottlenecks as GKN Aerospace can run Plant Simulation for any production period (for example, one week). Plant Simulation also helped GKN Aerospace plan production shifts and answer operational questions. “Following the comprehensive Plant Simulation pilot we have conducted in our Kongsberg plant in Norway, we were convinced that Plant Simulation can be used to create a simulation model of our aerospace engines pro-duction processes,” says Karl-David Pettersson, SVP Engineering & Technology, GKN Aerospace Business Line. “It helps us optimize production processes, better utilize our production assets, validate the material flow, reduce WIP and determine when we have to purchase new production equipment to increase production capacity.”

The project was carried out with the support of Siemens consultants, which helped GKN Aerospace to ramp up with Plant Simulation. At some point, a simulation need arose from their U.S. production site as GKN Aerospace was planning to change the product flow and wanted to understand the impact on the delivery to customers. GKN Aerospace engineers built a simulation model to support this, on their own, with-out the help of the Siemens consultants, which was a good sign for the GKN Aerospace ramp up with simulation skills.

Jonas Steen, Director of Technology Insertion Information Systems, GKN Aerospace Engines Business Line, concludes, “GKN Aerospace Engines Business Line produces complex products with exceptionally high quality requirements in a low volume, using very expensive equipment, which is sometimes used for various products. The combination of all this creates a very complex production scenario, such that only an advanced simulation tool like Plant Simulation can handle this complexity.”

To have a more successful buy in of the innovative methodology Plant Simulation offers, the project team made sure to involve the plant production people in the activity. Such an example is the involvement of Daniel Bryn, a shaft value stream manager in the plant, who believes Plant Simulation is an essential means to reduce production lead time, which is a strong initiative. An example of an important simulation need that came from his value stream is the analy-sis of the paint shop area. As the paint process includes a lot of diversified pro-duction processes, it’s not completely straightforward to understand the flow and dynamics within this area, and there was a feeling that only the people that worked there can really understand and optimize it. He asked to analyze how to increase the rate of shafts processed in this area, without increasing the man-power, and indeed, such a simulation was done, revealing promising insights.

In another simulation project for this value stream, they evaluated the intro-duction of an entire automated cell for shafts (robotics material handling, auto-mated turning milling machine, etc.). Plant Simulation helped analyze how the new machines would impact the production sequence, helped compare it to performances of similar machines they already had, and showed how this would impact the existing machines in the line. This activity also proved that GKN Aerospace can reuse a simulation model from one value stream to another.

Plant Simulation also provides value with customer-related scenarios, allowing GKN Aerospace to showcase their innovative production process.  “Plant Simulation can be used to show the customer an active production line or a planned concept of a production line in a very dynamic and visualized manner that highlights GKN Aerospace’s innovation,” says Bryn.

As a result of this pilot project, GKN Aerospace can use Plant Simulation in various areas, such as supporting lean manufacturing. Plant Simulation helps GKN Aerospace better understand their value streams and the vast amounts of data the company isn’t fully utilizing. The pilot project also offered GKN Aerospace significant transparency into their production facility and allowed them to better under-stand their processes. Plant Simulation is used both for completely new processes and value streams (greenfield areas), but also to support (continued) improvement of existing production processes. In addition, a few new potential simulation initiatives with Plant Simulation were identified, such as shop floor production space analysis, operational process planning, supporting bid processes and others.

GKN Aerospace also has some thoughts on how they can use Plant Simulation to cope with the new challenges the COVID-19 pan-demic presented. For example, the production digital twin created with the simulation can be used for a lot of virtual reviews and reduce face-to-face interaction of employees. Also, the visualization and simulation of a production line helps to understand the production flow, almost as if you’ve visited the line.

“We have learned that Plant Simulation is a great simulation tool that supports our expected production volume change,” says Pettersson. “It certainly proved its value.”

