3DEXPERIENCE Modeling & Simulation Conference: Keynote by Skunk Works & Executive Roundtable


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Last week, Dassault Systèmes, the 3DEXPERIENCE software company, held the 3DEXPERIENCE Modeling & Simulation Conference in Michigan. I was invited to attend the event, which was held from September 18-19 at the Suburban Collection Showplace in Novi.

At the first plenary session, keynote speaker Clifton Davies, a Principal Aeronautical Engineer for Lockheed Martin Skunk Works, talked about the defense contractor’s use of the 3DEXPERIENCE platform, and its simulation process and design exploration apps, to work on aircraft design for the non-proprietary EXPEDITE project.

Skunk Works began working with the Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) on the EXPEDITE project in 2017. According to ESTECO, EXPEDITE, which stands for EXPanded MDO for Effectiveness Based DesIgn TEchnologies, is the latest in a series of successful AFRL programs with a goal of advancing “the state-of-the-art of Multi-disciplinary Analysis and Design Optimization (MADO)” for USAF programs. The project aims to rapidly improve early conceptual MDO capabilities for the aerospace industry in several areas, including Effectiveness-Based Design (EBD), high-performance computing, and cost and reliability.

“Whatever your business process is, there’s a good chance it needs high-performance computing,” Davies said.

He explained what EXPEDITE was currently working on, stating that efficiency and support of higher fidelity physics are necessary for the tasks, which included next generation mobility, next generation UAS, and high-speed systems.

In terms of delivering EBD to customers, Davies said that the most important aspect to keep in mind is not how fast or far it can go, but if it finished the job in an affordable way. He said the design process needs to be taken “down into the statistics” to find the answer.

Davies continued, “What’s the probability it can complete the mission?”

Skunk Works wanted to make sure that risk to the USAF was minimal for the project, and wasn’t sure if there was anyone in the MDO framework industry capable of handling it. So the company partnered with Dassault, and several other companies, to determine who could best address the particular challenges of EXPEDITE.

In terms of what the company is using on the 3DEXPERIENCE platform, the focus is mainly on MDO tools, such as SIMULIA.

“We’re leveraging SIMULIA apps for creating MDO workflows,” Davies said. “We built the aircraft design workflows for the program using the SIMULIA apps.”

3DEXPERIENCE platform implementations can vary from very large to very small. The EXPEDITE project set up the platform on multiple virtual machines in Palmdale, California and Fort Worth, Texas, so more work could be distributed to more locations.

Davies then showed a slide which illustrated the conceptual design workflow that Lockheed Martin uses for the aircraft elements it’s executing with 3DEXPERIENCE. It’s broken down into multiple activities, based on both where the project might be executed and by which group.

The company has also integrated the V5 version of Dassault’s CATIA software program, and even built on top of it due to “multiple customizations,” which is why the newest version of the software was not used. Because an adapter did not exist, the company had to connect CATIA via COM interface through a VBScript driver they wrote.

But the company really wanted an adapter, and Davies said that Dassault “really came through for us.”

“It [the adapter] supports the normal things you’d expect, but this also supports Macros, which lets you leverage your IP and capability with geometry to get out what you need to do,” Davies explained.

He said that one of the most useful features of the plugin that the CATIA team created for EXPEDITE is a Screen Capture capability: it allows users to see exactly where the process failed, which really helps to reduce run time.

Moving back to computing, Davies said that the next generation of super computers will offer plenty of flexibility in terms of the various 3DEXPERIENCE platforms users can visit.

Davies wrapped up by discussing the company’s lessons learned, next steps, and future needs in terms of 3DEXPERIENCE. He talked about how nice it was to be able to load design data without having to leave the platform, in addition to being able to compare designs in tabular and graphical form, apply constraints, and having opportunities to streamline the user’s post-processing experience.

In closing, Davies said that he encourages Dassault Systèmes to “continue improving ergonomics for debugging models, best practices for large model distribution,” and the overall user experience.

Next up, PLM expert Dr. Michael Grieves, Chief Scientist for Advanced Manufacturing at the Florida Institute of Technology and the father of the digital twin, came onstage to speak for a few minutes before moderating the executive roundtable.

“We’re doing a lot of exciting things,” Dr. Grieves said.

“What I want to talk about is the digital twin – the model I developed.”

He talked about how in the 21st century, we developed 3D models and created a virtual space filled with virtual products – a big change from years past.

“At the beginning, we actually have a digital twin before we have the physical thing,” Dr. Grieves explained. “We really have this digital information that we work on. I like to design, test, make, and support the product virtually, and only when I get it all right do I want to make physical things. Ideally, I’d really like to print it – I think additive manufacturing is really going to change how we manufacture things.”

Then he referred back to the point that Davies had made early on – does the product do its job?

“If we can take the digital twin and test that to destruction, I have a better feel for the fact that it will perform the way it’s supposed to perform in the real world. Digital twins will save us a whole lot of resources,” Dr. Grieves said. “I should be able to predict failures and fix them before they happen.”

The way to do this, he explained, is by doing as much work as possible in advance on the virtual side.

“Industry 4.0 is talking about reducing the time of an event occurring to fixing it. I think about the digital twin as figuring out which events will occur and fixing them before they happen.”

