Aerospace & Defense
Innovation and collaborative, synchronized program management for new programs
Aston Martin Red Bull Racing has been involved in Formula One as a team owner since 2005. The dedicated team has grown to over 700 people and has enjoyed extensive racing success on the track. By 2016 it had won eight championships and more than 50 individual races.
Five complete sets of track equipment; 21 races across the world; 7,500 unique components in a car; 30,000 design modifications in the course of a season and 40,000 kilos of air and sea freight sent to every location: Formula One® racing is full of staggering numbers and daunting logistical challenges.
Race-specific parts are required for each event in the calendar, yet sometimes there is only one week between events and performance testing at each track is limited by the regulations of the sport. According to Matt Cadieux, chief information officer at Aston Martin Red Bull Racing, the biggest challenge is the pace of change. “We have an aggressive, nonstop and increasingly complex development cycle before, during and after the season. In addition, the volume of design changes goes up year on year, with our designers making up to 1,000 changes per week between races.”
Aston Martin Red Bull Racing thrives on such challenges, with regular podium places and a record of repeated triumph in both Driver and Constructor Championships. Fundamental to success is a collaborative platform made up of NX™ software and Teamcenter® software from product lifecycle management (PLM) specialist Siemens PLM Software. NX and Teamcenter have been the digital backbone of the team since it was formed in 2005 and Aston Martin Red Bull Racing continues to add users, integrate new tools and refine processes. There are now over 500 PLM users.
“Our accomplishments stem from having the right tools,” Cadieux continues. “With NX and Teamcenter, we can effectively manage logistical challenges, increased design complexity, the growing number of parts and the thousands of engineering changes per year. Speed is what counts in our sport and we gain speed at several levels: through personal efficiency, configuration of tools and our capacity for collaboration.”
There is one single point of entry through Active Workspace for Teamcenter, through which all users are able to find the specific information they require, without the need to spend time accessing various systems to look for data. Dan Watkins, head of PLM, explains: “Active Workspace allows us to streamline the user interface, configuring it specifically to individual roles and providing users with aggregated data from across multiple systems. This speeds up the process of development collaboration.”
Customized configuration enables smooth integration with other tools and streamlined workflows. The design release process used to be managed by email; email is now used for notifications containing direct links to design changes with Teamcenter managing the process and all relevant information. These are accessible via Teamcenter Visualization, through which users can view 2D and 3D data. “We have minimized the clicks required to authorize and release parts to manufacturing,” says Cadieux. “There is no manual authorization: there are no unnecessary steps, only those that add value. Likewise, there is no paperwork.”
Teamcenter data is used to generate an event-specific Bill of Materials (BOM) for every race, in addition to the master BOM for the season’s design work. The master BOM lists all the components and parts designed for the car across the year, and the other takes information from this and details all the items required to set up the car for a specific race and circuit. Maintaining a real-time BOM is vital to ensure that parts are managed correctly throughout the manufacturing process and later when the car is in use for racing.
Aston Martin Red Bull Racing makes the most of its flexible pool of engineers who all take their lead from the BOM. Working within distinct groups they focus on composites, suspension, hydraulics, transmission and systems design. Specialist teams look after aero performance, vehicle dynamics, computational fluid dynamics (CFD) and stress analysis. “Teamcenter allows us to bring all the pieces of the car together in one collaborative environment,” Cadieux comments. “Users each have interfaces relating to each other’s activities, all available in real time. As a result any issues can be identified early and there is less rework.”
“The front wing is the first part of the car to meet air and our aim is to micromanage every aspect of airflow,” explains Cadieux. “The front wing is an array of surfaces, all bonded together, which creates the effect of multiple front wings. With extremely complicated geometry, involving many angles and winglets, every little surface has a purpose.”
Watkins adds: “Eighty separate elements make up the front wing assembly, but that is only the tip of the iceberg. We need to manufacture about 800 different components to create a whole new front wing. These include patterns and molds for composite panels, jigs for assembly and jigs for testing and performance compliance. Our PLM tools enable us to work efficiently and quickly to ensure that we get components to the car in time to race.”
Aston Martin Red Bull Racing’s aerodynamic experts use NX CAD data as input for specialist CFD software and hand precise data back to designers, who use NX surfacing tools to create new or modified parts of the front wing for the wind-tunnel car. In order to comply with regulatory requirements during testing this car is 60 percent of the full car size. NX Motion is used to check for collisions between components in the suspension system as structural strength, material choice and manufacturing method are all specified. Teamcenter Visualization enables full inspection before drawings are created using NX. Teamcenter then manages the flow of information between designers and manufacturing engineers.