Heiwa Sangyo: NX supports the entire operation of various machinery tools

Product: NX CAM
Industry: Aerospace y Defense

CAD/CAM integration optimizes production data creation

Manufacture of high quality and precision parts with simultaneous and multi-axis machinery

Heiwa Sangyo Co., Ltd. (Heiwa Sangyo) manufactures products that require high quality and precision, including aircraft engines and structures, high-speed rail transport components and rocket parts. The company specializes in simultaneous and multi-axis machinery, in addition to the manufacture of molds. Heiwa Sangyo has a diverse set of machinery tools. In this context, NX™ software from product lifecycle management (PLM) specialist Siemens PLM Software, has become indispensable as a computer-aided manufacturing (CAM) main system.

With operations in Funabashi and Ichikawa in Chiba Prefecture, as well as Komagane in Nagano Prefecture, Heiwa Sangyo uses two other systems besides NX: one exclusively for computer-aided design (CAD) and the other for CAM only. The use of NX as an integrated CAD/CAM system is on the rise.

NX (formerly known as Unigraphics software®) was initially implemented in Heiwa Sangyo in the late 1990s. At the time, the company used a very expensive numerical control (NC) programming system that did not offer a favorable cost-benefit ratio. Heiwa Sangyo had many heavy industry customers and considered expanding his businesses and moving on to manufacturing energy-efficient molding tools. The company chose NX for its lower cost and because it was widely used in the energy-efficient molding sector.

At the time of its introduction, NX was used for mold manufacturing, but also helped Heiwa Sangyo acquire new businesses. “NX is the leading CAD/CAM solution in the field of aircraft engines,” explains Yasuhiro Yao, president of Heiwa Sangyo. “Previously, design work was done in 2D, but from 2000, motorcycle companies switched to using 3D and the tool used was NX. That’s why the use of NX generated new orders for our company.”

CAD/CAM integration accelerates production data creation

Heiwa Sangyo manufactures parts based on design data provided by its customers. Customers usually provide only the model of the finished part with some machinery instructions and other documents. Heiwa Sangyo engineers must create additional data for the manufacturing process, including the design of fasteners and fasteners. “The modeling process for creating manufacturing data is quite complex,” explains Shinichi Ohara, Department of Manufacturing Engineering, Heiwa Sangyo. “With CAD and CAM linking, NX is extremely effective in solving this challenge.”

Heiwa Sangyo uses NX in all processes, from the moment customer data is received until machinery tools are put up and running. In many projects, Heiwa Sangyo must create drawings from designs by using NX’s sketching resources. When machinery involves so many steps and various types of machinery tools, engineers use NX to create work instructions and processing plans. “NX is a complete CAD/CAM solution that we use when we need to move from design and drawing to plant production,” says Ohara.

Working with customer data

In many cases, customer-supplied design data is not in the native NX format. In such cases, the company imports data into NX in common intermediate formats such as the Standard for the Exchange of Product Model Data (STEP) or the Parasolid® software format.

NX synchronous technology modeling resources are particularly useful when working with imported data. “We lose the original parameters when importing the provided data and end up with a model that we can’t review with conventional modeling,” says Ohara. “In that case, the use of synchronous technology allows us to resize holes or move surfaces in models that have no history, so we use it a lot.”

Heiwa Sangyo also uses NX modeling features for troubleshooting when there are incidents when converting data from other systems. Translation problems require additional time to clean up and repair data and can affect the production schedule. Data conversion issues become even more serious when 3D data is provided without blueprints, as the company must work only with the shape data. “Depending on the system used to create the part model, problems such as lack of surfaces can occur when importing data,” Ohara explains. “NX is able to easily read and edit that data, even if there is a problem. NX is very useful for repairing data when conversion problems occur.”

Post Builder achieves maximum performance in machinery tools

Because Heiwa Sangyo is in the real product manufacturing business, the company must be able to create NC code for a wide variety of machinery tools and controller configurations. More than 15 types of postprocessors are needed for the operation of the company’s machinery tools. Creating these processing-res can be very difficult and Heiwa Sangyo engineers use the built-in NX CAM Post Builder resource to improve this process.

