It's a bold concept: a small company in the huge aerospace industry comes up
with the daring idea of designing air taxis to enable air transportation for the
masses. And the main ingredient pushing the concept to reality is the PLM
software they use.
In actuality, the concept isn't novel at all. Just look at the beginning of
the automotive industry, which provided affordable cars for the masses. "We're
looking to reinvent the equation from Henry Ford," says Dr. Oliver Masefield,
Senior Vice President of Engineering at Eclipse Aviation.
Eclipse Aviation is the small company behind the yellow-cab concept in the
sky. With about 250 employees (about half in engineering), the company has
already developed the Eclipse 500 jet, currently in testing phase. And according
to the company, the six-seat, twin-turbofan jet costs less than most used
turboprops. "Our goal for the Eclipse 500 is to be so economical in its
operation that it allows an air taxi type of operation to exist with a cost of
transportation similar to full-fare aircraft," Masefield says.
The economical operation of the jet stems from the process behind it. Eclipse
Aviation uses Teamcenter PLM software from UGS PLM Solutions, which they chose
based on the company's leadership in CAD systems as well. "There's a lot of
power in having the same provider of both the CAD and PLM program," Masefield
explains. Eclipse Aviation did use a different company's PLM program originally,
but found that it did not provide the necessary interaction with the CAD system.
The integration of PLM has also meant the elimination of the company's former
daily "fly-through" meetings in which coworkers would discuss changes they had
made to designs. Teamcenter's Repeatable Digital Validation (RDV) solution is
the key behind the seamless operation powering the Eclipse 500. "RDV is made up
of consolidated changes, configurations management, and spatial searches," says
Paul Sicking, one of the key developers of RDV at UGS PLM Solutions. Through
RDV, iterations made to the jet's individual components automatically update the
entire design, not just the component, in real-time-a feature that Masefield
finds value in. "In design, you don't know what other people are doing," he
says. "You could lose massive amounts of productive time if two people change
the design at the same time."
The behind-the-scenes parts collaboration also enables Eclipse Aviation's
designers to take advantage of Teamcenter's spatial searches, which finds the
exact information or component a user is looking for, and cuts down on wasted
search time. With RDV, each designer does not have to create his own background
data, which could lead to more errors. The real-time process goes beyond the
physical and digital mockups that are generally more expensive and not
PLM often gets generalized as being useful to large companies only. Masefield
scoffs at the notion. "The advantage of PLM for all companies is to allow for
faster time-to-market," he says. "The investment in systems like this is pretty
substantial, but the investment recovers itself admirably if you can accelerate
the program and make the designs more robust through simulations."
Of course, it should come as no surprise that this engineer for a small
company would support the use of stereotypically large-company software. Eclipse
Aviation is also convinced they can provide a viable air transportation
alternative for people unwilling to commit to a traditional airline's schedule
and location. Already, more than 2,000 orders have been placed on the aircraft,
which is scheduled to be commercially available in early 2006. "More than any
startup company," Masefield points out.
Among the novel concepts Eclipse Aviation is using and introducing with its
Eclipse 500 jet is the use of friction stir welding. The company is the first to
use the process to produce thin-gauge aluminum in high volume for building
aircraft. To read more about the Eclipse 500 jet, go to http://eclipseaviation.com/500jet/.
To find out more about Teamcenter's Repeatable Digital Validation, go to http://www.eds.com/products/plm/teamcenter/engineering/rdv.shtml.
The Eclipse 500 jet, available
commercially in 2006, uses Teamcenter PLM software's Repeatable Digital
Validation solution from UGS PLM Solutions to enable efficient operations
and minimal errors.