Airbus accelerates innovation at the 3DEXPERIENCE Center Wichita

Airbus has significantly sped up product development by working with Dassault Systèmes and the National Institute for Aviation Research at Wichita State University at the 3DEXPERIENCE Center Wichita.

Stock UK Aerospace Clouds Aeroplane Aviation
Everywhere you look, new innovations are disrupting the aerospace market.

As we enter the second century of powered flight, there is an explosion of new innovation. Everywhere you look, new innovations are disrupting the aerospace market.

Autonomous flying vehicles will help issues around urban mobility. The commercialisation of space will reignite our exploration of space. Drones may deliver packages to our front door. Everywhere you look, new innovations are disrupting the aerospace market.

These waves of innovation are part of a new industrial renaissance with the rise of new technologies creating new ways of living, working, interacting, innovating and business models in the 21st century.

The lines are blurring between the virtual and real world. Augmented and virtual reality allow groups scattered across the globe to work together as if they are in the same room.

Dynamic simulation allows teams to run complex tests virtually saving hundreds of hours and thousands in costs. This industry renaissance can transform the people, processes and solutions companies need to be the market leaders of the future.

Not a futuristic concept, Airbus recently developed a new way of working to speed up product development. Working with Dassault Systèmes and the National Institute for Aviation Research at Wichita State University at the 3DEXPERIENCE Center Wichita, the aerospace giant chose a project that could not only revolutionise a critical aircraft component for its business and that of its competitors, but also change the speed of Airbus product innovation.

Starting a “90 day” sprint

Airbus sought to develop a prototype of a thrust reverser unit (TRU), a component that slows down an aircraft upon landing.

Thrust Reverser Unit Developed at the 3DEXPERIENCE Center Wichita - image courtesy of Dassault Systèmes.
Thrust Reverser Unit (TRU) Developed at the 3DEXPERIENCE Center Wichita – image courtesy of Dassault Systèmes.

It wanted to simplify the design and improve its efficiency in record time.  While this type of development project would normally take 18-24 months, Airbus set a goal to complete the work in a focused 90-day “sprint.”

Opened in 2017, the 3DEXPERIENCE Center on the WSU Innovation campus served as the hub for the development work leveraging Dassault Systèmes 3DEXPERIENCE platform® to connect more than 30 people across 22 organisations across the globe.

Leveraging the Center allowed the team to take advantage of its unique capabilities including: one of the world’s largest flex caves; a cutting-edge Multi-Robotics Advanced Manufacturing (MRAM) cell; and robust additive manufacturing and reverse engineering capabilities.

Trained on using the full capabilities of the 3DEXPERIENCE platform for three weeks, the team and multiple and suppliers worked concurrently to deliver the project in just 12 weeks.

Team members stayed in sync through a common project dashboard and conducted design reviews through the platform. In just 84 days, the joint team was able to accelerate new system development from concept to full-scale functioning prototype.

Key changes in the way Airbus worked:

  • Collapsing the distance between the virtual and real with Co-Simulation: The TRU program made extensive use of systems engineering and virtual testing to accelerate the development process. The team optimised the design through a series of trade studies using structures models, aerodynamic flow and actuator modes. All the models were built within the system and share many common parts. This allowed for autonomous sharing of input and outputs between models to accelerate testing iterations.
  • Eliminating the risk of being out of sync by using a Single Platform: Teams were able to conduct engineering efforts in parallel by working on an integrated single platform. Design engineers focused on simplification, materials development, mechanisms and performance of the TRU. They worked seamlessly with suppliers who concurrently developed some of the components.  As engineers made changes, the Engineering Bill of Materials (eBOM) was updated in real-time and shared with manufacturing teams. In parallel, Manufacturing Engineers could examine the new designs to manage form, fit, function, materials and hardware to ensure manufacturability and improve manufacturing rate.
  • Ramping up manufacturing rates beginning in the design phase with Rapid Prototyping: Manufacturing teams worked in parallel to design tooling, work with suppliers to deliver parts and conduct final assembly. They made extensive use of 3D printing to eliminate the need for costly molds and forms and shorten delivery times. Teams were also able to build interactive 3D work instructions to help accelerate ramp-up of manufacturing efforts. Their efforts helped ensure global feasibility, while realising potential cost savings and lead-time reduction so they could better manage rate.

In the past, components went through cycles of physical testing and fine-tuning. With co-simulation, working on a single platform, and rapid prototyping, teams from across the globe could use the virtual world to collaborate together to ensure a finished product that came out right the first time.

As John O’Leary, vice president and general manager of Airbus Americas Engineering, based in Wichita explains: “The technology-driven project resulted in a finished product that already had any potential bugs worked out of the system.”

Accelerating innovation in aerospace

The Airbus TRU project provides a tangible example of what the industry renaissance can mean to the aerospace industry. This new age brings the benefits of new ways of inventing, learning, producing and trading that result in an acceleration of innovation which will transform the next century of flight.


Eric Seiberling, Senior Director, Industry Marketing – Aerospace & Defense Global Offer, Digital Marketing & Media at Dassault Systèmes.