Prior to NX CAM, Heiwa Sangyo leaned on other companies to create postprocessors. “With the CAM system we used before, we outsourced the development of the necessary postprocessors for each machine tool,” Ohara says. “We had to buy the processors for each machine tool, but we couldn’t add or change anything for them. One thing we love about NX CAM is its ability to quickly customize postprocessors. It gives users dedicated features in an easy-to-use user interface that responds to requests from CAM users.” Yao sums up the merits of post-processing with NX: “the postprocessor was a black box, but with NX Post Builder we can now create it and adjust it ourselves”.

Reduced to half the training time

In an industry where CAD/CAM usage increases every day, NX helps reduce the cost and time required for staff training. “Other systems are hardly dedicated to CAM or CAD, so you have to learn two tools to use them as a CAD/CAM system. NX is an integrated CAD/CAM solution, so it only requires half the training time,” says Ohara. Features that enable intuitive creation and editing of models, such as synchronous technology, are effective when used by engineers with some CAD skills.

Confidence in system development and support

Prior to NX, Heiwa Sangyo used another CAM system as the primary solution. The other system was considered easier to use for simultaneous multi-axis machines, which is the company’s specialty. However, changes in the continuous development of that system focused more on design functions than cam and the system lost its previous advantages.

“The direction of development (furthest from production) is evident in the characteristics of each system,” Yao says. “At that point, I think NX is a tool that has developed constantly over a long period of time.”

Heiwa Sangyo also values support as one of the key reasons for using NX as its main system. “NX provides valuable tool libraries and tool holders, even for tasks we perform on other systems,” says Shinichi Ohara, who manages the NX operation at Heiwa Sangyo. “In addition to CAM’s core features, NX also supports peripheral technologies such as templates and design libraries used in CAD. I think full support is the most important reason why we’ve been able to use NX our way. We can talk directly to the developer and, for a company of our size, direct communication becomes personal and reassuring.”

Finding the future of manufacturing

Heiwa Sangyo sees many advantages in NX, for example, software compatibility with the advanced resources of the latest machine tools. The company is also attuned to NX’s potential under Siemens, which also manufactures industry-leading machine tool controllers and has a reputation for being a facilitator for complex, high-performance machinery. “Siemens is an established leader in the field of CNC controllers for simultaneous, multi-axis machine tools,” says Yao. “NX is part of the same Siemens brand. From the user’s point of view, this technological integration lays the foundation for solving next-generation problems.”

Heiwa Sangyo is independently expanding the use of NX by linking it to quality control systems. Quality is an important element for companies involved in the manufacture and delivery of real products that meet high consumption standards. Currently, the company uses NX to create customers’ production NC data and send it to machinery tools. Heiwa Sangyo is developing a system to support high-quality manufacturing throughout the process, which will represent a significant competitive advantage. “We want to be able to take a manufacturing result and elevate quality to a higher level by accumulating and analyzing those results,” Yao says.

Topology Optimization and Direct Metal 3D Printing (DMP) in GE Aircraft Engine Bracket Challenge

Product: DMP Printing
Industry: Aerospace and Defense 

Frustum Inc. software and 3D Systems’ Direct Metal Printing expertise cut aircraft bracket weight 70% while meeting all functional requirements.

The conundrum of balancing the design of a part with the constraints of manufacturing has existed since the Industrial Revolution. Conventional manufacturing techniques have limited capabilities to realize complex geometries or organically shaped components on a cost effective way. This results often in components where functionality and performance are a trade-off.

Now that 3D printing, especially Direct Metal Printing (DMP), has become a viable manufacturing alternative, the constraints imposed by traditional manufacturing have been very much removed. In response to this, software tools for Multi-Disciplinary Design Optimization are now emerging to deliver a convergence point. Topology optimization software is now capable of generating the most efficient designs for one-step manufacturing on the latest generation of DMP systems. Translation? What you model is what you manufacture.

This confluence of technologies was demonstrated recently in a project undertaken by software company Frustum and 3D Systems’ On-Demand Parts service, Quickparts. The project was a publicized challenge by GE Aircraft to reduce the weight of an aircraft bracket while maintaining the strength needed to meet all of its functional requirements, primarily supporting the weight of the cowling while the engine is in service.

