A few weeks ago, I published a post that focused on the form, fit and function aspect of the product record. In it, I differentiated between artifacts that defined a product’s form and fit like 3D models, diagrams and schematics and artifacts that defined or predicted a product’s function like simulations, analyses and tests. I think this is a pretty good representation of products composed of mechanical, electrical and software components.

VISTAGY and the Impact of Developing a More Complete Product Definition

This series of posts will cover new product releases, changes in product strategy and acquisitions by engineering software providers affect engineering stakeholders. New posts in this series will be published based on software provider activities. This post looks at engineering software provided by Vistagy.

When most folks think of CAD, machined parts come to mind. However, that doesn’t really span the entire definition for other types of products. For example, a sizeable amount of a car’s definition is composed of the interiors where fabrics and foam are prevalent. Also, a sizeable amount of an airplane’s definition is composed of composites and other aero-specific components and materials. Those are things that aren’t defined at a detailed enough level in 3D MCAD software models today. To get a better idea of a more complete means of capturing their definition, I visited VISTAGY (corporate site, no wikipedia entry) the last time I was in Boston.

Dates and Events: VISTAGY was founded in 1991 by Steve Luby, the current CEO and President. While they initially built a strong reputation with their software for composite design in the aerospace & defense industry, they have since built out several other engineering specific software solutions for other industries such as automotive and energy.

Capabilities: VISTAGY has developed a common technology framework that they use to embed their products in practically all of the MCAD software applications that are used today. There’s no launching another software application or importing 3D design models. You just access a new set of engineering capabilities that are industry specific or domain specific as described below. VISTAGY products are shown below in italics.

  • Aerospace & Defense:FiberSIM® provides advanced analysis and modification tools for engineers to build and explore alternative composite designs. Based on the composite design, SynchroFIT® enables engineers to design the plane’s aerostructure with tools that automate the creation of stringers and longerons. Synchrofit® also automates and manages the placement and details of fasteners to couple composites and aerostructure together. Quality Planning EnvironmentTM ensures airframes are manufactured properly based on condition of supply definitions.
  • Automotive: Seat Design EnvironmentTM provides capabilities for engineers to partition a MCAD developed seat surface design into fabrics, foams and other materials. Engineers can add seam definitions and generate fabric flat patterns. FiberSIM® is also used to define, analyze and manufacture composite components for cars, which is an increasing trend in the industry.
  • Wind Power Generation: In another natural fit from a composite perspective, VISTAGY applied their FiberSIM® product to the design of composite blades for turbines used to generate power on wind farms. It works much the same way as it does in the aerospace and defense industry. Engineers define layup details and then iterate on the design as necessary.

Commentary: Even though VISTAGY’s software is used in three different industrial applications, the same value proposition applies. It’s all about using a single definition to enable associative change for many applications. Let me explain.

Let’s talk about the design of a plane. It’s outer shape is heavily influenced by aerodynamic characteristics. Engineers use CFD simulations, at least to some extent, to drive it’s shape. The basis for CFD simulations is an MCAD model. Alternatively the design of composites has traditionally been done on hardcopy drawings or in highly specialized software applications, neither of which are connected to the MCAD model. With two different models in a highly iterative design phase, one of a few things will happen: the model definitions will diverge, huge effort will go into manually propagating changes back and forth or one side will wait for the other side to freeze their design before starting their work. In almost all of these cases, delays were involved and tremendous amounts of scrap were generated. Similar scenarios played out with seat design, only instead of CFD analyses, it was aesthetic design that balanced out against detailing the seat.

There’s a number of advantages of using VISTAGY’s products.

  • If you remember is embedded in the MCAD software application and uses its definition as a starting point, is that the more complete product definition enables engineers to validate designs earlier and propagate change through the design phase more readily. Engineers can start defining these specialist areas earlier because they don’t have to worry about other design changes invalidating their work.
  • VISTAGY’s products enables the creation of a more complete product definition that acts as a truer digital prototype. Problems that would have been caught downstream in prototyping and manufacturing are now caught in the design phase in the model. That reduces scrap and waste in the prototyping and production phases.
  • VISTAGY’s products automate what has traditionally been very manual or 2D design tasks. Additionally, the more complete product definition can be used more thoroughly downstream in manufacturing applications.

There are areas, however, for improvement. Because VISTAGY has essentially extended the product definition beyond the traditional MCAD model, there is more information to potentially share with other enterprise stakeholders.

  • Information in traditionally defined MCAD models is extracted by PLM systems during check-in and check-out, enabling access to this information by other enterprise stakeholders. Information extraction of the more complete product definition created by VISTAGY’s products by PLM systems is possible. However the system must be extended with configuration options or customizations.
  • Another integration point is to extract and provide access to the more complete product definition created by VISTAGY products by 3D visualization software applications. This would enable access of the information on top of the 3D model instead of just a text-based context in PLM.

The scenarios that need these integrations are often specific to the manufacturer, making it difficult for a software provider like VISTAGY to define a single standard integration. However, more out-of-the-box integrations with PLM systems and 3D visualization software applications than their numerous existing 3rd party interfaces to MCAD software applications would be valuable.

Summary and Conclusion: VISTAGY’s products, embedded within MCAD software applications, extend the definition of the product captured within the MCAD model to address tough industry and domain specific engineering issues. The advantage is automating the propagation of change and using the more complete product definition to validate designs earlier in the design phase. While these advantages provide their own benefits, VISTAGY software applications need to extend the accessibility of this more complete product definition to the broader enterprise.

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