Qantas slashes design time by 40 percent using 3D software

CAD software investment totals $330,000

Australian airline Qantas has invested $330,000 in computer-aided design and manufacturing software (CAD/CAM) to make the transition from a 2D design environment to 3D.

The CAD upgrade has slashed design time by up to 40 percent and has enabled Qantas to improve testing processes and move away from a multi-site environment to a single vendor.

Qantas has implemented 17 copies of SolidWorks with training and technical services provided by Intercad, the sole distributor of the CAD software in Australia and New Zealand.

The airline supports a fleet of 217 aircraft and carries more than 34 million passengers each year.

To maximise the commercial return of Qantas' investment in the aircraft and to help ensure the safety of flights, the large fleet requires the design and production of ground maintenance equipment, replacement parts for the aircraft and interior layouts for new aircraft.

The SolidWorks 3D software provides improved design capability as well as in-built finite element analysis (FEA) functionality, enabling the designers to undertake stress analysis tests.

These tests can be undertaken early in the process to validate designs early in the process before they are passed to the next, and more expensive stage, of testing.

Qantas manager of aircraft engineering, Chris Tobin, said by enabling designers to carry out stress tests on their own designs modifications are done more rapidly to ensure they are of the highest quality before they are passed to dedicated FEA engineers for final analysis.

"This saves time and money in the testing process," Tobin said.

SolidWorks will also allow Qantas to easily export and share its drawings between different business units and vendors, improving accuracy and consistency between suppliers.

Intercad's managing director, Scott Frayne, said the company has had previous experience with other large Australasian multi-site customers such as GHD, Varian, Fisher and Paykel, Hawker Pacific and Boeing.

Frayne said Intercad's airline experience allowed it to tailor a task specific solution for Qantas including national training and support services to make the transition from 2D to 3D design.

"Another of Qantas' criteria in selecting a CAD/CAM supplier was finding a one-vendor solution for both design and analysis," he said.

"SolidWorks' FEA functionality acts as a virtual 'spell checker' for designers, allowing them to spot problems early in the design process and saving them hours of additional corrective design time."

Frayne said another concern was ensuring there was enough skilled personnel on hand to operate the design software following implementation.

He said SolidWorks is rapidly gaining traction in the market as a standard design platform and Intercad is working closely with a number of educational institutions in Australia and New Zealand to make it part of their curricula.

"This means companies like Qantas can readily draw on a pool of skilled designers proficient in this software," Frayne added.