The critical nature of weight

Since the beginning of motorized travel on land, air or sea, engineers have striven to balance the demands of weight vs. strength. The balancing act has become more critical in recent years with greater worldwide manufacturing competition, stricter energy conservation measures, escalating cost and delivery time pressures.

Weight is especially crucial for modern aircraft. Although a Boeing 737 weighs approximately 65 metric tons, eliminating only one pound in weight can generate savings of hundreds of thousands of dollars each year for airline companies. Spread that number out to include all aircraft worldwide and the savings are upwards of $10 million according to a GE Aircraft white paper.

Optimizing the design

For the GE Aircraft challenge, Frustum’s software for topology optimization provided the first steps in tackling critical weight vs. strength issues.

Topology optimization determines the most-efficient material layout to meet the exact performance requirements of a part. It takes into consideration the given space allowed, load conditions of the part and maximum stresses allowed in the material.

Frustum’s software automatically generates optimized geometries from existing CAD files. It creates material between the design features to make optimally stiff and lightweight structures. Smooth and blended surfaces reduce weight and minimize stress concentrations.

“Based on an existing conventional part design, our software automatically produces optimized geometry for Additive Manufacturing, without needing to do any remodeling,” says Jesse Blankenship, CEO of Frustum.

Unlike parts manufactured by traditional CNC or casting methods, the complexity of the model generated by topology optimization is of no concern, as DMP handles extremely complex models as easily as simplistic ones. Complexity comes at no cost.

Providing the 3D printing expertise

Once the initial design was generated, 3D Systems’ expertise came into play.

3D Systems’ On Demand Manufacturing service, Quickparts is the world’s leading provider of unique, custom-designed parts, offering instant online quoting, expertise in 3D design and printing, and proven manufacturing services support. This worldwide service is especially well-versed in the more complicated aspects of Direct Metal Printing.

“Direct Metal Printing is much more complex than plastics printing,” says Jonathan Cornelus, business development manager for 3D Systems Quickparts. “We help our customers to develop parts suitable for DMP, with minimized risks for part distortions or build crashes. We print components using optimized parameters based on our long-term experience in printing parts for customers.”

Manufacturing a better part

In the case of the GE aircraft bracket, Frustum’s software took the original CAD file and performed the topology optimization in one step, delivering an STL file.

3D Systems provided manufacturing advice on the process, material specifications, the best build orientation to deliver optimal part properties, achievable tolerances, and identified potential risk for deformations. The part was built on a 3D Systems ProX™ DMP 320 system.

The ProX DMP 320, introduced in early January 2016, offers several advantages for optimizing the weight vs. strength for the aircraft bracket.

Preset build parameters, developed by 3D Systems based on the outcome of nearly half-a-million builds, provide predictable and repeatable print quality for almost any geometry.

A totally new architecture simplifies set-up and delivers the versatility to produce all types of part geometries in titanium, stainless steel or nickel super alloy. Titanium was chosen for the GE aircraft bracket, based on its superior strength even when material is thinly applied to lower a part’s weight.

Exchangeable manufacturing modules for the ProX DMP 320 system reduce downtime when moving among different part materials, and a controlled vacuum build chamber ensures that every part is printed with proven material properties, density and chemical purity. The small portion of non-printed material can be completely recycled, saving money and providing environmental benefits.

An eye opener

The completed part, designed by Frustum and DMP-manufactured by 3D Systems, passed all the load condition requirements specified by the GE challenge and stayed within the same footprint while reducing weight by a staggering 70 percent.

“This is the kind of project that should be a real eye-opener for automotive and aerospace companies, where reducing weight while providing the same or improved functionality is the lifeblood of their design, engineering and manufacturing operations,” says Cornelus.

Beyond the design and performance of the part itself, Cornelus points out that topology optimization teamed with DMP can often consolidate multi-part assemblies into a stronger single part, eliminating fasteners and connectors that are often the cause of failures.

