Payback from 3D modelling in another dimension

Written by: Tom Shelley | Published:

Moving from 2D to 3D can bring huge savings- and 7D could even be on the cards! Tom Shelley reports

A leading aerospace subcontracting company reaped savings of up to 90% when moving from 2D to 3D – while an automotive major is talking about working in 7D.
Designs of major pieces of equipment are now being undertaken in 3D that would be unlikely to work first time – if at all – in 2D. Meanwhile, a major CAD vendor is facilitating the open exchange of usable 3D models in order to encourage the transition.
Achieving the transition from 2D from 3D can be difficult. At the recent Delmia European Customer Conference in Stuttgart, Daniel Nilsson, project manager working with process and system implementation at Saab Aerostructures in Linkoping, said that while design engineers had been working in 3D since the 1990s, there were obstacles to overcome when transferring the model-based approach to the rest of the manufacturing process.
The first attempt came in 2002, with what he describes as a “pre-study drawingless design definition”. The present project, 3D2, started in 2004 and culminated a year later with the first test of 3D process planning and 3D work instructions relating to the Boeing 787 structural test door. This led on to 3D process planning for all in-house production activities concerning the 787.
“In the 787 project,” said Nilsson, “Boeing has defined the best practices to which all suppliers must adhere, including the adoption of the Delmia environment.”
The transition has had its problems. “The move to almost only 3D is a big mind shift for many of our staff,” admits Nilsson. However, having got there, Saab has found that process-driven changes are 90% cheaper to implement, compared to previous methods. Also, there are now minimal clashes in assembly, while almost no redesign is needed relating to collisions in assembly and installation. “We found a big potential to reduce cost,” adds Nilsson. “The savings are at least 33%.”
While Saab Aerostructures is rightly proud of its achievement in moving from 2D to 3D, Akira Namiki, senior staff engineer of production engineering at Honda’s Automobile New Model Center, talks about moving to ‘7D’. He defines 4D as including ‘time and process’; 5D as being about ‘global knowledge – collaboration’; 6D as ‘focus on each individual’ to achieve worker satisfaction; and 7D as ‘enjoy and beauty’.
He also came up with the acronym Pork – Product Operation Resource Knowledge – and emphasises the importance of 3D for engineers, offering them “excitement of entering virtual worlds” and thus achieving “Waku-waku” or enjoyment.
On a practical note, Namiki’s department uses simulation to model assembly processes to see whether, for example, a wrench can be brought into a suitable position to tighten a fastener properly. With dashboards getting bigger and bigger, “sometimes we can’t get them through the door opening”, he admitted. In a European company, this would mean referring the need to change back to the design office.
But in Japan, the manufacturing manager has much more power than in a European or US company and “can even change the shape of the car”. Since his department gets involved in design, Namiki asked Dassault publicly if it could achieve further reinforcement of Catia-Delmia collaboration, as part of his company’s Pork strategy.
Even more challenging than designing aircraft parts or cars has been the re-design and further development of the Joint European Torus at Culham – as well as the design of the even larger, more complicated and much more expensive International Tokamak Experimental Reactor, to be built at Caderache in France. When work began on JET in the 1970s, all the designs were hand-drawn on paper. With the evolution of CAD in the 1980s, however, Catia manager Paul Carman and his team first used Catia V2, then V3, V4 and now V5. As regards the transition, he comments: “We won’t quite see anything as dramatic as the move from 2D to 3D full digital mock-up, but PLM offers amazing potential and we intend to make the most of it.”
3D modelling and simulation are crucial in both JET and ITER. Francois Malagié, head of the Aquitaine mechanical ground design office for EADS Astrium, contracted to validate the remote handling and maintenance scenario for ITER, has been using Catia V5 and Delmia to do so. “The environment is very tight,” he says, “with 20mm clearance to move nine tonne components. Our job is to find conflict and solve it.” He cites various examples of where collisions and jams would have occurred, had the original designs been adhered to. Evidently, if the designs had been undertaken in 2D and not simulated, maintenance would have been found to be impossible without dismantling the entire machine.
Bernard Charlès, president and CEO of Delmia’s parent Dassault, says part of his mission is to convert the world to 3D.
“In Germany or France, you would be surprised to see how many people are still on drawings,” he said. To encourage the change to 3D, the company has set up, a free online environment where users can post and download 3D XML models. It’s equivalent to an engineer’s Facebook or Myspace, in which individuals can show off their creative expertise and share ideas.
“The future of collaboration is to virtually imagine, share and experiment,” says Charlès. “I think the web is going to be a new way to share information.”
It is also part of the way in which the company intends to promote its products, since 3DXML is compatible with Catia and Dassault’s next generation of V6 products, all of which will be configured for online usage.
“The first release is going to be much more powerful than Google Sketch, but will work with Google Earth,” adds Charlès.
As for there being an online version of Catia, he confirms that part modelling online will be a reality next year on Dassault-owned servers.
“Some companies do not have company servers,” he adds. “Also, when you are travelling, you may not be able to access your company server. We want to address new markets in smaller companies.”
As for the emergence of an online V6 version of Delmia, he was less convinced.
“I think we will see online subscription simulation, but I am not sure about this. It needs a lot of computing power,” he said.


* Going from 2D to 3D is a painful process, but the eventual cost benefits are considerable, especially when it covers the entire design and manufacturing process

* High-tech customers increasingly expect and demand that their suppliers adopt 3D practices throughout their processes.

* Embracing 3D in design for manufacture and assembly is crucial to success, greatly reducing the need for redesign and dramatically easing the process when they are

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