A digital thread approach to support manufacturing-influenced conceptual aircraft design


This paper proposes and demonstrates the integration of manufacturing and production considerations with traditional aircraft design metrics to support affordability-based design. To enable the necessary multi-disciplinary trades, a digital thread approach is proposed that integrates detailed models and analyses. The digital thread refers to linking models from various disciplines through common inputs and data flows with the goal of speeding design time and enabling trades across traditionally isolated disciplines. When used within an overarching design process, the production cost, rate, and efficiencies of non-conventional designs in variable demand environments can be quantified and traded early in the design process. In particular, the methodology is demonstrated using a wingbox design problem such that aircraft performance considerations, production rate, manufacturing cost, and financial planning metrics can be traded within a parametric, visual trade-off environment. The environment, combined with a multi-objective optimization routine, facilitates effective affordability-based tradespace exploration during the early stages of the design of non-traditional aircraft (e.g., those utilizing composite structures) under demand variability. An F-86 Sabre redesigned wingbox using three separate manufacturing concepts is used as a proof-of-concept for this research.

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This research is funded by Boeing Research and Technology (BR&T). In particular, the authors would like to thank Howard Appelman, Steven Wanthal, Keith Rupel, Adam Graunke, and Gabriel Burnett from The Boeing Company for their expertise and support.

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Correspondence to Dennis J. L. Siedlak.

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Research conducted while attending the Georgia Institute of Technology.

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Siedlak, D.J.L., Pinon, O.J., Schlais, P.R. et al. A digital thread approach to support manufacturing-influenced conceptual aircraft design. Res Eng Design 29, 285–308 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00163-017-0269-0

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  • Design process
  • Aerospace design
  • Manufacturing
  • Production
  • Affordability
  • Digital thread