Requirements-based thinking – Aerospace Manufacturing

PTC explains how its acquisition of Intland Software’s Codebeamer Application Lifecycle Management platform will help support the company’s efforts in creating a closed loop between the digital and physical worlds.

The past few years have not been kind to the aerospace sector as they have suffered the brunt of Covid-19 lockdowns and travel bans with parked aircraft, empty airports, and closed production lines.

The pandemic has accelerated several pre-existing trends in aviation and aerospace, with market participants identifying sustainable technologies, industry consolidation and environmental, social, and corporate governance (ESG) as the three biggest themes punctuating the emerging new normal, according to research from analysts Roland Berger.

Aerospace has always been a sector, quite rightly, that has been heavily reliant on stringent regulations to ensure quality and safety. Every aerospace project must apply the necessary standards to the engineering process. For software, this is guided by DO-178B, Software Considerations in Airborne Systems and Equipment Certification, which is a guideline dealing with the safety of safety-critical software used in certain airborne systems. For the hardware element RTCA DO-254/EUROCAE ED-80, Design Assurance Guidance for Airborne Electronic Hardware is a document guiding the development of airborne electronic hardware.

In addition to these requirements, sustainability is becoming increasingly important and overshadows all the design, engineering and manufacturing processes from the materials used in production through the carbon footprint of the finished product and even the environmental performance of the aircraft itself. The design of these products now must be all-encompassing around not just the efficient designs that endure, but they must be built and run sustainably. Being able to build sustainable products, which is the same as many other industry verticals, starts right at the beginning with requirements.

Closing the loop

Part of the process is the ability to prove that you are building the right product to meet the needs, and this is where requirements-based design comes to the fore. The difficulty that aerospace manufacturers face is being able to close the loop between the myriad of requirements – including safety and sustainability – design and test to guarantee that these requirements are built into the process right at the beginning and then follow the lifecycle through the design and engineering process and verified through valid tests at the end of the process.

Codebeamer: a very capable cloud web user interface

Currently, aerospace companies rely on CAD, PLM and a multitude of software packages and specifying those requirements are usually co-ordinated through emails or spreadsheets.

This is now changing with Codebeamer, a product PTC recently added to its portfolio when it acquired Intland. This solution is a very capable cloud web user interface, focusing on requirements engineering, risk management, and test management linked and traced together. It is powerful around areas like agile, so the latest contemporary approaches for design, and integration with technologies like GitHub, and Jenkins for CI/CD pipelines. It also delivers numerous out-of-the-box templates that offer processes ready for rigorous industry standards. This is a whole new way of working in the form of requirements-based design.

By defining the requirements and making them integral to design right at the start you can build tests within Codebeamer that are applied to ensure that the product’s performance meets those requirements. To achieve this requires clearly defined requirements linked to designs in CAD, PLM and ALM for software, and then traceable links to the tests that prove the requirements are satisfied. The authorities can then audit that and check compliance.

This end-to-end visibility leans heavily on the concept of the digital thread that underpins much of PTC’s portfolio that creates a closed-loop between the digital and physical worlds, transforming how products are engineered, manufactured, and serviced. Digital threads seek to create simple, universal access to data. They follow a single set of related data as it weaves in and out of business processes and functions to enable continuity and accessibility.

This digital thread can be created for many different entities and processes. Most commonly a thread of a product follows the lifecycle from design inception through engineering and product lifecycle management (PLM) to manufacturing instructions, supply chain management and through to service histories and customer events. This thread enables enterprises to anticipate and effectively communicate bi-directly up and downstream of where the product is in its lifecycle, ensuring all participants utilise the most current data and can react quickly to change or new insights. This digital thread is enabled by the orchestration and integration layer provided by ThingWorx, a complete, end-to-end technology platform designed for the industrial Internet of Things (IIoT). It delivers tools and technologies that empower businesses to rapidly develop and deploy powerful role-based applications and augmented reality (AR) experiences.

Aerospace is heavily reliant on stringent regulations to ensure quality and safety
Aerospace is heavily reliant on stringent regulations to ensure quality and safety

A system of systems

One way to help companies improve their system engineering processes is model-based systems engineering (MBSE). MBSE uses models to define the system, and this helps address complexity, encourages reuse, and helps manage product lines. As products grow more complex, multiple engineering disciplines need to work together to design, build, and maintain them. Designing a system using models enables early visualization and simulation, improving stakeholder buy-in and customer satisfaction.

Model-based systems engineering enables collaborative designs, innovative design, and maintenance of complex systems. It helps organizations optimize the use of resources while complying with industry standards. This MBSE approach is facilitated through PTC’s Windchill Modeler.

This includes built-in linking and tracing between its native data management capabilities and systems engineering, requirements management, source code and testing. Core to this offering is Open Service Lifecycle Collaboration (OSLC), an OASIS industry standard, to integrate its suite of products including Windchill and Codebeamer, into a collaborative tool chain. This allows requirements to be closely linked to feel like a shared database, even though Windchill and Codebeamer are separate tools.

For aerospace and defense organisations, this visibility and control along the entire lifecycle of a product that delivers the ability to design, engineer and manufacture a product based on requirements allows great control of the process, and ensure that the finished product meets requirements, whether they be safety, sustainability of the more traditional parameters of cost, weight, and size.

Learn more by visiting PTC at the Farnborough Airshow this July in hall 4, stand 4834.

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