This article first appeared in the Autumn 2016 issue of The Record.
In 2014, the Land Rover BAR team began a 2.5 year timetable to design, evaluate and verify an America’s Cup Class (ACC) catamaran. Teams are not allowed to launch their boats until 150 days before the first event of the 2017 America’s Cup Qualifiers, so the bulk of design, analysis and performance testing must be completed on much smaller-scale test models.
By the start of 2016, testing was fully underway and the ACC wing-foiled catamaran was in development. The team is using NX and Teamcenter software from Siemens PLM Software, with implementation, training and support services from Siemens PLM platinum partner Majenta PLM, to provide an integrated virtual environment for digital modelling and simulation.
“It is a really big challenge on all fronts,” says Sir Ben Ainslie, Olympic medallist and 34th America’s Cup winner, and team principal and skipper of Land Rover BAR. “We have established a new team from scratch; we have the right philosophy and the right design tools and we are catching up with existing teams; yet we are operating under tremendous time pressure.”
The boat’s fixed wing sail is crucial to speed and subject to strict rules on the weight and shape of the wing. The Land Rover BAR design team has combined a fully detailed 3D model of the wing using NX, a high-level stick model developed with Femap software, and a detailed composite model created using the Fibersim portfolio of software for composites engineering (the laminate modelling and draping toolset integrated with NX). This combination is being used with computational fluid dynamics (CFD) analysis tools from Siemens PLM Software. “The scripting capabilities of NX have allowed us to create a user interface for the CFD coding and set up an aeroelastic simulation process entirely within NX,” says Simon Schofield, designer, Land Rover BAR. “Having everything in one environment really speeds up our productivity because we are not transferring files in and out.”
Land Rover BAR is also using NX scripting capabilities to help simulate the behaviour of composite layers and understand how they degrade under stress. “We are still fine-tuning it, using the power of NX scripting and open capabilities to customise workflows, remove clicks and improve efficiency,” says Andy Claughton, the team’s chief technology officer. “As a result, we have been able to improve the way in which we send information to the shop floor. We can send laminate drawings or flattened patterns that allow the manufacturer to set up automatic pattern generation and cut directly, guaranteeing precision.”
Together, NX and Teamcenter enable a comprehensive development process from concept to the surface of the sea. “The ability of NX to generate geometries quickly and easily is fundamental because every question we ask ourselves starts with geometry,” says Claughton. “Everything stems from a robust CAD model. Only then can we analyse weight and behaviour; produce renderings to show the sailing team the controls and displays; or print plastic samples for the sailors and shore crew to check.”
Use of the analysis tools integrated with NX enables the design team to optimise the structure of metallic parts made through the additive manufacturing method. “We plan specifically for 3D printing by starting with an envelope of material on which we mark boundary areas and attachment pins,” says Claughton. “Even with such topological optimisation the end result can still be extremely complex but, with NX, we have smoothing tools that allow us to manipulate the models further and make them practicable to build.”
By annotating 3D models with NX product and manufacturing information mark-ups, the design team can convey the exact manufacturing requirements of a 3D model to downstream partners. This detailed guidance is carried through to drawings for suppliers who require 2D data.
Land Rover BAR uses Teamcenter to manage all technical files and documents so that specifications, design calculations, analysis data, simulation results and material properties are in the correct order and associated with the right CAD models. The team’s use of Teamcenter controls the release process and governs all workflows leading up to manufacturing. This enables 15-20 people to collaborate very closely on the same model.
“Now that we have a library of parts and established workflows, we do not always have to start from scratch,” says Claughton. “Each boat moves on from the last and we frequently use the clone tool to clone particular parts or subsystems and quickly try out a different approach.”
Analysis methods also vary according to the specific requirements of each stage of development. Because the use of Teamcenter enables Land Rover BAR to control the flow of engineering data throughout the organisation, the team can fully audit progress, enabling them to see exactly what has been done at every stage and control the complete bill of materials for the 2016 test boat.
The engineering team’s mission control centre has a live video link to the test boat and designers can see exactly what is happening during testing, as they assess data received from the various sensors positioned around the boat. Sailing can then be followed by a thorough and informative debriefing session for sailors and engineers. “We are always streamlining our processes to avoid repetition of effort and free the engineering team to focus on the actual design,” says Claughton. “NX remains at the heart of what we do, enabling us to continue refining geometry and systems even as we are building components.”
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