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December 2006 edition

Advancing civil aircraft design: Providing a knowledge based multidisciplinary engineering approach

By Ernst Kesseler

Work is intensifying on advancing multidisciplinary design optimisation (MDO) in aircraft and engine design. This work, conducted under the auspices of the four-year VIVACE (Value Improvement through a Virtual Aeronautical Collaborative Enterprise) project, aims to reduce costs and streamline the design process. Information technology is likely to play an increasing role.

The traditional aircraft design process is to explore design space at the top level during the early design phases, using heuristics or simplified tools like spreadsheet interpolation.

This produces a preliminary allocation of targets for each discipline considered relevant at this level. Subsequently each discipline performs an initial design iteration guided by the results of the top-level design. These initial results are fed back to the top-level design. Typical target times for an iteration during this phase are up to a month.

Once the top level design is chosen, the conceptual design phase starts. The same top level and discipline level activities are carried out for the major systems, like the wing, but it uses more accurate, and hence more time consuming methods, along with supporting tools.

Once the concept is defined, the definition phase is entered, where each discipline uses its full precision tools and methods for the subsystems involved (e.g., details like the stiffeners for a fuselage panel are consi....

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