5–9 June 2017
Sheraton Denver Downtown Hotel, Denver, Colorado

Mastering Data, Modeling for Better, Faster Production

Posted: 9 June 2017, 9:15 a.m. EDT



Speaker:
Co-Moderator Melanie Lorang, associate technical fellow, Boeing; Co-Moderator Mat French, systems engineer and architect and senior specialist, Rolls-Royce North American Technologies Inc.; Dave Kasik, senior technical fellow, Boeing; Don A. Kinard, senior fellow, Lockheed Martin Aeronautics; Edward M. Kraft, associate executive director of research, University of Tennessee Space Institute; Steve Wellborn, senior technical fellow, Rolls-Royce; U.S. Air Force Col. Tim West, senior materiel leader, Test Operations Division, Arnold Engineering Development Complex

by Tom Risen, Aerospace America staff reporter

Weapons could get from the drawing board to the hands of warfighters faster if contractors and the military used better data management to make better virtual models, experts in the “Realization of a Digital Twin and Thread” panel said June 8 at the 2017 AIAA AVIATION Forum in Denver.

The U.S. Air Force uses the term “digital twin and thread” to describe its goal of gathering the right data from mountains of digital information created every day and using it to make better virtual models that will speed up the contracting process. This jargon is imprecise, however, and there are debates on how that approach can make contracting more efficient and effective, said Melanie Lorang, an associate technical fellow at Boeing.  

Changing the culture of the increasingly computerized contracting industry and military to be more self-aware about the data created every day will be a step in the right direction, said Dave Kasik, a senior technical fellow with Boeing.

“You all are in the computer business whether you want to be or not,” Kasik told the audience of aerospace community members.

The problem with the digital twin and thread approach is that creating a better virtual model can be too expensive, said Air Force Col. Tim West, senior materiel leader at the test operations division of the Arnold Engineering Development Complex in Tennessee. Deciding what problem the military wants to solve with the virtual model can determine whether it is necessary to spend time and money creating digital twins of individual components, West explained.

Participants in the panel discussion, "Realization of a Digital Twin and Thread," June 8 at the 2017 AIAA AVIATION Forum in Denver.

“It may not even be technically feasible,” West said of the cost-benefit dilemma of the digital twin strategy, clarifying that he is not speaking on behalf of the Air Force. “It’s about striking that right balance.”

There are some success stories of using digital thread and twin to avoid mistakes and save money. Don Kinard, a senior fellow at Lockheed Martin, said “there were thousands of thousands of changes that didn’t have to be made,” during the manufacture of the F-35 because of the virtual modeling. The F-22, however, did not use the digital thread modeling approach, and Kinard said some of the mistakes corrected to make the final product could have been avoided with better modeling in advance.

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