As Airbus continues development of its next-generation oversize cargo transporter – the Beluga XL – the company has devised innovative solutions that are advancing this particular programme and will be used to benefit others in the future.
The Beluga XL was launched during November 2014 based on the versatile A330 widebody jetliner. Beginning in mid-2019, it will gradually replace the existing five-member, A300-derived Beluga fleet – which is used for carrying complete sections of Airbus aircraft from different production sites around Europe to the final assembly lines in Toulouse, France and Hamburg, Germany.
Among the innovation solutions is a new method for systems installation design that leverages 3D technology and virtual reality. As the existing A330 Family digital mock-up (DMU) only included the aircraft’s structural definition in some sections and not its systems, François Rouyre – who is Airbus' head of DMU and structure, systems and cabin integration – had an interesting idea. “We decided to scan the physical aircraft with its system installation to check the DMU and give us complete visibility on its systems.”
Rouyre used a 3D laser scanner to produce a highly-detailed, 360-degree image. As this large file would be difficult to manipulate in computer-aided design software, he added it into the DMU in virtual reality – inside a full-scale virtual reality room so designers could then work on it directly.
“You can design about 20 metres of electrical bundles in an hour with virtual reality, whereas for CAD software, one metre takes four hours,” Rouyre added. “This method could be used by other programmes to quickly change a definition, answer a concession or a design query note.”
Reporting Centre, a data management solution that was used for A350 XWB development, also has been adapted to include internal and external suppliers’ metadata. “We have all the data linked together, accessible from one software program,” Rouyre said. “Soon it will also be connected to the DMU.” This solution is now ready to share with the rest of Airbus.