Electric propulsion systems, longer range and lower maintenance costs in Aerospace

By Julianne Bass

Disruption is happening all around the world and many of the legacy players in the aerospace and defense industry need to, both, address the new competition and find a way to seamlessly collaborate globally. Collaboration allows organizations to leverage new technologies and new opportunities being developed in other aerospace markets.


Today I’m joined by two experts in the Design and Product Development industry, Derek England, NX Product Manager at Siemens Digital Industries, and John O’Connor, Director of Marketing and Product Strategy.  

As the design industry evolves, so too do the complexities that arise within product innovation. The Aerospace and Defense field is just one example of how iterations within new technology can play a part in both advancing and limiting these creations.  

In this episode, we take a deep dive into the world of Aerospace design, review key trends that John and Derek have seen as product innovators, as well as discuss how emerging technology and design approaches are influencing the manufacturing process. We also talk about how younger designers are utilizing newer technologies and how their methods differentiate from engineers in older demographics.

For further insight into this discussion and to learn more about the work that John and Derek do at Siemens, tune in to Episode 7 of Next Generation Design! 

In This Episode You Will Learn:

  • Insights from John O’Connor on the Aerospace industry (2:33)
  • How Siemens Digital Industries is helping customers become more flexible (3:59)
  • How emerging companies are structuring their operations (6:15)
  • A deep dive on product complexity (7:43)
  • How Derek is using a generative design approach in 3D printing (9:33)
  • The introduction of composites in aviation (11:40)
  • Issues that arise when creating new products (13:58)
  • How NX integration has improved collaboration (21:28)
  • A look into workforce demographics and how it is affecting businesses (23:41)
  • How young designers are utilizing Virtual Reality and approaching collaboration (27:49)
  • Evolutions within the Aerospace supply chain (29:54)

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Connect With Derek England

Emerging aerospace companies have their own challenges to consider around time to revenue. They must create a design, be agile, while addressing the needs of the market and bring a product to market, as quick as possible.

Generative design and 3d printing are growing rapidly providing aerospace companies with the ability to create organic and strong structures, where previously no tools to modify designs or realize manufacturing existed. With these technologies companies both emerging and legacy are provided an opportunity to innovate much more easily than ever before.  

While the solution to growing product complexity is emerging, aerospace and defense companies are increasingly having to contend with an aging workforce and supply chain challenges.

In this episode of the Next Generation Design Podcast, Listen as we take a deep dive into the aerospace industry and discuss trends in the market, rising challenges and what leaders are doing to widen their competitive edge.

Jennifer Piper: Welcome back to another episode of the Next Generation Design podcast. I’m your host, Jennifer Piper. Thank you for joining us for a discussion on the outlook of the aerospace and defense industry. We’re joined today by our guests, John O’Connor and Derek England.

John O’Connor: My name is John O’Connor. I’m the Director of Product and Market Strategy at Siemens Digital Industries Software. My role here is to really help guide a lot of the market and product strategy discussions that we have with customers and try to understand details of what our customers are trying to achieve and bring those back into our organization to help drive product development. My background is as a mechanical engineer with a master’s degree in materials engineering. I did a lot of work in the defense industry early on, on a variety of defense products ranging from Field Artillery systems to electro-optical countermeasures and that type of product suite. And for a number of years, I worked with a software company called VISTA GE, involved in the development of composite software, principally in the aerospace industry.

Derek England: Yeah, my name is Derek England and my role at Siemens Digital Industries is the NX Product Manager, and I’m responsible for the aerospace and defense industry. My role is really to work with our customers who are using NX, and to understand their design processes and to understand where we can improve these processes through enhancements – and then I work with our development organization to ensure those enhancements could make it into the program. And then, of course, it’s fit for use and ready to be used.

Jennifer Piper: John and Derek share their insights into the key trends that we’re seeing in the industry, and detail the next-generation solutions that Siemens Digital Industries Software offers. They talk about how they’re supporting customers in their efforts to produce next-generation products that are high-performing, cost-effective, and ultimately represent new ways of business and pave the way for the emergence of new industries. While John describes this as an exciting and dynamic time, marked with innovative companies, new products, and transformative design, it’s also come with added product complexity.

