Innovative tool development in aerospace

In a high-profile R&D project around engineering tool integration and performance optimization, IncQuery Labs transferred technology and knowledge to our client, the Silicon Valley-based innovation center of Airbus.

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The Client

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Acubed by Airbus is an innovation center in Silicon Valley. It is powered by Airbus, a global aerospace leader. Their mission is to innovate the industry and shape the future of aviation. To reach that goal they house and support high-impact, high-innovation projects. Their Advanced Digital Design and Manufacturing (ADAM) project aims to forecast the future of digital manufacturing and design in the aerospace sector and identify innovative technologies that will lead Airbus into the next era of aviation.

IncQuery Labs was commissioned by Acubed for a high-impact R&D project, in which our team has applied our technology in the context of a tool integration case study from the aerospace and defense sector.

Large organizations involved in model-based systems engineering (MBSE) know how much time and internal effort is spent on ensuring that engineering data is consistent across several engineering tools. Even today, time and money is wasted on tasks that could be simplified by automation. With tool- and platform integration technology provided by the IncQuery Suite, engineers don’t have to waste time on monotonous tasks - the result is faster and more efficient delivery.

In this case study, the toolchain consisted of CATIA No Magic Cameo Systems Modeler, Microsoft Excel and MathWorks Matlab Simulink. Engineering models and data structure definitions were specified in the standard SysML Language using MagicDraw. The integration platform’s primary task was to map this data into Matlab Simulink for the purpose of running numerical analysis and simulations. As its secondary task, the analysis and simulation results were projected back into SysML and an Excel-based report was generated, to aid KPI-based review processes. The main goal was to demonstrate that such automation is possible in a cloud-native framework, allowing engineers to interact with these tools without having installed them locally, only using their web browser.

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IncQuery Labs has a long and successful track record of applied R&D projects by using the combination of state-of-the-art technology and efficient project management methodology. We start such a project by first analyzing the requirements and understanding the business and technological perspective of the customer. Next, in the planning phase, we work in close collaboration with the client to elaborate a detailed R&D project plan, which is based on standard software development best practices but also highlights the technological risks and business benefits.

In this case, our primary focus was on toolchain scalability. In large-scale MBSE, organizations such as Airbus tend to work with more and more complex designs, which means hundreds of thousands, or even millions of model elements in SysML. This poses well-known challenges to the tools involved and potentially results in a drastic loss of productivity due to performance issues. Our main proposal for this project was to demonstrate that such scalability challenges can be efficiently solved using our flagship product, the IncQuery Suite.

Once the plan was agreed on, we worked in tight collaboration with the customer to realize and assess the scalability of the demonstrator. As in many projects, we built on modern open source technology, in this case, Eclipse VIATRA for reactive model transformations, Massif for interfacing with Matlab Simulink and Apache Metamodel for working with Excel documents. To highlight the scalability of the system, we performed systematic benchmark measurements based on a realistic workload and model sizes going up to 10 million elements.

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As the main result of this high-profile R&D project, we delivered the Acubed Interoperability Platform Demonstrator (A3-IPD), an integrated toolchain built around industry-leading commercial tools and the IncQuery Suite. Leveraging modern web technologies, the demonstrator allows engineers to run complex engineering workflows involving several tools with just a click of a button, in their browser.

To our customer’s satisfaction, we have designed and implemented benchmarks to show that by running engineering tools in the cloud, it is possible to run automated model mappings and report generation within a few seconds even on the largest models.

As the result of our work, Acubed was able to incorporate our findings into their innovation strategy. They were impressed by the efficiency and hands-on approach our team took to such a complex and technologically challenging project. Our expertise in the performance optimization of model-based tools has helped them in understanding how to build engineering toolchains for the future.

As an additional important outcome of this collaboration, Acubed has kindly agreed to release our work on extending Massif with an OpenAPI-compliant remote invocation interface as an open source project on GitHub.

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