VEXTEC to Pilot Computational Simulator for Improved Aircraft Designs

Greener designs, improved fuel consumption, and reduced operating costs are among the long-term targets of firm’s predictive technology.

Brentwood, TN, July 1, 2009 – Soaring operating costs, driven by fuel price surges and ballooning maintenance budgets for older fleets, are problems the Air Force knows all too well. But they are determined to find innovative ways of making their fleets more efficient and have contracted with VEXTEC, with its Virtual Life Management Technology, for a new computational means of delivering the solution.

Up until now, the safest way to make faster, better performing aircraft has been to simply over-design them. Aircraft design has always been based on data gathered from physical testing. But these tests take time and have become so expensive, engineers are not able to get enough data points. To overcome the lack of data, they apply “knock-down” factors to add extra margins of safety to the design. But an aircraft consists of tens of thousands of individual components, and each component design has to pass muster with each of the various engineering disciplines involved – aerodynamics, mechanical, structural, etc, and in that process, they all apply whatever safety margin is deemed appropriate for their aspect of the design. In the end, these small bits of additional safety margin accumulate into large amounts of complexity and over-design weight for the overall aircraft. And the cost is exorbitant. An industry rule of thumb is that every extra pound of weight drives total life cycle operating costs up by $7 million, and that metric was conceived prior to the recent fuel price surges.

To better understand the dynamics of this complex problem, the Department of Defense has engaged VEXTEC to conduct a pilot demonstration showing how its powerful computational processing capabilities can be used to identify and catalog the over-design margins being applied by various engineering discipline as they come together. With assistance from Vanderbilt University’s Reliability and Risk Engineering and Management Program in the Graduate School of Engineering, VEXTEC will show that it can identify the factors of high risk from those of low risk, and that its advanced statistical methods and uncertainty-based modeling can combine all of these factors at the component, system and aircraft levels to better manage and minimize aircraft over-design.

VEXTEC Co-founder and Chief Product Development Officer, Dr. Animesh Dey, commented, “Academia has already developed most of the advanced mathematics for better management of design uncertainty or risk, but what is lacking is a computational framework for applying these well-proven algorithms to real-life designs and their costs. VEXTEC has already developed this framework within its Virtual Life Management Technology, and we look forward to working with Dr. Sankaran Mahadevan, Director of Vanderbilt’s National Science Foundation IGERT program, to demonstrate its capabilities.”

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