John O’Connor: As aerospace companies are trying to serve the needs of their customers and develop more advanced high-performance products that are more fuel-efficient or perhaps have a longer range or are lower cost to maintain, that’s actually driven the use of all sorts of different new technologies. So, increased electrification in aircraft in terms of all sorts of systems, increased use of avionics, dramatic increases in the use of avionics, changes towards potentially electrical propulsion systems – so electric motors instead of traditional turboprops driving aircraft – we’re seeing a lot of changes, of course, in terms of use and composite structure; that’s been a dramatic transformation. And just overall the desire to take aircraft designs that have been, I’d say, fairly static and change them to try to meet an increased variety of operational profiles that companies are trying to pursue to be much more competitive in the market.

Jennifer Piper: These complexities become even harder to tackle because many companies aren’t able to move rapidly enough to address them in-house. The greater the product complexity, the greater the need for a complex resolution. And these solutions just aren’t growing at the same rate. John speaks to the impact that has, and what Siemens is doing to help address it.

John O’Connor: The capability curve and the complexity curve cross. And, at that point, you have some sort of business impact on a program where you have a delayed schedule, perhaps you have budgetary issues, challenges meeting requirements. And so, what we seek to do as a supplier of engineering software is to help customers bend that capability curve. And in fact, to keep that capability curve ahead of the complexity curve, and make it so they can pursue much more advanced types of designs, address higher-performance products or the needs of higher-performance products, but do that in a way that still allows for profitable growth in their business.

Jennifer Piper: Derek recaps examples of how Siemens was able to help a customer navigate some of these complexities.

Derek England: There was another great example in the area of VR. We had a customer who had said, “Oh, we can re-engine this aircraft in a very inexpensive way.” They didn’t really believe that the supplier could do that. And so, they actually brought them into their lab and did a simulation in VR, and said, this is exactly how it would work. This is the old design, this is the new design so that the technician could actually reach in there and access these points and what exactly in the model changed – and they could show that to them before and after – and that the impact is not as great as they were thinking it was. It gave them the level of confidence to move forward and to win the contract to arrange an aircraft.

John O’Connor: A great example of a next-generation capability that Siemens offers is that it produces a next-generation product for our customers.

Jennifer Piper: Derek and John speak to three key trends they’re seeing in the industry: product complexity – as we discussed – workforce demographics, and supply chain. Globalization was another factor that they spoke to. Disruption is happening all around the world and many of the legacy players in the aerospace and defense industry need to both address the new competition and find a way to collaborate across geographies. Collaboration would allow these organizations to leverage the growth, new technologies, and new opportunities being developed in other aerospace markets. John and Derek spoke to some of the emerging companies and how they’re structuring their operations.

John O’Connor: For many of those new entrants – so, a lot of the startups that you see in terms of UAVs, or urban Air Mobility – for these companies, they face the challenges that every startup company faces, and it’s time to revenue. How fast can they be able to create a design, be agile, address the needs of the market, and bring a product to market in order to be able to get the first revenue they need in order to keep the business moving forward. For those companies, it’s a dramatically different timeframe that they operate on. It’s a very different type of business challenges that they face, but they still have all the same constraints that any company would face trying to produce any kind of aerospace product with all the safety and criticality issues that go along with it.

John O’Connor: It’s also interesting, too, that as you talk to these startup companies, and they’re thinking about what sorts of engineering tools they’re going to be using, they’re strongly invested in thinking about the future, right? It’s not just, “Well, what do we need to do to bring the first aircraft to market? But how are we going to bring a family of aircraft to market over many decades?” And it’s there that you find companies are really thinking through the questions of, “When I make that first engineering IT investment, when I buy my engineering development tool, that’s going to set in place a whole series of decisions going forward.”

Jennifer Piper: We go on to dive deeper into the three industry trends starting with product complexity, and building upon what John and Derek discussed at the top of the conversation.

John O’Connor: Product complexity has a variety of different facets to it. I would say that first and foremost, you’re likely to see additional levels of geometric complexity. As designs become much more efficient, you’re seeing companies move towards design methodologies and new approaches that create more complex geometries. But of course, they need to be able to do this at a lower cost impact. On other areas, looking towards increasing the overall structural performance. So, having a design that’s improved in strength, corrosion or fatigue, but weighs less. A third area is just in the increased use of avionics, the increase of avionics content of aircraft – for example, there’s been a 10-times power increase in avionics over the last 50 years, and if you couple that with new trends in electrical propulsion systems, you’re likely to see an even more dramatic increase in electrical content.