Finally, there is the coveted advantage of speed. Production-grade parts in tough materials such as stainless steel, titanium and nickel super alloy can be turned around by 3D Systems in as little as two weeks to satisfy the ever-quickening pace in myriad industries.

ATK: Transforming data into a corporate asset

Industry: Aerospace and Defense

Using the Teamcenter solution for Reporting and Analytics, ATK pulls information from multiple enterprise systems, providing intelligent insight for smarter decisions.

Innovation delivered through PLM

ATK is a premier aerospace and defense company with approximately 17,000 employees working throughout the United States, Puerto Rico and internationally. The company develops and manufactures highly engineered materials and products that support mission-critical applications for its defense, aerospace, and security and sporting customers.

ATK’s business objective is “Innovation Delivered.” To fuel innovation, the company has fully embraced a product lifecycle management (PLM) strategy across its divisions and value chain. Siemens Digital Industries Software solutions – NX™ software, Tecnomatix® software and Teamcenter® software – form the foundation of ATK’s PLM strategy, which spans the product lifecycle. “Our use of PLM extends from portfolio management, to gathering requirements, and then using those requirements throughout all the organizations inside ATK, and even our supply chain outside of ATK, to deliver products that meet our customers’ needs,” explains Jon Jarrett, director of engineering processes and tools at ATK.

The information exists, but how to get at it?

ATK’s PLM database contains a wealth of product and process data, yet it is just one source of information that managers tap as they carry out their programs. Other relevant data resides in financial systems, the company’s enterprise resource planning (ERP) system, the company’s scheduling system, and so on. With critical business information segregated in “silos,” it had become difficult to answer common business questions such as, “What is my first-pass yield?” or “How many documents are needed to support this program and will they all go out on time?”

ATK had been answering such questions by assigning a person to comb through the relevant databases, contact the appropriate people, and prepare a report. Some of thosead hoc reports required as many as 80 hours to generate. And while the company was able to get answers to specific questions this way, managers were not able to use data easily or proactively. In fact, many had created their own spreadsheets and other documents for tracking programs and processes. “People were doing duplicate work and there was no consistent format for those documents,” says Jarrett. “And people were constantly being pinged for information. Those interruptions are very detrimental to productivity. We wanted more efficiency in getting the data out, and we wanted it displayed in a way that everyone could benefit from.”

A BI solution that works with PLM

A business intelligence (BI) solution – software designed to identify, extract and analyze data – seemed to be what ATK needed. The company’s first use of a BI solution for PLM data, however, was a failure. “We went down the path with a certain BI solution to pull PLM data, but it couldn’t understand PLM data models or security rules,” says Paul Nelson, PLM architect at ATK. “We didn’t want people to see data they shouldn’t have access to. We wanted to be able to mine that data for gold, but not make it a free-for-all.”

Next, ATK tried the Teamcenter solution for Reporting and Analytics, which turned out to be a much better solution. Not only is Reporting and Analytics able to work with the Teamcenter data models and security rules, companies can utilize it to extract information from multiple sources, including commercial applications like ATK’s financial systems as well as home-grown programs. In addition, with Reporting and Analytics, users can aggre-gate data from multiple sources into reports and dashboards. Users can explore varying degrees of lower-level data to understand project specifics or higher-level data to get the big picture. ATK’s reports and dashboards typically contain three categories of information – for executives, managers and individual workers.

“Using Reporting and Analytics, we can quickly pull out data that helps us run our business,” says Nelson. “We’re getting gold out of that data now. It’s unlocked, and it can be presented in a way that people understand immediately.” For example, ATK has established a Science and Engineering dashboard that is accessed through a SharePoint portal. “With just a glance, people can see that screen is red or green, and know the status immediately.”

Report writers reassigned; everyone is more efficient

A dashboard showing costs and schedules is displayed continuously on a big-screen TV in a well-traveled place where everyone can see it. In addition to dashboards, ATK has used Reporting and Analytics to develop a number of highly useful reports. This work is done by Tim Gleason, an ATK software engineer, who is now handling a volume of work that required four people previously. “Tim can barely keep up with all the requests for reports, which come from managers and occasionally even from customers,” says Jarrett. “But we used to have four people doing this work. Now it’s just Tim. The others have been reassigned.” Reporting and Analytics’ tools allow Gleason to create reports much faster than anyone could previously, and he appreciates the fact that he can easily arrange the information in any format anyone requests.

