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3D design technology provides speed and accuracy for planning aircraft modifications
Aero Technics Design Ltd, based near London Heathrow, UK, offers a specialist design and certification service for interior modifications to commercial, VIP and corporate aircraft, including interior refurbishments, reconfigurations and equipment redesigns. The company also performs cabin electrical system upgrades and provides certification for new manufacture equipment.
As would be expected, for legislative and safety reasons, all changes to the design of any aspect of an aircraft need to be closely monitored and certified by a governing body. In Europe this body is the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA). Working for high profile customers such as Virgin Atlantic Airways, First Choice Airways and BMI, Aero Technics Design Ltd prepares the detailed designs and as an EASA Part 21 subpart J approved company, approves minor changes to their aircraft and liaises with EASA to obtain the necessary major change approvals.
Aviation is an extremely demanding industry and Aero Technics Design Ltd is usually under pressure to complete its projects to tight deadlines – no airline operator wants hold ups to modifications keeping its aircraft out of service for longer than necessary. And of course accuracy is an absolute necessity in order to pass EASA’s stringent approval processes.
For these reasons, the choice of Computer Aided Design (CAD) software used by Aero Technics Design Ltd projects is an extremely important decision. Simon Jeffery, engineering director and head of design at Aero Technics Design Ltd, has worked within the industry for 25 years. When he was involved in setting up the company in April 2004, his design and aviation experience led him to believe that the best software for the job was the Solid Edge® solution from Siemens PLM Software.
“Given the high profile nature of projects that we are involved in, we needed design software that we could truly rely on. It needed to provide our designers with the design functionality and flexibility to handle the broad range of projects we are commissioned to provide, together with the accuracy and ease of use to allow them to work to deadlines with the utmost confidence. My experience told me that Solid Edge would provide all these things,” explains Jeffery.
A typical project for the company involves designing and planning a cabin reconfiguration for any large transport passenger aircraft. This might, for instance, entail the installation, or removal, of seats, galleys, cabin dividers, wardrobes and stowage compartments as well as revision to existing Passenger Service systems.
In this type of scenario Aero Technics Design Ltd designers would begin by planning a proposed layout of the cabin using models of the seats and other interior monuments. Solid Edge parametric capabilities enable the designers to rapidly generate new configurations, without having to redraw everything from scratch. Because the designers have already modeled the critical dimensions for seats and monuments, they simply need to enter the equipment manufacturers’ specifications onto the system to parametrically create new models.
In addition to meeting the airline operators’ preferences, a cabin reconfiguration requires the designers to ensure with pinpoint accuracy that the revised layout complies with regulations. This involves meeting EASA stipulations on metrics such as space required between seats and cabin monuments, as well as the space allotted for passengers to get to the entry and exit points. Solid Edge enables Aero Technics Design Ltd to perform this task efficiently by combining 3D models and 2D sketches positioned in the 3D environment using true aircraft coordinates within the layout. Jeffery explains, “This is essentially a 3D task and Solid Edge’s varied features means that we can very quickly assess and adjust the gaps between the elements in the layout. We can view the main elements in 3D but can keep less important areas as 2D cut outs so we can work rapidly. In most cases with Solid Edge we can create the initial suggested layout in line with EASA requirements within a day.”
The next stage of a reconfiguration involves sharing the proposed layout with the customer. Solid Edge is particularly useful here because it enables the layout to be provided as 2D drawings to the airline engineers and as 3D views to the flight operations staff, who are then able to visualize the area in which they will be working.
Airline customers require the ability and flexibility to review various options, so it is helpful to be able to make quick adjustments to a reconfiguration. Jeffery notes, “It may be that the customer has rethought aspects of the layout or wants to add additional elements such as class dividers. Solid Edge gives us the flexibility to make these sorts of changes very rapidly and smoothly.”
Features such as simplified parts and simplified assemblies enable the designers to work efficiently on models with large numbers of patterned parts. By reducing the level of detail – where detail is not needed – these features reduce the processing power required from the PC and allow the designers to move quickly around the model.
Where the customers require new monuments or parts to be designed and manufactured, Aero Technics Design Ltd makes use of Solid Edge excellent sheet metal features which allow rapid detail design for manufacture.
“Working with demanding aviation industry customers, we need to ensure the highest levels of speed and accuracy for the projects we work on,” says Jeffery. “Solid Edge, with its 3D design power and versatile features, gives our designers the tools they need to meet customers’ requirements. They can work quickly and effectively knowing they can rely on the software’s accuracy to ensure their designs will comply with EASA regulations.”
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Aero Technics Design Ltd offers a specialist design and certification service for interior modifications to commercial, VIP and corporate aircraft, including interior refurbishments, reconfigurations and equipment redesigns. The company also performs cabin electrical system upgrades and provides certification for new manufacture equipment.
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