The perceived climate of instability has prompted governments worldwide to increase their defence budgets. But increasing funds is just one aspect. The changing nature of military action demands more flexibility from defence contractors in developing new effective systems. The good news is the resources to accelerate production are there. The best way to commit them is through new approaches to management and development.
Engineering teams everywhere experience the extreme challenges in developing military systems. While the increase of available computing power allows for development of increasingly complex projects, working at the cutting edge of technology means coping with many uncertainties. A team working on a new fighter aircraft, for example, has to deal with predicting unforeseen threats. They need to design new Electronic Countermeasures (ECM) and new materials for the latest stealth technology, amongst other things, whilst maintaining supersonic speed. At the same time, they need to predict their performance under various circumstances to attain the needed certifications. There is uncertainty in designing new capabilities. But due to the crucial nature of their work, there is little or no room for failure.
The Isolated Engineer
If new capabilities are the first main challenge, the second would be complexity. Development of innovative systems involves multiple specialist teams working with their own software for simulation and theoretical testing. Some software packages are developed in-house, while others are purchased from commercial vendors. Although commercial software is broader in its ability, and in-house codes are more problem-specific, both were traditionally designed to solve problems within specific engineering fields. In-house code has a dedicated task in mind, and a limited pool of developers who cannot significantly increase functionality at a fast rate. However, multiple teams still need to be brought together to create one tightly integrated end product. Getting them on the same page can incur higher costs as engineering goals can be counterproductive towards each other. The number of interactions needed to find common ground that also meets the specification can seriously escalate. The later this happens during the development cycle, the more expensive this becomes.
Throwing extra resources at development doesn’t solve these issues in the long term. But technology is still the key. Some of the benefits teams now can look for is:
- The Earlier the Troubleshooting, the Better – Detecting issues at the earliest stage possible prevents serious issues when combining the work of different teams. Developments in VR have increased early awareness of potential pitfalls of complex designs. Combined with intelligent software that takes data from different disciplines and pre-empts potential issues that could otherwise not be foreseen, it allows engineers to start troubleshooting sooner. This would shorten development cycles significantly, and lower costs.
- Combining Disciplines –Commercial vendors of simulation software have expanded their solutions into the multi-physics domain. They combine structural, CFD, electrical, electromagnetics, thermal, biological engineering and other fields in comprehensive solutions. This has gone even further as super hybrid platforms such as the 3DEXPERIENCE Platform enable co-simulation between multiple engineering disciplines. They also fast-track information sharing between all internal and external stakeholders where required.
The result is that specialists of one team are on exactly the same page as those of other teams, as they run simulations based on the work of everyone combined. This helps drive the product forward in an optimised time frame.
- Detailed Testing- Finally, detailed simulations powered by commercial software, VR and AI are a great aid in getting test results that would otherwise be very difficult to attain in the first place. Human testing involving high-powered bio-electromagnetics is extremely dangerous and therefore out of the question, for example. Or to replicate non-ideal conditions like those encountered in the field or extreme environments.
To gain full access to these benefits, simply buying new technology is not enough. It is crucial that the industry presses on in adopting more streamlined approaches to development. Different disciplines should be updated on each other’s work and progress in real time. Their tools should be integrated for a much more efficient end-to-end process. For example, they can reduce the design time for an Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) to 90 days, down from 3 to 5 years, if done correctly
These core principles are the drivers behind 3DEXPERIENCE, the Business Experience Platform of Dassault Systèmes. Besides simply offering technological solutions, Dassault Systèmes offers knowledge and collaboration. One important step has been opening our 3DEXPERIENCE Center in Wichita, Kansas, in partnership with the National Institute for Aviation Research (NIAR) at Wichita State University (WSU). Experts assist organisations in digitally reinventing their approaches to hi-tech development.
Because in the end, the industry needs to look beyond new capabilities, and look into their processes. And for that, they need to embrace the Industry Renaissance.
Join us at DSEI
Alistair Wingfield, Dassault Systèmes will deliver the keynote ‘Rapid Future Defence Enablement and Optimised Solutions by Leveraging Commercial Software’ at the DSEI event, 10-13 September, in London. There, he will explain how the 3DEXPERIENCE platform assists organizations in applying modern practices. How, it offers direct value to their business by connecting knowledge and know-how and applying them lightning fast by offering virtual worlds that create differentiating consumer experiences.