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February 07, 2007

Airbus' Use Of Slightly Different CAD Programs Results In Production Nightmares, A Two Year Delay, And A Six *B*illion Dollar Loss

Update/Correction: Contrary to the implication of the headline, Airbus already suffered the two year delay. It's now finally past it. In fact, the superjumbo's maiden voyage was today.


Kind of interesting article about Airbus' woes, all due to different design and production teams using slightly different versions of the CAD program Catvia -- and six billion dollars lost in translation.

Boeing is making sure that everyone involved in the Dreamliner launch is using the exact same program to avoid this problem.

Using the CAD software, manufacturers can create detailed 3D models of their products and run those designs through a battery of virtual tests, such as stress, vibration, noise, wind and even crash tests, long before a cent is spent on manufacturing. Using the digital manufacturing software, companies can explore how those parts or components can be produced by simulating the process. Products like Dassault's Delmia help manufacturers determine how many people, robots or other manufacturing resources will be required, whether existing machinery can be utilized or new purchases will need to be made, and whether processes can be automated or will need to be performed manually.


Potential cost savings vary depending on the complexity of the product being manufactured, but some analysts, like AMR Research's Michael Burkett, estimate that the time and cost savings on more complicated products can be as much as 50%. That has translated into PLM becoming a hot software category, growing at an annual compound rate of about 8.3%, according to research firm CIMdata of Ann Arbor, Mich. In a report released in October, CIMdata forecast that investments in PLM would grow from about $19 billion in 2006 to $27 billion by 2010.

But underlying that promise are very real dangers. By relying so much on software, and by eschewing real world mock-ups or trials in favor of virtual models and tests, companies may not catch errors until late in the manufacturing process. And the potential pitfalls, such as compatibility problems between different CAD packages, are more common than most chief information officers might think, according to Kubotek COO Bean.

In related news, while Airbus engineers, working with programs simulating real, tangible objects and physical laws which are nearly perfectly understood cannot manage to simply model the correct length of wires for its lighting without making small errors that result in catastrophic setbacks, climatic scientists have nevertheless created absolutely perfect models for the world's weather patterns extending 100,000 back and forwards in time.

And yet, of course, they still can't tell you if it's going to rain on the weekend.

I'd like to invoke the Oral Roberts Rule on them. Long-range predictions, which speak conveniently to conditions so far in the future that they cannot be proven or disproven, are pretty frigging easy to make. It's that damnable short-term -- where prognostications can be checked empirically -- which are so difficult, eh?

By the way, some old aeroporn: Dr. Reo Symes previews the 787 Dreamliner, and here's the "blended wing" 797, which will one day carry 1000+ passengers.

Thanks to Ogre Gunner.

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posted by Ace at 05:56 PM

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