John O’Connor: And of course, all that content requires not just the ability to do simulations or be able to actually handle the thermal management aspects of that, but also all the routing and wire harnesses that go along with that as well. So, if I were just to address that first challenge of increasing part complexity, if you really want to try to fully extract out the potential that any design has for truly meeting requirements, utilizing a generative design methodology is something that helps you much more clearly address requirements and get to a fully optimized design.

Jennifer Piper: Derek shares additional insight and speaks to the role that generative design and 3D printing are playing.

Derek England: Yeah, there’s really exciting things going on with generative design. One area is the topology optimization – and 3D printing has opened up a whole new world for aerospace – and this is an area that’s growing really, really rapidly and companies are investing heavily in 3D manufacturing or 3D printing. The reason why it’s kind of exploded now is, we’ve been able to create these really organic, really strong structures, but there was no way to really manufacture them in an effective way. And now, with 3D printing, we can. We can print it in titanium or steel – these really complex structures. And one of the real challenges before is you didn’t really have any good tools to kind of modify it. Once you’ve run the simulation and you’ve come up with this really organic shape, there was no way to modify it at all in an easy way and iterate with it. And now, with our tools – with Convergent Modeling and NX – we were able to modify those structures and add blends in certain areas that we feel like there needs to be more strength. And so, we really have a huge advantage in this area of 3D printing.

Derek England: The other one is with machine parts, finding out the optimal design, the huge impact of the structure – that’s a big portion of the weight of the airplane, is the steel structure. They’re always looking for ways they could take out material there to save weight on a plane, but they need it to be just as strong. And so, with the tools like HEEDS, which will run basically hundreds or thousands of iterations, changing the model parametrically, you’re able to kind of eliminate a lot of weight in the area of these machine parts. And to do these hundreds or thousands of iterations, you really have to have a robust model that can update under these hundreds or thousands of scenarios. You know, with the tools of NX we really can develop these robust models to really analyze and find an optimal design for these machine parts.

John O’Connor: I think one of the other interesting areas is the question of the introduction of more advanced material technologies like composites. So, for composites, our products – NX and Fibersim – produce a design environment specialized in the needs of aerospace composites design engineers. And so, it’s almost quite analogous to what we do for additive manufacturing, that for composites, we actually create a specialized design environment with all sorts of unique capabilities that are focused on exactly what our customers need in order to be able to produce the advanced next-generation types of designs that customers want to create. And I think that when you introduce composites into the discussion here, now you’re really thinking about expanding out new types of geometries, new types of materials that create these exciting next-generation types of products, and can do it in a way that employs the capabilities from Siemens to stay ahead of that complexity curve.

John O’Connor: And in fact, to make sure that you can address the needs of the aerospace industry and create those next-generation, high-performance products, but not do it in a way that risks in any way your business performance. It allows you to insert those specific capabilities associated additive, generative design, using convergent modeling, using design methodologies that are specific to composites as part of that, that help to open up a whole new area of innovation in aircraft and aerospace development in general.

Derek England: Really, it’s exciting, John, to think about how you see the increase in composites and additive being introduced to the mainstream aerospace design, and it’s having such a huge impact in the weight of these aircraft. And really, every pound that they save on an aircraft, it makes a huge difference in the cost of operating an aircraft. And so, I think we’re going to see huge advances, we’ll continue to see machine parts getting optimized over a granular level and these composites being used in new and innovative ways – and additive really, really changing the market to create these organic shapes to fulfill the structural requirements in the aircraft.

Jennifer Piper: Where is the most innovative occurring? John and Derek discuss the innovative work and complexities that arise with introducing new products.

John O’Connor: It’s really, aero engines that are some of the most innovative areas right now because you have a double-digit increase in the use of composite material and aircraft engines going on right now. At the same time, there’s this dramatic shift to designing new types of components for aircraft engines that are done through a general design and adequately manufactured workflow.