A great example of the kind of “gold” that ATK now easily mines from its business systems is one called the “Automated Requirements Volatility Metric (ARVM)” that draws from Teamcenter System Engineering data. “One of the predictive metrics established by the International Council on Systems Engineering (INCOSE) to determine program success is how often requirements change during the life of the program,” explains Nelson. “You’re not going to have a successful program if you’re trying to hit a moving target. The ARVM reports track how many of those baseline requirements are changing on a monthly basis. If they are changing more than a certain threshold, the screen turns red. It’s a way for a program manager to monitor the health of the program.” ATK did track this information in the past. In fact, they had assigned one person to gather data and provide the monthly report. That person has been reassigned.

Other reports used at ATK include one that lets people see all the items they have due within a certain timeframe. “Typically people just get the hammer when they’re behind. This shifts the focus from firefighting to being proactive,” says Nelson. Another report shows managers how many documents must still be completed for a given program. By combining information from the PLM system and the scheduling system, this report can also tell the manager exactly how many hours are needed to complete that work.

In general, the deployment of Reporting and Analytics has made everyone, from executives to engineers, more efficient, according to Jarrett. “People are not being bugged all the time, and they’re not having to do their own Excel reports,” he says. “We are saving thousands of hours this way.” Another advantage of the Teamcenter solution is that information is more current. With reports that formerly took up to 80 hours to create now avail-able automatically, many reports are generated on an hourly, daily or weekly basis rather than monthly. This real-time visibility helps drive data integrity and accuracy. Finally, ATK is seeing its executives take greater advantage of the information in the company’s enterprise systems. “Sure they could do an advanced search of a database, but they are too busy for that,” Nelson explains. “If you break down the barriers, as we have done by giving them a dashboard that’s very graphical and user-friendly, you get more leadership engagement with the data.”

easyJet Cuts Aircraft Damage Assessment Time by 80% with Geomagic Control X

Product: Control X
Industry: Aerospace

If you’ve flown anywhere in Europe in the past two decades, chances are good that you’ve flown on easyJet. This leading European low-cost airline brings travelers to more than 30 countries on 600+ routes safely and conveniently, all while offering some of the lowest fares across the continent. How do they do it? With a focus on safety, simplicity, and operational efficiency. easyJet’s engineering organization epitomizes this ethos by putting safety at the heart of everything it does and innovating to continually improve performance and reduce costs.

easyJet assesses aircraft damage faster with Geomagic Control X

Minimizing Aircraft on Ground Time

One of the most important ways that easyJet can minimize delays and keep ticket prices low is reducing Aircraft on Ground (AOG) time. Unplanned AOG events happen when any of the company’s 298 Airbus aircraft are damaged or experience mechanical failures, and can be very costly — not to mention inconvenient to passengers. It’s clear that the faster a damaged aircraft can be checked, the better it is for the airline and its passengers. 

“One of our biggest challenges is to try and reduce the AOG time of aircraft and maintain accurate records when damage occurs,” said Andrew Knight, Fleet Structures Engineer at easyJet. While rare, hail, bird strikes, and other events can potentially damage the wings and fuselage and require inspection before flying again. Checking damage from these types of events has traditionally been a low tech, manual, and time-consuming process that requires maintenance staff to assess aircraft damage using manual measuring tools such as rulers and vernier calipers. Worse still, interpreting the extent of any damage using this technique is highly subjective and not repeatable between staff members. easyJet’s structural engineering team went looking for a modern solution to speed things up and provide more accurate, traceable results.