Part files from NX are imported into additive manufacturing software because about 70 percent of the wind tunnel car is created via this method. Tools and jigs for the wind tunnel car are also made through the same process, which speeds up manufacturing. NX CAM software is used to write machining programs for other car components. It takes only 10 days from initial part design to wind tunnel manufacture.
The electrical routing capability within NX has allowed engineers to design for the wind tunnel car at the same time as their colleagues work on the full-size car, and this reduces the number of iterations required in both departments. Designers can create a loom that connects all major electronic components together, within very tight tolerances for loom length and stock diameter. They can then generate a form board automatically from the model. This speeds up manufacturing and reduces the risk of incorrect dimensions. Previously, electrical designers were using modeling tools such as splines and meshes to represent electrical looms. Because these lacked intelligence they did not provide a true graphical representation.
NX is used to design manufacturing jigs, such as the ones used to hold the front wing in place while it is bonded, as designers of the full-size car work on the bodywork and mechanical components. Drawings created in NX for use in manufacturing, fitting and logistics are stored alongside model files within Teamcenter, which manages templates and defaults to ensure consistency between users. Because the supply chain plays a huge part in ensuring that Aston Martin Red Bull Racing is able to meet the manufacturing demands generated by the design department, the supplier management department is fully integrated into the Teamcenter ecosystem. Teamcenter is embedded into supplier management systems, allowing easy viewing of live CAD data via Teamcenter Visualization. When external suppliers are engaged on a project, Teamcenter is used to send NX 3D models and 2D drawing files securely to suppliers. The process has been tuned and streamlined so that both 3D models and 2D drawings are automatically converted into CAD-neutral formats specific to each individual supplier.
NX integrates CAM programming that runs production processes such as metal cutting and additive manufacturing. CAD geometry is used to form the patterns for carbon layering of composite parts. The manufacturing process itself is extremely complicated with shop floor operators paying particularly close attention to geometry. They use NX to gain a clear view of work-in-progress items. During the inspection stage, NX 3D data is used to confirm dimensions and NX is used for creating diagrams to show the location of damage such as a scratch or an indentation on a carbon fiber part. After the different parts of the front wing are made, they are painted and assembled. At the fitting stage, mechanics use Teamcenter Visualization to view the full design and use it as a reference when assembling the car.
Some of the pit stop equipment is also designed using NX to ensure compatibility with the car. For example, the front jack may need to be modified in order to fit and engage correctly with the front wing, while avoiding any clashes with the nose of the car. The wheel gun may also have to be modified in order to engage correctly with any wheel nut design changes.
Teamcenter Visualization is used to view the full car and all its components, particularly if the car has to be dismantled in order to incorporate a new or improved part that arrives fresh from the factory in time for the race. Engineers and mechanics, who sometimes see a part for the first time at the track, have real-time access to NX so that they can refer to engineering data to gain insight on performance. In addition, they can enter feedback for potential improvement at the next race. “Improving the quality of our business processes is just as important as improving the performance of the car, and our Siemens PLM infrastructure enables us to grow and evolve,” explains Al Peasland, head of technical partnerships at Aston Martin Red Bull Racing.
When Aston Martin Red Bull Racing was founded, one of the priorities was to not be constrained by process in case it got in the way of free thinking and creativity. Over the years, as the organization has matured, there has been a greater need for clarity and control so that more people can collaborate effectively. “As our longest standing partner, Siemens PLM Software understands the company and its operation as well as the sport and its requirements,” Cadieux observes. “Our Siemens PLM Software tools give us exactly what we need: sensible processes that enable us to access the right information quickly, make smart decisions, save time and use our resources wisely.”
The Siemens PLM Software professional services team is embedded within Aston Martin Red Bull Racing. Members of the team cover day-to-day support, induction of new employees and user training. They are there to assess future business challenges, identify gaps where new functionality might be required and develop the tools appropriately. “We only partner with suppliers who deliver bestin- class, and our PLM platform from Siemens is just that,” comments Peasland. “It is also important that our partners can provide suites of software and technology, because the responsibility for integration lies with them and that takes a burden away from us as a team.”
A major software upgrade was undertaken in 2016, along with a hardware refresh and implementation of a new data center. “Siemens consultants conducted thorough testing and it was the smoothest upgrade we have ever done,” comments Cadieux. “The quality of the software is excellent, and as a result of the upgrade we have even more speed of transaction. Each year in Formula One brings new design challenges and we have the benefit of a stable platform for continuous improvement.”