Derek England: Yeah, Collins Aerospace is really doing cool things with additive manufacturing. They’re able to print these really cool internal cooling channels, or heat exchangers for fuel and oil and things like that. And instead of having these parts with thousands of little tubes welded together, they print these heat exchangers with, instead of just a standard cylindrical profile, they look like little airfoils and these are so much more effective. And they are really robust, they last forever, you don’t have to depend on somebody welding all these little tubes together. So, customers in this area are really leveraging the strengths of additive manufacturing to really solve critical engineering problems, reducing that component count from hundreds of parts in an assembly to just a dozen. And it simplifies the installation of it, it simplifies the maintenance of it. There are so many positive aspects to this technology.

John O’Connor: So, I think this question of increased electrification in aircraft and the use of more and more powerful avionics in aircraft, combined with this nascent trend right now, in terms of electrical propulsion systems, one of the things I can say from looking at a number of the different customers that I interact with, is that you’ll hear things like they’ve increased power dramatically and the avionics are increasing dramatically, which drives them to have to do much more simulation in order to address the thermal challenges that go along with putting more electrical systems on an aircraft. And that’s where their ability to have a combined ECAD, MCAD, CAE definition that allows them to do more – and I’d say more and more accurate – definitions of the digital twin of the aircraft and to be able to simulate that faster, helps them get to converge on better designs faster and help them address the needs of air customers to add in higher-performance capabilities that are built around these additional avionics on the aircraft, but do it in a way that they actually get to market faster, and they produce a better design that’s going to be more maintainable over time. So, I think that some of the simulation workflows that we have really target that problem quite directly in terms of how to NX, Simcenter and Mentor, all work together to develop that digital twin and then simulate it.

Derek England: I think, John, you’re familiar with Bye Aerospace. What they’re doing is really exciting. They want to be the first electric aircraft to be certified by the FAA and they’re developing an all-electric aircraft for training new pilots. A lot of the trainers that are out there – these old Cessna’s from the 50s and the 60s – they’re expensive to operate, they’re expensive to upkeep. It’s $100 an hour just to operate these aircraft. And with an all-electric, the price of that can be very reduced, to maybe $20 an hour. And so, the huge cost to train these new pilots is just renting the aircraft or operating these aircraft to get the hours they need.

Derek England: And so, these electric aircraft – and this an all-electric aircraft – where these batteries are quite heavy and getting the weight and balance just right and positioning those batteries just right are critical for this aircraft. And by using NX, they were able to simulate this to make sure they can get that exact right mechanical-electrical balance, working together and positioning the batteries and make sure the systems are all connected and working within the parameters. And then, it also works mechanically as well, so that the weight is not shifted too far back or too far forward – and having to do something like add ballast later to make sure the plane flies better. So, being able to simulate all that in one environment it’s been a huge advantage for getting their aircraft towards certification.

John O’Connor: And I think that’s a great example of the intersection of all of the specialized capabilities that companies need to be able to create a next-generation type of aircraft, like the types that BI are creating. It’s a combination of, you need to have a superior CAD modeling capability that allows you to be able to rapidly innovate and develop the geometry fast, you need to be able to tie that directly to a digital twin of the electrical system that is not just for the avionics, but it’s also for the propulsion of the aircraft. In the course of doing that, actually create a composite design that’s going to be lighter weight, that’s going to expand the design space for what you can do structurally with the aircraft, that will lead you to a new type of platform built on electrical propulsion system that really does represent a true next-generation platform that can transform the industry. It won’t be a surprise to me if, in five or 10 years, we see many, many more electric aircraft out there that are serving a wide variety of needs. It’s not just for trainers, but for passenger aircraft and a whole bunch of other areas that I think are going to be very exciting. And I think that problem, in terms of adding into the development process, the capabilities you need to build a next-generation product, that’s the same problem you’re gonna have within urban Air Mobility and all these other really new business models that people are trying to adopt for how they bring aviation transportation to a broader market.

