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June 2008 edition

Virtually nothing separates partners in France and China on the manufacturing front

For Eurocopter the distance between France and China is virtually non-existent. A digital mock-up (DMU) is used to keep four Chinese partners in different areas of the country in touch with the development of the EC175.

The DMU is a virtual helicopter that is entirely represented in 3D, right down to the smallest parts. "It is the working base used by everybody involved in the programme," says Philippe Legendre, the programme's chief engineer.

Eurocopter is working with four Chinese partners. The HAIG company is located in the north, where the assembly line will be based, but the three other organisations are located in the south. The China Helicopter Research and Development Institute (CHRDI) is working on the structures, fuel system, landing gear, flight controls and power plant. CAPI is the research institute developing the transmission systems. And Zhongnan Transmission Machinery Works (ZTMW) is producing the dynamic components. It takes two days to travel from Eurocopter's headquarters in Marignane to visit CHRDI or HAIG and journeys between northern and southern China can take just as long.

Personal contact is important but the DMU enables great precision to be achieved by factories working together at a distance. Legendre says: "The suppliers' design offices can also use this tool to validate the integration of their equipment, keeping an overview of all the helicopter's constraints. We have also set up a virtual reality room with a 12 square metre screen which we u....

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