3D scanned deviation location using Geomagic Control X

Repeatable, Accurate, Mobile 3D Inspection

“We’ve been looking for a system that is easy to use for the maintenance engineer but has the ability to provide more in-depth reports if required by support staff. It must be accurate, repeatable and most of all, mobile, as AOG events can occur anywhere within our network of 136 destinations across Europe,” Knight continued. “The biggest challenge was the software side because it needed to be a simple, easy-to-use interface to obtain a basic damage report, but powerful enough to provide more in-depth details in the support offices. 3D scanning should provide us with accurate, fast damage assessment with repeatable results independent of the experience of the user.”

For these reasons, easyJet turned to 3D Systems reseller OR3D, a UK firm with expertise in 3D scanning and Geomagic software. Robert Wells, a 3D scanning expert at OR3D, reported that “based on easyJet’s requirement to quickly scan large areas — such as the entire wing length of an Airbus A320 — on the tarmac, we recommended a portable handheld 3D scanner. And we knew Geomagic Control X™ was the right software because they needed an automated way to assess dents that was easy for their staff to learn and use.” With this solution, performing a damage assessment on the roughly 70 feet (21 meters) of an A320’s flaps takes just a few hours, compared to several days with wax rubbings on tracing paper, saving easyJet tens of thousands of Pounds/Euros per damage event.

Geomagic Control X inspection shows dent locations to easyJet quickly and accurately

Instant Reporting for Fast Documentation

Once the scans are complete, easyJet engineers can get damage reports from Geomagic Control X software on the spot. They don’t need to load CAD models or align the scan data to anything else in the software, and they don’t need to have deep metrology expertise to get reliable output. Control X uses its CAD engine to automatically create idealized geometry that meets standards for surface continuity that are defined by Airbus, and measures the scanned aircraft against that idealized geometry to provide instant results. Within minutes, easyJet engineers have a consistent, repeatable, and thoroughly documented initial damage report that lets them decide what repairs, if any, are needed before the aircraft can be placed back into service.

Powerful 3D Inspection That’s Easy to Learn

easyJet has embraced Control X for large-scale damage assessments because it’s so accessible for busy engineers with many other responsibilities. Knight remarked on this specifically, saying “engineers will not use the system if it is too complex and requires in-depth software knowledge and/or extensive training.” Control X fulfills these requirements better than any other scan-based inspection software because it’s intuitive, easy to learn, and powerful enough to handle complex measurement scenarios. Anyone familiar with using 3D software can pick up Control X and get results in a matter of minutes, with the flexibility to measure what they need to, without pre-programming or inflexible macros.

What does this new, modern approach to damage inspection mean for easyJet? “We have estimated an approximate 80% savings in time to perform assessments using the 3D systems we currently have with a potential 80% savings in currency terms,” says Knight. There are additional benefits beyond reduced AOG time and better decision-making regarding repairs as well: keeping detailed damage reports, complete with accurate scan data, can help the company years from now when it comes time to sell or return aircraft to their leaseholders.

easyJet’s use of Control X is another example of how simple, intuitive inspection software helps companies ensure quality everywhere by empowering more people to measure more things in more places. Learn more about Geomagic Control X today.

Using NX allows design and analysis to work together more efficiently and productively

Product: NX CAD, Simcenter 3D
Industry: Aeroespacial y Defensa

For more than 30 years, ENGINEERS at ATA Engineering, Inc., (ATA), have provided analysis and test-driven design solutions for structural, mechanical, electromechanical, and aerospace products. The company has worked on a wide variety of projects, including amusement parks, biomedical devices and electronic components.

Most of ATA Engineering’s work is done in the aerospace industry, for clients such as Orbital Sciences, Lockheed Martin Space Systems, Pratt & Whitney, NASA, Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Air Force Research Laboratory and General Atomics. There is no room for errors in this job: it is critical to meet specifications accurately, while facing strict deadlines. ATA engineers often face short production runs, sometimes even for a single unit, as a satellite component. It’s forced that they do well the first time.

ATA staff have used SOFTWARE NX™ for many years. However, they recently applied the mostrecent version of computer-aided design (CAD) and computer-aided engineering (CAE) NX software to complex real-world structures using three representative cases and found significant improvements in time and effort savings during design, analysis, and upgrade cycles.

