virtual engineering gives Airbus jumbo more lift

Virtual engineering design, spearheaded in the automotive industry, has now been
deployed in the aircraft industry with startling success. Dean Palmer reports

Virtual engineering design, spearheaded in the automotive industry, has now been
deployed in the aircraft industry by Altair Engineering with startling success. The
leading edge wing section of the massive new Airbus A380 incorporates an innovative
design developed by BAE SYSTEMS' Aerostructures business using Altair's computer aided
engineering (CAE) software. The result has been an enormous mass saving of 500 kg from
a small part of the wing assembly and the delivery of the product within a very tight
time schedule.

"The increasingly aggressive weight targets and shortening development timescales in
the civil aircraft industry require a new approach to aircraft design," said Royston
Jones, Managing Director of Altair Engineering Ltd. "At Altair we have developed a
suite of highly sophisticated computer aided engineering software, including the Altair
OptiStruct optimisation tool, which we have applied with great success for clients in
the automotive industry and a range of other sectors worldwide. This application, in
what will be the world's largest commercial airliner, the Airbus A380, demonstrates the
power of our software and our innovative approach. Our concepts and technologies are
also relevant to designers across many sectors and in the coming months, we will be
introducing our approach to designers in the defence, white goods and packaging

Altair's OptiStruct CAE software significantly reduces the need for the production of
working prototypes throughout the design process. Instead it develops computer
prototypes which can be subjected to virtual tests - giving accurate results rapidly
and enabling cost savings.

Conventional design processes tend to consume much time at an early stage studying
different design alternatives. In contrast, OptiStruct CAE software performs a topology
optimisation - a mathematical technique that produces an optimum shape and material
distribution for any structure within a given design space. With this, the wing
designers at Aerostructures were very quickly able to establish an initial design with
optimal load paths. This topology design was then refined using detailed sizing and
shape optimisation techniques. The Altair OptiStruct approach, proven with clients in
the automotive industry, quickly generated optimised components for stiffness, stress
and vibration designs for the Airbus wing section.

Following delivery to Airbus at Broughton, Wales, the structure is assembled together
with the other A380 wing components into complete wings and transported to the final
aircraft assembly line in Toulouse, France. The 555-seater, fuel-efficient airliner
will be the world's only twin-deck, four-aisle aircraft and is expected to enter
service in 2006.

Dean Palmer

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