The Inside Story with ModelCenter®
Since its inception in 1995, Phoenix Integration has been focused on managing complex engineering analysis processes. Phoenix Integration’s ModelCenter®, a complete framework for Model Based Engineering, is used by leading organizations worldwide to reduce development costs, improve engineering efficiency, stimulate innovation, and design more competitive products.
In an interview with SAE’s Automotive Engineering, James Mullins, Vice President of Operations, explains why Model Based Engineering matters, and how ModelCenter can be used to make it a reality.
Q: We have all heard the term, but what is Model Based Engineering (MBE)?
Model Based Engineering (MBE) is a holistic approach to product development, manufacturing, and lifecycle support that uses digital models to drive all engineering activities. MBE begins with the definition of system requirements and continues throughout the whole product life cycle. It is fundamentally a multidisciplinary approach, allowing engineers to understand important interactions and synergies between engineering subsystems and the impact of local design decisions on the behavior of the complete system.
Q: Why is the automotive industry embracing MBE now?
MBE is not new – people have been using MBE for 40 years. However, the typical implementations have been sporadic, and limited to individual discipline silos. The renewed interest today in MBE is driven by the ever-increasing complexity of automotive design with the transition to smart electric connected vehicles.
Traditional approaches to MBE and experience-based design methods are no longer adequate to manage this complexity. Engineers have no choice but to embrace a comprehensive Model Based Engineering (MBE) approach by bringing together the many interacting hardware and software systems in a unified development framework. This enables them to make informed decisions very early in the design process because they now understand how decisions made for one system will impact other systems and the overall vehicle, enabling them to manage trade-offs between performance, cost and requirements.
Q: This seems to be a very comprehensive approach. What are the key elements of a MBE framework?
The MBE framework is an integration and automation layer that connects together engineering models, whether descriptive or executable, into an automated workflow to provide the big picture view of the product versus requirements and to provide a mechanism for propagating design changes into each engineering domain to expedite design cycles. This integration layer interacts with other enterprise systems (PLM, PDM, SPDM) to manage models and data. By executing these workflows repeatedly, a design space exploration layer helps engineers gain insight into the design space, generating data that can be post-processed and visualized so that decisions can be made while understanding the impact on the whole product.
Q: It seems that this process is critical to the success of any product development. Are there any good success stories about implementing MBE with ModelCenter?
ModelCenter was specifically designed to manage Model Based Engineering processes by providing engineers the ability to build and execute integrated workflows and visualize and explore the design space. ModelCenter is a vendor neutral framework that allows companies to accommodate the full set of software tools that companies typically use.
ModelCenter has been used since its inception in the aerospace industry to support MBE initiatives, specifically in the conceptual design phase where hundreds of concepts need to be evaluated at a holistic level to determine which designs best meet requirements. These MBE methods are then leveraged throughout the preliminary design phase to ensure that the trade-offs made in one discipline do not negatively affect the product as a whole. Programs that have effectively deployed MBE have reduced cost overruns and are typically delivered on schedule.
More recently, ModelCenter has supported these methods in the automotive industry during the detailed design stage. By implementing MBE methods, these companies have been able to shrink their development cycle and also reduce the risks of recalls because they are looking at the effect on the big picture, not just on a subset of the product.