With that, Dr. Grieves introduced the three speakers of the executive roundtable: Philippe Laufer, the CEO of CATIA; David Holman, Vice President R&D and Brand Leader for Dassault’s SIMULIA; and Garth Coleman, the VP of Marketing for Dassault’s ENOVIA.

Coleman was in definite agreement with Dr. Grieves’ thoughts on virtualization.

“We can do the modeling of the experience well before you have the product out in the world. We can innovate around that experience, and include the customer in that experience,” he stated.

“Once you have the real twin, you can connect that data in and refine the product, the experiences, everything.”

In this way, Coleman continued, companies can achieve cost savings, with maximum flexibility, early on in the process.

Then Dr. Grieves asked the experts how they felt about this kind of connectivity – how smart, connected products “fit in to what we do.” Coleman brought up the fact that the IoT and the IIoT are both “generating boatloads of data,” which is interesting for companies to have access to. But, he wondered if customers were using the features in the correct way.

“Being able to be in tune to all the trends and your finicky and satisfied customers is really important,” he said. “But what’s a great experience today – a better one may come along tomorrow.”

Holman chimed in here, stating that the digital twin is a good tool for success, as major challenges companies today face include the demand for increased customization and better quality.

“The only way to keep up is with the true 3DEXPERIENCE digital twin,” Holman said.

Dr. Grieves then asked Laufer for his opinion regarding the 3DEXPERIENCE digital twin.

“All signs show that we are changing the world,” he answered. “Experience is not at the level it should be, so it’s the time for the industry renaissance, and to have the citizen, consumer, and patient at the heart of the experience you’re creating.”

Industry Renaissance [Image: Dassault Systèmes]

Laufer brought up cars, and talked about simply riding in one versus the driving experience; for example, Laufer asked the audience members how many of us were satisfied with our car’s air conditioning. He mentioned that during a recent visit to Boeing, company representatives discussed the flight experience, as opposed to just delivering an airplane, and wanted to know why we weren’t all talking about the Industry Renaissance.

“The new book is the experience,” Laufer stated, quoting Dassault. “We are creating a 3DEXPERIENCE twin. In the virtual world, you can blow on it, push it, pull it.”

Dr. Grieves asked him how we can help customers “bridge the gap” between the physical and virtual worlds. Laufer explained that companies are using cyber systems to create these experiences, and that we have to be able to create, master, and model those systems – after all, when you want to make music, you must first practice the scales. In most companies, a designer creates the concept for a product and passes it on to the analyst engineer, who then runs simulations and sends it back for the changes to be made. The 3DEXPERIENCE platform is able to streamline all of these processes.

He asked, “How can you automate if you don’t do it properly in an interactive way?”

Dr. Grieves then brought up how generative design is tied into manufacturing, since we need to be able to create new shapes, and asked Coleman how he feels that it “plays into the classic bill of materials and collaboration.”

“From the ENOVIA side, this is a common thing that everyone wants to achieve – this lack of productivity,” he answered. “The common metric that comes back is 30% – what would you do with 30% of your time back?

“The bill of materials can’t keep up now, it’s too static, it’s too slow,” Coleman continued. “You can’t stimulate and optimize this. So it’s really a report of where you’re at – basically a 2D drawing.”

Turning to Holman, Dr. Grieves asked him where simulation fit.

“Basically, we can provide the tools, the manpower, the signers, and the innovators to build products that behave the way they are intended. This is what we’re bringing together with generative design,” Holman answered.

“In the end, the products we create have to deliver the right experiences to the customers, they have to be sustainable.”

Dr. Grieves then asked Coleman his perspective of where he thought everything in the discussion fit in.

“Requirements are driving everything, including what you do in modeling and simulation,” he said. “A lot of times, these are managed in emails, sticky notes, documents, Excel files, so on. Traditionally, we can do file management, and we do it well. But we need to move past this and start managing the innovation. Extract the important information as data, and connect it.”

Laufer then had the chance to share his views on the matter.

“The challenge engineering teams face is you have a problem in front of you – the topic is to optimize several KPI. How do you model in your current system? We have a way in the platform to follow KPIs while you’re designing and simulating to make sure you’re going in the right direction. This solution will augment the engineering teams by allowing them to explore, and simulate.

“I’m heavily using David’s technology in my CATIA applications,” Laufer continued. “Your role as an engineering team will be to explore, simulate, and optimize – the geometry, material composition, material selection, manufacturing process. This is what the future of engineering is about. The 3DEXPERIENCE platform provides this integrated environment that lets stakeholders of these decisions play together. 3DEXPERIENCE is multidisciplinary.”

Finally, Dr. Grieves asked each participant what the most important takeaway from the discussion was for the audience to understand. Holman stated that SIMULIA was making some strong investments in order to fulfill the promise of making high fidelity simulation more accessible, which “is gong to be great for all of you.” Coleman explained that ENOVIA is working to optimize things at the business process level, as it concerns “organizing and orchestrating all of this, and being able to modify the plan.”

Laufer said, “Speaking to you as users, your job will evolve. Simulation experts will be able to modify mesh, and work with the designer to propose alternatives. I think there’s going to be a fusion, but don’t be afraid of that.”

Stay tuned for more news from my time at the recent 3DEXPERIENCE Modeling & Simulation Conference!

Discuss this story and other 3D printing topics at 3DPrintBoard.com or share your thoughts below.

[Photos by Sarah Saunders]

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