ESI is a key technological expert and partner on the CAELESTIS project - a research project under the EU’s Horizon Europe program aiming to revolutionize how we engineer new aircraft via Virtual Prototyping. Disruptive projects of this magnitude will eventually make zero-carbon aviation a reality – we’re sure of that - and we need to elaborate on the ways in which this is going to work in the context of the aviation industry.
Today, the aviation industry “needs to turn their R&D investments into proven value and ROI for their organizations”, according to Dr. Mustafa Megahed, one of the ESI experts participating in CAELESTIS. “To efficiently manage growing complexity, product development teams have to turn the corner, enabling engineers to experiment with real data and real physics virtually, which allows them to assess the full picture of the final product before physical prototypes are manufactured.” In short, Virtual Prototyping is going to play a major role in the sustainable future of aviation.
“Virtual Prototyping grants the freedom to displace physical tests and prototypes by virtually replicating product development, testing, and manufacturing with simulations,” explains Megahed. It represents a shortcut to tomorrow’s new breed of aircraft, enabling us to explore and prove groundbreaking designs in advanced virtual reality that can reduce emissions and uphold safety. A multitude of ESI’s customers from various sectors have already used similar processes to digitally demonstrate their products and processes to be safe, clean, and productive. “At the end of the day,” says Megahed, “it is all about bringing early confidence to all stakeholders involved in creating and operating new aircraft.”
As pictured here, ESI’s manufacturing simulation software, PAM-COMPOSITES, helps aerospace parts manufacturers get their composites manufacturing processes and parameters right. Virtual tests and virtual prototypes help them reduce or even eliminate physical tests.
Dr. Megahed illustrates some use cases for the innovative approach at the heart of the CAELESTIS project and the kinds of questions it can answer.
So, what are some of the obstacles to be overcome before Virtual Prototyping can change how we design tomorrow’s sustainable aircraft? Firstly, vital expertise, accuracy, and specialist knowledge need to be further developed. Virtual Prototypes need a variety of specialist knowledge regarding the physics of materials and the availability of accurate material models, not to mention how to assess and work with simulation results. This is vital for growing user trust in digital results over traditional cost- and time-intense physical testing methods. Engineers will have to be able to run simulations across a variety of platforms smoothly and quickly, keeping everything consistent with a view of the final product. This “single source of truth” is another foundational layer for being able to operate entirely digitally in an end-to-end fashion.
Pioneer work and research projects like our CAELESTIS project are important bricks to creating an effective dataflow across the entire aircraft value chain, further linking together engineering, design, and manufacturing. This journey has just begun – for OEMs as well as for vendors like us.Dr. Mustafa MegahedR&D Manager, ESI Group
Launched in May 2022 and set to run for 42 months into late 2025, CAELESTIS will be using virtual prototyping in its aim to develop a novel, secure, end-to-end Interoperable Simulation Ecosystem (ISE) that will perform multidirectional dataflow across the aforementioned aircraft value chain. This will essentially forge links between product design and the CAD-CAE tools of distributed engineering teams, enabling acceleration of the design and engineering optimization of disruptive aircraft and engine configurations. In turn, this will ensure their manufacturability from the design conceptualization. “In other words,” according to Dr. Megahed, “several Virtual Prototypes will be chained and coupled together to represent aircraft design and manufacturing allowing for multi-objective optimization taking performance requirements and manufacturing constraints into account.”
Since its foundation in 1973, continuous learning has been key to ESI’s work. CAELESTIS falls into this long tradition and will ultimately increase the capabilities and applicability of Virtual Prototypes. Looking at the broader context and influence of the CAELESTIS project’s envisioned outcomes, Megahed sees a vast amount of potential. “The goal we all share in this project is to empower all stakeholders in the aerospace sector to create more sustainable aviation while applying more sustainable practices. Eventually, all our efforts in this project will contribute to strengthening the trust in digital simulation capabilities overall, and we’ll see an increasing number of companies relying on numerical reference results from Virtual Prototypes as opposed to physical testing and real prototypes. The CAELESTIS project is surely mission-critical in this regard.”
However exciting the possible applications are, the most important part of CAELESTIS remains its climate focus and potentially huge positive impact on sustainability and emissions reduction. “The use of simulation tools reduces the need for physical experiments,” explains Megahed. “Optimization based on physical assets and prototypes uses up materials and energy to produce and test different aspects of the design and production steps. This leads to significant amounts of scrap and waste that are difficult to recycle.” Virtual Prototypes, on the other hand, enable quicker assessment and optimization before any wasteful physical prototypes or experiments are needed. For instance, the provider of nacelles, Safran Nacelles, applies Virtual Prototyping with Virtual Reality to review some of its manufacturing process designs in an immersive, “real life” and human-centric way. The result has seen a 15% saving in their total tooling budget and shortening the timeframe for the design by 18 months. If extended to the entire aviation value chain, the results could perhaps be even more impressive.
If you'd like to know more about the Hybrid Twin and its applications in the aerospace sector, check out our blog post "Dassault Aviation’s “Aircraft Twin” Project Delivers Greater Predictivity in Real-Time to Optimize Fleet Usage, Performance, and Maintenance".
To learn more about the CAELESTIS project visit www.caelestis-project.eu/