Design software is leveraging the power of PCs to give design engineers a view of interactions within complex systems, providing far more insight than modeling only components. Software improvements are also helping engineers look at large vehicles and aircraft, understanding how various elements mesh together. As planes and off-highway equipment get more complex yet have shorter design cycles, it’s important to be able to tie different aspects together. “During conceptual design, there’s only a short time to look at candidate designs and alternatives. We’ve got dozens of engineering disciplines and we need to consider different aspects like damage tolerance, strength, aerodynamics and especially weight,” says Mark Beyer, Senior Engineering Specialist, Research and Advanced Technology at Cessna Aircraft Co.
In off-highway equipment, another harsh environment with large vehicles, developers are making more use of models to revise bodies and frames. “We’ve gone in from the ground up and done modeling to give us a dynamic perspective,” says Keith Underwood, senior project engineer at Caterpillar.
Others are using design tools to link design and manufacturing. “We have a new engine coming out in 2007 and we may use a splayed frame, so everything has to be analyzed. Any time you bring out a new engine you have to make it fit and know exactly where to put the holes. That’s all being done with CAD drawings,” says Bill Sixsmith, director of severe service marketing at International Truck and Engine. Both software and hardware advances are critical to the changes, making it possible to run far more complex simulations without increasing simulation time considerably. “The new tools are at least an order of magnitude faster,” Beyer said.
Lower cost hardware gives designers the ability to look at large systems without sacrificing resolution. Today’s equipment lets engineers see large systems on large displays. “Everything now runs on PCs, which is a big change from the high cost equipment we needed just a few years ago,” says Ludwig Fuchs, a co-founder of Real Time Technology AG, a Munich, Germany, company whose software lets developers look at large images on several screens that work as one large display.
Design tools helped Cessna get its Citation Mustang flying a month before expected
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Since 1987, teams of engineers around the world have built solar cars to participate in a road race around Australia called the World Solar Challenge, being tested on the race time, kilometers traveled, practicality, and energy used by the vehicles they invent.
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