John O’Connor: And I think one of the things that tie into that is just the really basic question of how you handle, in a mechanical sense, all of the challenges associated with the increased avionics. Avionics means lots and lots of wires. If you look at an older design of an aircraft – maybe two or three generations ago – that aircraft was principally a mechanical design; a mechanical with hydraulics, some electrical systems onboard. But now you look at the aircraft, and the balance is completely shifted where yes, of course, you still have all the needs for structural requirements in the aircraft or the needs to meet those structural requirements. But now you’ve got software and electrical systems – and being able to manage the software component to it, I think it’s a whole set of capabilities that Siemens provides for that. But particularly when it comes to managing the mechanical aspect of the electrical integration, that’s where the ECAD, MCAD workflows that NX has, I think, really shine. And it really starts to show how truly differentiated what NX offers is in terms of the specialized capabilities that you need for next-generation products, compared to what else is out there in the industry.

Derek England: It used to feel really disconnected. Somebody would be doing the electrical design, and then you’d kind of throw it over the wall to the mechanical guys and they would create the 3D routings. And then the changes weren’t parallel. They were serial. Any changes would take a while to implement, and it was very hard to get that right because it wasn’t a collaborative experience. And so, now with the Capital in NX integration, you’re able to make those changes and dynamically see them in NX, in the 3D representation, in the electrical harness and then be able to do things like cross probing. This bidirectional collaboration really enables them to speed up that process and get the electrical systems right. And you’re going to see more and more electrical systems in an aircraft. You need this type of collaborative environment to develop an aircraft with the types of complex avionics equipment.

John O’Connor: You know, this is where the conversation has completely changed.The combination of the benefits that Mentor Graphics with their Capital product provided. Now that that’s part of Siemens, it’s completely changed the conversation in the customers’ work. They can see from one vendor a complete set of capabilities they need in order to be able to move forward into this next-generation world of increased electrification, increased avionics, and products. And I think that, as much as anything, the ability for customers to have a more complete conversation on the products that they’re developing, with Siemens Digital Industries, really is a big part of the value that I think that we’re bringing to a lot of these businesses, is that we seek to provide the specialized capabilities they need to be able to pursue strategies for profitable growth in the business lines that they offer. And if you really want to do that, you need to be taking a holistic look at what’s involved in creating one of these next-generation products. And this combination of ECAD, MCAD integration, and handling all the complexities of wire harnesses and routing everything like that – that’s just a huge advantage, I think, for our customers, and it’s a way that we can really help to engage with them on their strategy for how they’re going to introduce those new next-generation types of products.

Jennifer Piper: The second trend: workforce demographics. In the United States and Western Europe, many of the engineers are on the verge of retiring and it’s creating a gap in available resources. What is being done and how are high schoolers playing a part of the solution? So, the second trend that you mentioned is workforce demographics. And so, can you talk a little bit about that? I know that you had mentioned the aging workforce in the United States and also in EMEA, but perhaps you guys could both give the listeners a little bit more detail of what you’re seeing as a trend there.

John O’Connor: Yeah, I think this is actually one of the biggest threats to many of our customers’ businesses – is their ability to attract and retain a high-quality engineering workforce. And there’s a lot of knowledge that people have, that’s been acquired over time that walks out the door when people retire. And so, finding ways to make sure that all of the knowledge stays resident inside the company, but also that you have ways to be able to achieve the same types of engineering know-how and the same understanding of how you get to an optimal design without having to rely on someone who has many years of experience that’s done a lot of trial and error over time and has arrived at the final solution – actually being able to do that with simulation tools and being able to give someone the ability to look at a design and to look at the design space, and be able to explore it more fully.

John O’Connor: And so, when it comes to addressing this concern of people saying, “Hey, we can’t hire enough engineers, or we’re going to have a serious retention problem, people are retiring”, making sure that we provide capabilities that really do focus pretty specifically on filling those gaps – and that resource gap gets filled in a number of ways. One, as I said, is being able to support faster simulation cycles. So, what previously had happened maybe over a generation of engineers, in terms of arriving at kind of the best design approach for a certain type of product. Now, the ability to do that with advanced simulation and to be able to support much more efficient development through a variety of design exploration methodologies is something that we offer there. I think also the ability just to focus on modeling productivity – the way that people use engineering software tools to produce the product can be dramatically improved if they address the right sorts of modeling approaches.

