Rare is the week when MON readers don’t learn about a new partnership in the aerospace and defence sector. Indeed, partnering is the rule rather than the exception in this ever-quickening 2019 era marketspace, be it for materiel or service solutions. One unique, contemporary insight on collaboration was gained from John Wannemacher, Enterprise Account Manager, Integrated Digital Environment Initiatives at ANSYS, with whom US correspondent Marty Kauchak caught up at Moder Day Marine 2019..
By way of background, at the overarching defence prime contractor level, companies mature their technical baselines, in part, through data reuse best practices and digital models. Mr Wannemacher observed that every prime contractor has its version of this type of data reuse throughout a product’s life cycle, most frequently labeling it as an integrated digital environment, a digital thread or another similar name. He then explained the need to incorporate best practices. “Approximately 80 cents of every dollar which comes through a US DoD contract is for sustainment. So, while $.20 goes to buy new aircraft, $.80 keeps the aircraft up in the air and mission ready […] For us to control sustainment costs for aircraft as sophisticated as an F-35 LIGHTNING II, for example, we must have at our fingertips the data that has designed, manufactured and sustained that aircraft, and in some cases you will have a digital twin representation for every tailfin containing that aircraft’s unique history.” For ANSYS to effectively contribute its part to the US DoD prime contractor customers’ digital thread, it requires interoperable data. One company which is part of ANSYS’ partnership programme to obtain and effectively use such data is Analytical Graphics, Inc.
ANSYS is working with multiple industry partners (including AGI) to preconfigure their data solutions, allowing prime contractors to reduce risks and discriminate their technical baseline. “This allows the prime contractor the strategic advantage of being able to support and compete in model-based procurement initiatives,” said Mr Wannemacher, explaining the benefits of this strategy in the procurement process.
And the ‘secret sauce’ that allows ANSYS, with a portfolio in physics-based simulation tools, to support these specific industry partnerships? The company maintains computer-aided design (CAD) and product lifecycle management (PLM)-agnostic strategies. Mr Wannemacher highlighted a CAD-agnostic capability, permitting customers to import a CAD file from their native CAD tool into the ANSYS Workbench. “We can import digital artifacts, perform geometry clean up, all inside the ANSYS Workbench. Our customers are very happy about that fact, as in one case, they may have legacy files in three or four different CAD formats. From those, we can create a physics-based simulation.” Addressing ANSYS’ PLM-agnostic strategy, he added, “We can connect to any major PLMs which dominate this space. We’re not trying to be a product lifecycle company but we can share our data in an interoperable way with them, which helps us be PLM-agnostic […] ANSYS stays in its ‘swim lane’, right up the middle, in physics-based simulation. This approach allows us to be less deterred by data rights coming in or going out. We can read formats in and formats out – a significant advantage.”
One outcome of the ANSYS-AGI collaborative effort is their nascent efforts to engineer the US military’s next-generation missile defence system by incorporating high-fidelity, multi-physics simulations with multidomain mission-level modeling into early stages of missile defence system development — effectively enabling warfighters to combat high-speed, highly manoeuvrable hypersonic weapons. While ANSYS brings physics-based engineering to the partnership, AGI provides mission engineering competence. Wannemacher added AGI is a consumer of ANSYS’ high-fidelity digital artifacts, permitting it to track satellites or other unique structures as they pass through warfare domains – and this is challenging. “When things pass, you may want them to be seen or not be seen. If we can give them a high-fidelity, multi-physics, thermal profile of their structure, we can help determine the likelihood of survivability of this structure as it is flying through the atmosphere […] What AGI is doing is creating some of the world’s very best digital twins of the structures we’re talking about. This is not a game – we have a very real physics-based representation of what’s going to happen, for example, when a structure re-enters the earth’s atmosphere at hypersonic speeds.”
“Addressing the hypersonic threat perfectly illustrates the importance of integrating full multiphysics simulation at the mission level,” added Kevin Flood, Vice President of Engineering at AGI. Ultimately, missile defence is a system-of-systems problem, which is ideally analyed using Digital Mission Engineering (DME), which evaluates mission outcomes for a broad range of mission scenarios and seeks to understand the roles that asset performance characteristics and overall system architecture play in achieving successful outcomes. “If you can’t evaluate your designs in a real mission context, you end up making assumptions that can lead to bad engineering decisions which frequently don’t manifest themselves until very late in the process,” he observed. The end objective of DME is to identify and address critical issues very early in the lifecycle, where the ability to make adjustments is maximised. This process, enabled by the ANSYS-AGI combination, dramatically accelerates the delivery of critical technologies.