Gulfstream G650 proves value of 3D model-based design
Gulfstream, a General Dynamics company based in Savannah, Georgia, USA, is a leading business aviation and aircraft services company with more than 50 years of experience and about 11,500 employees.
For most of its history, Gulfstream retired its previous model when it introduced a new one. Beginning in 1997, however, the company transitioned to building multiple models concurrently, introducing a high degree of complexity that required new approaches, processes and systems. Gulfstream responded by adopting 3D electronic Model-Based Type Design (3D MBTD), starting in its interiors business. The value achieved was so great that Gulfstream expanded the program to the airframe as well, making Gulfstream the first to achieve a long-held aerospace industry dream: an aircraft developed with an FAA-certified, fully electronic MBTD system.
Gulfstream’s G650 model is that dream plane, and the innovative process used to build it combines Dassault Systèmes’ CATIA for 3D product definition, ENOVIA for collaborative data management and DELMIA for factory design and manufacturing simulation, with full integration to Gulfstream’s Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) and Manufacturing Execution System (MES) applications.
A 3D paradigm shift
“Some people do 3D design, but don’t really put all of the information in their models,” says Dan Ganser, staff scientist at Gulfstream. “They take latitudes around things like fasteners, shims and other components. We didn’t. Our 3D representation is everything that you see in the G650 at the end of the day.”
Many departments at Gulfstream and out into the company’s supply base rely on 3D MBTD. “Everyone gets CATIA on the desktop,” Ganser says. “Out of the 8,500 desktops at Gulfstream, we’ll have about 5,500 CATIA desktops across the corporation by the end of 2011.” Unlike other aircraft makers that use 3D design but still include text dimensions on the models, Gulfstream’s users interrogate 3D models for relevant dimensional information. This allows them to access exactly what is important to them in a format that fits their role. It also creates tremendous efficiencies in engineering. “Engineering no longer spends all that time putting annotations on drawings because the model already has all that,” Ganser says. “The geometry is there. And it’s working.”
ENSURING DATA INTEGRITY, CONSISTENCY AND ACCESSIBILITY
Because its aircraft have a long lifecycle that can reach to 50 years or more, Gulfstream must ensure that the data behind its models remain usable for extended periods. The company therefore implemented a rigorous process to verify application and hardware changes before they are introduced to the environment. “Any time we want to revision any of our applications we go through a rigorous process of validating the new revisions to make sure the revs don’t scramble the data,” Ganser says. “When you don’t have drawings, you have to be very careful of your data.”
Real changes, real results
The benefits of the 3D MBTD approach are impressive. Ganser says 3D MBTD eliminates not only paper, but also design ambiguity and costs. “Back when procurement people were pouring through drawings trying to figure out what to buy, it would take BOM planners five weeks and five tries to figure out all the parts they needed to buy. Now the system generates the BOM in five seconds.”
With the G650, the company has seen a reduction of more than 50% in parts and part numbers. Outfitting clips, angles and brackets have been reduced even more dramatically. 3D MBTD also has resulted in highly accurate, on-demand BOMs, extensive use of NC manufacturing and precision manufacturing.
With the G650, Gulfstream has seen a reduction of more than 50% in parts and part numbers. Outfitting clips, angles and brackets have been reduced even more dramatically.
Engineering overhead for review of the design has been reduced, ramping up productivity. Shop floor gains also have been impressive. When Gulfstream assembled its very first G650 using models instead of drawings, for example, it accomplished the task even more quickly than it had projected.
The 3D model-based environment is an “enabler” that has driven significant improvements in quality, cycle time and cost, and Ganser believes the benefits will continue to impact Gulfstream’s business significantly in the future. “Many departments at Gulfstream use 3D for everything they do, but there’s still opportunity for added productivity,” he says. “The key is to figure out how to change your processes to take advantage of what the tools can do.”