John O’Connor: And I’ll give you an example of that in a minute here. But I think, one other area, I think, too, is the ability to better utilize that modeling data once it’s created. So, you create the CAD model and any associated information related to it in order to create a fully representative digital twin of the design. Once you have that, you want to be able to utilize that as much as possible, and being able to take advantage of the new developments in virtual reality and augmented reality, to give more insight into the product and help to avoid errors, both in design but also downstream in consumption to manufacturing is hugely important. And the ability to share that digital twin in a collaborative way across the entire development team, from design to simulation to manufacturing, potentially out to maintenance is something that is actually a real advantage that you can get if you find a really good way to be able to create that design, create that model, do it efficiently, do it fast, iterate on that quickly, and then be able to have a strong means of collaboration across the entire development chain.

John O’Connor: I think it’s really interesting, Derek, for example, in terms of modeling productivity. I mean, NX has been demonstrated to be a truly superior modeling tool relative to every other tool that’s on the market today. And I think it goes strongly to a lot of the ways that the design workflows are enabled in NX. And I think what’s really exciting is a lot of the new artificial intelligence capability is part of NX.

Derek England: You see, for college and high school students, the concept of a 2D drawing is so foreign to them. They’re not used to thinking in these old drawings. They want to see in 3D. And to force them to understand and document in 2D is a real struggle. They think more naturally in 3D. I think we all benefit from that. And, for example, in Boeing in St. Louis, they have a virtual reality lab that’s just amazing. And they bring in high school students and give them a design challenge. And they put on their virtual reality goggles, and they all work collaboratively together in this 3D environment, and they’re able to do these amazing things. And if you were to put them in front of a 2D drawing and say, “Okay, can you please solve this problem using these 2D drawings?” It would be infinitely harder for them to work out these problems. And so, giving the younger generation of designers these tools that are more natural and easier for them to collaborate is a huge advantage. And so, being able to do that using Siemens tools, giving them the advantage of working in these kinds of immersive environments, brings a huge differentiator.

John O’Connor: In terms of filling that resource gap, you have younger engineers coming in and they have to be able to do more work, kind of be more productive than the engineers that they’re replacing because there’s not going to be enough of them. The great capabilities that we offer, I think combined with the ability to immerse themselves in the design with regard to the VR/AR capability we offer is providing something that’s unique. And I think it’s not just the VR/AR technology. It’s the ability to drive that VR/AR technology from the digital twin and making sure that digital twin is something that is rapidly produced, is easily iterated upon, and produces the high-quality data that you need downstream to utilize those immersive design environments. So, I think it’s really a great example of a next-generation type of capability that you need to be able to produce a next-generation kind of product.

Jennifer Piper: Supply chain – the third trend. The aerospace supply chain is changing along with the path to profitability and growth. As a result, many organizations need to reassess and restructure their internal processes to address current challenges and remain innovative.

John O’Connor: Supply chain profitability and what suppliers need to do to control their own destiny. I hear this time and again that frequently, suppliers get pushed to the IT solutions of their customers. So, the Prime has a certain IT solution and they tell their supplier that they want them to design using certain tools or do this in certain ways. Then, of course, that next step down the supply chain maybe gets to hold something similar. They end up being driven to use certain engineering IT solutions that are good for their customer but maybe aren’t necessarily good for them. And, in many ways, it will dramatically and directly affect the profitability of the supplier if they’re driven to use a sort of an incongruent solution for their own position within the aerospace supply chain. So, finding the right fit for an IT solution – particularly engineering software – depending upon your position in the supply chain is hugely important, and we see that there’s lots and lots of inefficiencies that can be developed. Companies are always trying to use the particular engineering tool of their customer, often in a way that doesn’t make a lot of sense for how they do business. And so, I think that’s an interesting area where a lot of the capabilities that we provide that I think are truly these next-generation types of capabilities around modeling productivity and investing more in the ability to more quickly develop the design, develop a digital twin, but also, once that’s created, to support a whole range of workflows around collaboration – and collaboration both within the company, but also across the supply chain. I think, you know, directly to a lot of the capabilities that Teamcenter offers, particularly with regard to visualization; make it so that you can do things in a much more, I’ll say, in a way, that’s much more of a better fit for a company in the supply chain, than you can do it if you’re using the dictated tool that’s coming from the prime in the supply chain.

