We’ve seen all of the big car companies embrace a 3-D product model as a best practice for automotive design. Boeing took the lead in the aerospace industry for doing the complete design of its 787 Dreamliner plane as a 3-D product model–admittedly, experiencing a few painful bumps along the way. Now, Northrop Grumman is steering a similar course in the shipbuilding sector, using 3-D CAD software to develop a detailed design for the Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78) Navy aircraft carrier.
The Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78), which is being physically built in Newport News, VA, is the Navy’s first aircraft carrier to be completely designed using a 3-D product model. Northrop Grumman last week announced it had completed the detailed design phase of the 3D product model using CATIA from Dassault Systemes. The CVN 78’s product model includes the definition of the ship’s geometry and technical definition of the ship’s parts, including the procurement, planning and manufacturing data and constitutes over 3 million parts, Northrop Grumman officials said.
The team has been working on the product model since 2001, said Mike Shawcross, the company’s vice president of aircraft carrier construction programs, in a prepared release, adding that while the model will continue to evolve, it is now at the stage where the initial design data is complete and the entire carrier exists in a virtual environment. He explained that a virtual environment will assist in the build and manufacture of the carrier, allowing the construction teams in the Newport News waterfront to see and walk through the carrier’s spaces before actually starting the physical build.
The design of the Gerald R. Ford (CVN-78) class of carrier calls for a number of enhancements, including flight deck changes, improved weapons handling systems and an island design that incorporates the government’s latest warfare technology. The carrier class will also feature advanced nuclear power plants with increased electrical power generation capacity and new technologies intended to allow for a smaller crew size, thus reducing operating costs for the Navy. The first ship of this class, the Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78), is slated to be delivered to the Navy in 2015.