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Components have a growing need for comparative assessment tools for estimated costs. A new software programme, applicable to short-run and mass production alike, ought to help bring products to market faster and at optimised cost.
(Published on June-July 2005 – JEC Magazine #18)
With composites more and more widely used in a growing variety of industrial applications, it has become increasingly necessary for manufacturers to have at their disposal reliable cost-analysis software. Such was the challenge taken up by the partnership formed by Galorath Incorporated and Airbus UK some two years ago and which was subsequently to lead to SEER-DFM (Design for Manufacturability) software.
The programme has been conceived to provide cost and producibility guidance for a multitude of manufacturing processes, as an aid to bid management, procurement and should costing. Basically, it is designed as a tool for engineers working in concurrent projects so as to select one particular manufacturing process and pinpoint cost savings. Its aim therefore is to help find the most cost-effective solution.
Within the context of their partnership, Galorath Inc. developed the software code requirements, math specs, prototype models, user-help files and end-user documentation at their Los Angeles headquarters, while the Airbus engineers supplied the cost model algorithms, technical requirements, engineering expertise and documentation as well as the technical resources for the software development.
A versatile programme
The programme contains a capacity to model more than 100 manufacturing processes, from hand lay-up of fabrics to automated tape-laying, in addition to various RTM and resin-infusion processes. The user can enter his own cutting requirements, estimate the cost of consumables, mould-tool cleaning and the like. And if data is lacking for a processing step or consumable that has got to be taken into account, the user can attach his own custom calculation, thus making the model completely extendible. Additionally, the model captures uncertainty and provides complete project risk analysis, while being of service equally to those involved in short-run as in mass production. It even takes equipment depreciation into account in its calculations.
The beta test version of the programme was available in August 2004, at the end of two years of intestive tests and development, and the software itself was officially launched in December of the same year. It is already in use in many of the world’s leading aerospace manufacturers : Airbus, Boeing, Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumann. Not only is the software highly innovative, but it responds to a real need and it can even be used to share knowledge among the members of a project team, which goes a long way to explaining its award in the Aeronautics and Space Category at this year’s JEC Composites Show. Furthermore, the detailed composites software model is transferable and is applicable to other industry types.
“They were delighted to be part of the successful detailed composites model development. The model was based on generic composite processes such as Hand Layup, Automated Tape Lay, and Resin Transfer Moulding. The model can be customized and populated using a company’s intellectual property.
Airbus not only deploys composite applications on its products, but supports composite applications with associated design to cost operations in order to secure performance, material, technology and cost trade offs.
SEER-DFM will allow for quicker and consistent trade studies. We are planning to implement this on the A350 and various other research and technology programmes within Airbus. We are confident it is going to bring significant benefits to Airbus, our sub-contractors and suppliers that may adopt it, and to our customers.”
Its other great advantage is that the underlying process rates driving the models outputs are completely customizable by their users. The latter simply have to add the rates applying in their own organisation and the model will enable them to analyse the most cost-effective solution, not only for themselves, but also for their suppliers and their customers.