By Engr. O’tobi Oyetimein mNRCS (tweet:@TitoTobyPhoenix)
(Partly suggested from Bill Gates’ Business @ the Speed of Thought)
Toward the end of the 747 project, Boeing was spending $5million a day on engineering. When the 777 was built, without the use of CAD and other digital tools, Boeing would have had to create all the designs in their Seattle office using tons of paper and unable to create a perfectly aligned design (mis-alignment of 3/8000 in. over the entire length) which translated into the 209-foot length aircraft. Boeing would also not have learned of problems until the parts were built and delivered. But though the use of digital processes in the design of the 777 worked well, the design phase represents only 20% of the actual work that goes into the production of a complex modern aircraft. Aviation customers make purely economic decisions. They know the maintenance and fuel costs of their existing fleet, and aircraft manufacturers have to bring in a plane that will lower their costs. Boeing is therefore challenged to design better and better aircraft while paring its production cost. Digital tools enable engineers to see conflicts before the actual manufacturing of parts.
DESIGN PHASE OF THE 777
The design phase for Boeing’s new twinjet was different from the company’s previous commercial jetliners. The 777 was the first commercial aircraft to be designed entirely on computer. Each design drawing was created on a three-dimensional CAD software system known as CATIA, sourced from Dassault Systemes and IBM. This allowed a virtual aircraft to be assembled, in simulation, to check for interferences and to verify proper fit of the many thousands of parts, thus reducing costly rework.
Boeing developed their own high-performance visualization system, FlyThru, later called IVT (Integrated Visualization Tool) to support large-scale collaborative engineering design reviews, production illustrations, and other uses of the CAD data outside of engineering. Boeing was initially not convinced of CATIA’s abilities and built a physical mock-up of the nose section to verify its results. The test was so successful that additional mock-ups were canceled.
[Part 3 will be posted on Sunday November 3, 2013]