Farnborough Air Show

Siemens software helps Superjet to really fly

 - July 14, 2008, 1:51 AM

The Teamcenter product lifecycle management suite being demonstrated here by Plano, Texas-headquartered Siemens PLM Software (Hall 3, Stand C6) has played a crucial role in the Sukhoi SSJ-100 Superjet’s progress from concept to its recent first flight, said Tim Nichols, the company’s managing director of aerospace global marketing.

Siemens developed Teamcenter initially to complement the computer aided design (CAD) systems that started to evolve in the early 1990s and accelerated the development of complex products, Nichols said. “It is the engineering change management and collaboration management engine that drives the design of airframes, aero-engine and most of the major product systems today,” he added.
In fact, Teamcenter is used in varying forms by nearly every OEM, said Nichols.
Boeing uses it to manage the product structure of every aircraft that goes through its production system, for example.

It serves as the foundation, too, for collaboration on the Lockheed Martin-led Joint Strike Fighter, which has more than 6,000 engineers at more than 100 sites working on the design of three different models. On that program it also manages security, the filtering information and limiting the information available to non-U.S. nationals.

Another major implementation is at Eclipse Aviation. “They’ve built and delivered over 200 aircraft and that program is eventually going to start having assembly in Russia,” Nichols said. “It’s going to have distributed manufacturing, final assembly and certification in multiple sites, and that tends to be the approach you’re seeing most of the OEMs take to achieve their end state.”

At Sukhoi Civil Aircraft (SCAC) in Moscow, he said, Teamcenter “manages this master data vault that collects all the information that defines the aircraft, not only the structure but all the systems. It manages that information and distributes it to the different partners and players in a very disciplined way so they see what they need to see. And it allows collaboration among multiple design offices that are working on the program and multiple manufacturing sites.” The collaboration includes non-Russian suppliers such as Snecma, which is developing the Superjet’s SaM146 engine with NPO Saturn, Honeywell, Goodrich and B/E Aerospace.

“One of the key factors in this program is Sukhoi’s decision to integrate with other world class manufacturers,” Nichols said. Teamcenter enables them to exchange digital 3D data of the aircraft, to manage the change process–“a critical discipline, particularly as the design matures and the frequency of changes increases.”

Synchronization means designers, engineers and manufacturing specialists work together in parallel rather than in series, said Nichols. It allows them to digitally model everything in advance, to perform design integrations and to optimize the design. As a result, a series of changes in an aircraft or an aero engine that used to take weeks or months can be done in hours or days.

That significantly compresses the overall design cycle time, and as Nichols said, “the sooner you can get the aircraft flying the sooner the return on investment starts to materialize, and that’s critical too.”

One intriguing aspect of the Superjet program, he said, is that the Teamcenter system integrates different types of CAD files into a common digital mockup of the aircraft. Most of the partners responsible for systems use CATIA, while the airframe was created in Siemens’ own NX CAD/CAM package. Users of Teamcenter need not be proficient in either of those design tools to review work and collaborate.

“We refer to that as multi-CAD,” Nichols said. “Some of the suppliers work in their own native files and native systems. It all comes in and is integrated into this storage network where it’s all vaulted, and everything is coordinated and integrated at that single focal point.”

The availability of a single master storage file, he said, “really gives the total team a sense of the state of the design and the fact that they’re contributing and that what they’re providing is consistent with the changes made by other members. So it gives you a functional as well as a spatial integration. It allows you to look at different arrangements digitally as opposed to making hard physical mockups.”

The result is that SCAC’s cycle time from the beginning of detailed design to the first flight “appears very impressive compared to what we’re seeing others do.”