Derek England: The ability to have a digital twin and digital thread enables you to iterate so much more than you could with these disconnected tools. So, if you wanted to make a change and evaluate a change, with an integrated set of tools, within the same day, you could go through multiple iterations. Where before, with disconnected tools, it would take you so long to do that. And so, if you think we’re designing an aircraft, I mean, how much money is invested in these engineers, in their time. But if you’re not giving them the tools to be productive, you’re saying, “Oh, you know, I’m going to save money on buying this mid-range software solution”, and so you save for yourself $1 an hour, but this engineer is only 20% or 50% effective, if you look at the bigger picture, if this engineer could go through dozens of iterations instead of one or two iterations, think about how much better that aircraft will be, and how much better the performance of that aircraft would be with an optimized solution! I think software vendors understand this and they’re investing appropriately. They’re saying, “We need this digital thread, digital twin that Siemens offers us.”

John O’Connor: Yeah, and I think the ability to do that, though, in a way that’s truly open and supports a wide range of collaboration. So, the ability to take CAD models from other vendors into the NX environment, and to be able to work on them via JT workflows or other types of workflows, make it so that we have a much more powerful set of design tools that support the needs of a company that’s kind of at a mid-tier in the supply chain that can support the needs of their customer farther up the supply chain, but also support the interaction with the tier three or tier four supplier downstream that’s also going to have to utilize that data.

Derek England: The JT story is a really great one, John! I’m glad you mentioned that. Customers like Northrop Grumman have these customers who demand, “Oh, you have to provide us a native CAD data.” They worked with this and there’s a huge effort to create gigabytes of native CAD data for their customer. In the end, the customer was never even able to open that entire structure up in their CAD tool. And so, they said,  “what if we started iterating using JT instead?” And so, they said, “Oh, no, no! We have to have native CAD.” “We’re going to give you the JT in addition to the native CAD, and let’s just see how this works.” Very quickly, their customer decided this is much better. We can open the whole structure; we can see it in the context of our own design. This is the new way that we interact. And so, JT has become a great way for suppliers to interact and collaborate.

John O’Connor: I heard it put once that, JT is the key that opens up profitability or opens up the door to profitability in the supply chain, because it allows for companies to be able to really embrace their own design methodologies and to do what’s important for them, using NX or the CAD system that makes the most sense for them. But then, also, support a collaborative and transparent process across the supply chain that utilizes that JT data to do exactly what you said, that support the needs of the customer in a way that’s even better than you can do with native CAD. We’re really excited to be playing a major role in the aerospace industry today and how we provide these specialized kinds of tools that focus on creating these opportunities for our customers and their next-generation products.

Jennifer Piper: Special thanks to John and Derek for coming on the show and talking about all of these exciting innovations occurring in the aerospace and defense industry. And thank you for joining us today on this episode of the Next Generation Design Podcast. I’m Jennifer Piper.

Jennifer Piper: Siemens Digital Industries Software is driving transformation to enable a digital enterprise where engineering, manufacturing, and electronics design meet tomorrow. Our Xcelerator Portfolio helps companies of all sizes create and leverage digital twins which provide organizations with new insights, opportunities, and levels of automation to drive innovation. For more information on Siemens Digital Industries Software products and services, visit www.sw.siemens.com or you can also follow us on LinkedIn Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. Siemens Digital Industries Software – where today meets tomorrow!


Next Generation Design

Next Generation Design

As product engineering tools continue to morph and expand at speeds human expertise may not be able to endure, Revolutionary design technologies that span beyond industry borders, will prove their necessity for companies looking to take over their markets in the future. What will the future of design technologies and machinery look like? What will your digitalization story be? Where engineering meets tomorrow.

Next Generation Design Podcast Podcast

Next Generation Design Podcast

As product engineering tools continue to morph and expand at speeds human expertise may not be able to endure, Revolutionary design technologies that span beyond industry borders, will prove their necessity for companies looking to take over their markets in the future. What will the future of design technologies and machinery look like? What will your digitalization story be? Where engineering meets tomorrow.

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This article first appeared on the Siemens Digital Industries Software blog at https://blogs.sw.siemens.com/podcasts/next-generation-design/electric-propulsion-systems-longer-range-and-lower-maintenance-costs-in-aerospace/