Case Study

NX brings big benefits to ship design and engineering

Engineering Bureau Mühlhoff

Engineering Bureau Mühlhoff, a pioneer in the use of 3D for ship design, uses NX to advance the state of the art in Europe


Felix Mühlhoff wanted his business to provide a faster and more accurate way of designing ship hulls than conventional 2D and wireframe modeling.

Hull design is stuck in 2D and wireframes

Although many industries have adopted solid and surface modeling, ship design is still predominantly done with 2D and wireframe representations. Felix Mühlhoff worked that way for many years. His company, Engineering Bureau Mühlhoff, designs and engineers hulls and superstructures for a number of ship builders in Holland as well as for companies in his native Germany. Mühlhoff designs and engineers hulls and superstructures for everything from expensive private motor yachts to commercial ships such as tankers, ferries and inland waterway transport vessels.

Mühlhoff initially used AutoCAD to create 2D drawings of hull contours. Later he added the dedicated ship design program, Master Ship, for wireframe modeling. Eventually he moved into surface modeling with Rhino in an attempt to speed the creation of hull shapes. This trio of programs was not integrated, however, and the time Mühlhoff hoped to save was lost in translating files from one program to another. The errors introduced during translation took extra time to fix, and the quality of the surfaces was not as good as Mühlhoff wanted.

Advancing the state of the art

The desire to work faster and more accurately led Mühlhoff to consider moving to the type of high-end modeling software he saw used in other industries. Knowing that accurate, easy-to-use surface modeling was his most critical need, Mühlhoff evaluated two systems, Catia and NX. He found NX™ software to be superior in both respects – accuracy and ease of use – and he purchased this solution for his business. The ease of use he perceived turned out to be real. He was able to design a ship within weeks of installing the new software, without any formal training.

Now when Mühlhoff takes on a new project, he typically receives AutoCAD data from the customer. Although he could import that data into NX, he finds it easier and faster to recreate the geometry in NX. After drawing the 2D curves in NX, Mühlhoff then applies surfaces to create the shape of the hull. The surfaces he creates in this manner are highly accurate since there is no file translation from program to program. This process is also much faster since Mühlhoff works exclusively in a single environment. NX lets him move seamlessly between 2D, wireframe, surface and solid representations.

Time saved, business grows

A key benefit of NX is that it now takes Mühlhoff significantly less time to design ships than previously, when he used the three-program approach. On one project, a new inland waterway vessel for Damen Shipyards of Holland, Mühlhoff designed a hull in approximately 45 percent of the time he would have needed previously. What accounts for the time savings? In part, it was the ease of working within a single, integrated design environment and rapidly (and accurately) moving between the different representations. More importantly, it was the accuracy of the NX approach. “When I work in NX, I start with accurate 2D curves,” Mühlhoff explains. “When I apply surfaces to them, the surfaces are also accurate so I don’t spend time changing things later. That is where much of the time savings comes from – from getting the design right the first time.”

On another project, a 55-meter motorized yacht being built by Amels, Mühlhoff performed some very complex modeling in the design of that superstructure. He estimates that NX afforded him a 25 percent time savings on that project. Overall, Engineering Bureau Mühlhoff experiences between 25 to 45 percent reductions in the time needed for hull and superstructure design. This increases revenues by making it possible to take on additional work. Also, now that Mühlhoff has NX, he’s doing higher-quality work, acting more as a partner with his customers. This also contributes to an increase in revenues.

Currently, Mühlhoff’s deliverable is still a wireframe model since his customers have not yet moved to more advanced design technology. Mühlhoff’s experiences with NX may be helping to change that. Not only do his customers benefit from the new capabilities he delivers with NX, they see impressive visual examples of what NX can do in their industry. Mühlhoff has used the integrated visualization capabilities of NX to create beautiful images of his work. He uses these as sales tools to help expand his business. At the same time, this pioneer of 3D is showing his customers a powerful solution that can benefit their businesses as well.

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