CATIA Revision Supports Functional Mockups

As if we needed any more signs that the world of MCAD design tools is no longer exclusively about mechanical design, Dassault Systemes took steps recently to remind us.

Whether it's an automobile, a household appliance, or something as simple as a child's toy, products of all sorts and at all levels of complexity are increasingly sporting some sort of onboard electronics or embedded software. As a result, the decades-old discipline of systems engineering is once again back in vogue, and companies like Dassault, along with all of the other CAD guys, are scrambling to beef up the functionality of their tool sets in this area.

CATIA V6R2012, announced recently, is the latest MCAD release to sport an array of new features related to systems engineering -- the multidisciplinary design methodology that integrates requirements, functional, logical, and physical (RFLP) product definitions. Specifically, the new release now allows requirement definitions to be accessed directly from within the CATIA environment, advancing the concept of systems engineering and making it more accessible, Fabien Fedida, Dassault Systemes senior director, global offer strategy and business intelligence, told Design News.

"This capability now allows engineers full RFLP traceability within their own environment, resulting in a more effective design by function," he said. The discipline is also made more accessible via V6R2012's new capability that allows for mass editing of functions and requirements via a spreadsheet-like interface.

The other major systems engineering-related feature of the new CATIA release is interoperability with Simulink, one of the leading system controller providers. With this function, CATIA V6 users working with programs like Simulink now have four dedicated export options, which enable both the controlled (plant) and controller models to be simulated, again facilitating the process of validating closed-loop systems behavior.

In what could be considered a validation of the new RFLP concept, Dassault Systemes recently forged a development alliance with Astrium, one of Europe's leading space companies, and EADS Innovation Works, which is the corporate research and technology network of EADS. Together, the companies are developing solutions around Dassault Systemes' Version 6 platform that introduces what the players say is a new concept to improve internal engineering methods: the functional digital mockup (FDMU).

Unlike the digital mockup, for which Dassault is renowned, the FDMU is not just associated with the 3D geometry of a vehicle (or space station, in this case), but adds the broader dimensions of requirements, functional, logical, and physical product definitions, with the intent of promoting multi-disciplinary collaboration at various stages of development.

Execs say the goal of the joint project is to prove that by increasing teamwork across the different disciplines, engineering teams will zero in on solutions early on in the design cycle that may otherwise have been overlooked without such an emphasis on cross-functional collaboration.

Using Dassault's FDMU capabilities, the company says, multiple teams involved in the design of an aerospace vehicle -- propulsion, aerodynamics, and systems, for example -- can explore the different design variants of the future vehicle and come up the best solution that balances all of the multi-disciplinary requirements, again on the onset of the cycle, not after-the-fact when the different design disciplines are well established.

"We believe that increased collaboration at various steps of the development process by the different disciplines could improve our engineering processes," says Christophe Chavagnac, suborbital space plane project manager and chief engineer at Astrium. Officials say they expect to draw some conclusions around the impact of the new FDMU processes on their internal engineering processes sometime later this year.

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