LOCKHEED MARTIN is to use Dassault Systemes' CATIA computer-aided design and manufacturing software as the core of a "virtual-development environment" it is creating, initially for the Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) programme. The company hopes to leapfrog its competition and cut costs and cycle times by at least 50% for development, and 30% for manufacturing and maintenance, by making extensive use of modelling and simulation.

Virtual product development will enable all aspects of aircraft design, manufacture and support to be simulated before parts and processes are created. "The main objective is all-digital product definition, product mock-ups, manufacturing-process definition and manufacturing simulation," says Woody Sconyers, director of virtual product development, at Lockheed Martin Tactical Aircraft Systems in Fort Worth, Texas.

"Prototyping will be 100% digital and validation 100% by simulation," the company says. Virtual product fabrication, assembly, support, factory and even enterprise prototypes will be created to see whether a tool can be built, part produced, or a business model made to work. The development environment will link all Lockheed Martin's Aeronautical Sector plants in real time, forming a "virtual enterprise", including suppliers.

Lockheed Martin has formed an alliance with Dassault and IBM to develop next-generation computer-based development tools. This involves expanding the CATIA to allow solid models to be associated with attributes such as cost, weight, material and supplier to produce "intelligent objects". Extensions will be developed to allow CATIA data to be used with other software, such as Deneb Robotics' I-GRIP, used to simulate assembly, and Paradigm's Vega, used for visualisation, Sconyers says.

Lockheed Martin's agreement gives it at least a one-year lead in applying the extensions developed for the CATIA. The company is close to selecting the second major element of its virtual-development environment - the product data-management relational database which will ensure configuration control by allowing multiple users at different sites to work concurrently with the same design data.

Elements of the development environment are being used in the design of the JSF concept-demonstrator aircraft and the X-33 re-usable-launch-vehicle technology demonstrator, which is being developed at Lockheed Martin's Skunk Works. The plan is for the environment to be in place for the start of JSF engineering and manufacturing development in 2001.

Source: Flight International