ATA engineer Allison Hutchings defines it this way: “Real-world structures have complex design definitions and challenging analysis requirements, and both are constantly changing. NX enables you to cope with changes efficiently and productively.”

Changing model parameters without recreating geometry

The first use case involved meshing an isometric grid reflector model, such as those designed for assembly on a spacecraft. Isometric geometry provides advantages for spatial structures that must be rigid, lightweight, and durable, but the large number of surfaces implies that the definition of the initial geometry of the CAD model and the CAE model can be tedious. When the design needs to be updated, such as altering the diameter, focal length, and measurement of cells in this case, “these changes can cause severe headaches,” Hutchings says. In many cases, you may need to completely recreate the geometry instead of simply updating it to incorporate the new dimensions.

Leveraging Synchronous Technology provided by NX along with an intelligent approach to the original design definition, however, these issues are avoided. Several techniques, such as patterns and expressions, facilitated the direct parameterization of key geometry definitions in NX CAD and this capability was leveraged directly for meshing and analysis. As a result, 100 percent of the geometry was automatically updated and 96 percent of the riveting was performed automatically when the associated finite feature model (FEM) was upgraded to the new geometry. Cleaning the remaining 4 percent was relatively quick and easy, particularly compared to the need to recreate FEM altogether.

The second use case was a lightweight support model. Because weight is a pressing factor in aerospace designs, the engineer must struggle with competitive goals to maintain the lightest possible support while meeting stiffness requirements while maintaining the ability to handle the necessary loads. The process often results in supports with complex geometry.

In Finite Element Analysis (FEA), the standard practice is to “idealize” geometry, eliminating details and features that do not affect analysis. It is done to save calculation time, but it is often necessary to repeat the idealization process each time the part is updated.

With NX, this additional step can be avoided. For this task, after the part dimensions were changed, 93 percent was automatically idealized and updated. Although the changes that were made to the support were relatively simple, the time and effort savings were remarkable: the automated idealization of the upgrade was more than 100 times faster than the manual process and meshing of the updated model was at least 3 times faster.

Updating geometry in minutes

The third use case focused on the model of an existing air brake: a assembly that allows an aircraft to slow down to land by generating a turbulent output flow from a fan bypass nozzle and also makes it easier to landing the aircraft slower, from a steeper angle, reducing overall noise.

The blade angles inside the air brake can have a drastic effect on the performance of the air brake under different conditions. By altering these angles in the model, the analyst can evaluate those effects. In this case, the prismatic blades were rotated to analyze configurations between 0 and 25 degrees. With NX, instead of performing a tedious manual process of reshaping the entire system, Hutchings simply changed the aspa angle parameter and was able to update the geometry in minutes, as the idealized part automatically adjusted to the new angle. Hutchings comments, “Map meshing is preserved, creating an identical mesh on the blade surfaces between all angles, then the CAD model propagates to the FEM and the mesh is updated in minutes.

In all three cases, new NX features made it possible to perform geometry updates quickly, Hutchings says. “We were able to parameterize the design definition, create a structural analysis model by leveraging the design for specific analysis requirements, updating design parameters, and propagating changes to analysis modeling much faster than would have been remodeled.”

More efficient engineering with integrated design and analysis

“These are all problems that we thought were difficult to solve before,” Hutchings says. In the past, updating the finite element model due to geometry changes would involve reshaping changes in CAD, resealing the model, and riveting to create FEM, or some very complex manual changes in meshing. Both options took quite a while. “Recent additions to NX have made these efforts much easier. The degree of connection NX makes possible between design and analysis more efficiently supports engineering compared to the use of non-integrated finite element processes,” he says.

The problems Hutchings examined illustrate the advantages of working with the integrated NX range. This is not only an improvement in the refresh rate, but also the possibility of failure between the CAD model and the finite element model is also less due to the way they are linked. “If you work with constantly changing design specifications, it’s very fast and easy to modify dimensions and change parameters with NX, without having to recreate finite element models,” he says. “This saves a lot of time and effort on tedious tasks, as well as providing confidence that the model will be updated to the correct design definition.”