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Dassault Systèmes: Virtual Twins Aren’t Just For Aerospace Anymore

There’s no doubt that virtual or digital twins–computer-model versions of parts or machines that allow advanced analytics to be performed and testing to be conducted, all in the digital realm–have allowed leaps-and-bounds progress in the aerospace industry.

Now Dassault Systèmes, a global innovation leader providing software solutions to nearly 300,000 customers and 25 million users across eleven different industries, says virtual twins aren’t just about parts anymore, but about complete systems. And they’re certainly not just for aerospace.

The company has moved into the next realm of design with Model-Based Systems Engineering (MSBE), which is supported by its 3DEXPERIENCE platform and its CATIA engineering, design, and systems engineering applications. “As a company, Dassault Systèmes is looking very much to provide capabilities to clients for innovation,” said Olivier Sappin, CEO of CATIA at Dassault Systèmes. “How do MBSE and virtual twins bring value to our clients?”

At least one of the answers is to take clients beyond modeling of individual mechanical parts or mechanical assemblies to modeling of complete systems. Automotive is one industry that’s greatly benefiting from that approach. “Think about autonomous vehicles,” explained Sappin. “You have to look at the dynamics of the car, the sensors, the traffic patterns, and so on. The challenge is to massively simulate all that–only a systems approach will work. Our goal is to have a consistent model-based approach, from the specification of the vehicle mission, functional and logical architecture, to vehicle certification, with all solutions on a single platform. In automotive, 70% of mistakes are coming from defining the requirements. We want to make sure that at every design stage, we can model and simulate.”

An even bigger adjustment has been in taking modeling far beyond its traditional focus on hardware. “It’s been a big switch from products to experiences,” said Sappin. “The systems approach is the only way to address experiences by breaking traditional hardware and software silos. It handles those well too. A few years ago, inspired by Tesla and Apple, we decided to focus on experiences. We knew if we wanted CATIA to be successful, we would have to focus there too.”

That’s drawn in some very different kinds of customers, too. “Take Crocs, for example,” Sappin offered. “They’re designed with CATIA. It’s not about the shoes, it’s about the consumer experience. Really, you can’t go through a single day without using something designed with this concept.”

Another industrial area applying systems engineering/MBSE is power generation. “We’re doing a lot in the energy sector,” said Sappin. “For example, in nuclear, there are lots of companies pushing the concept of small modular reactors. We’ve started a project on that with NAAREA in Europe. And we have another project with European energy companies and universities to model their grid, to make it more sustainable and reliable.”

Sappin sees many more applications that can benefit from systems engineering/MBSE. “CATIA has been extremely successful in aerospace, automotive, ship building, and now also in energy, high tech and medical devices too,” he said. “In all applications, we can apply systems engineering with models to be able to solve most issues up front. In the past, that would have taken too long, and there would be a huge cost for modifications late in the process. With systems engineering/MBSE, the problem to solve is clearly specified and you can make the right decisions and trade-offs early in the product development process. I see this going way beyond where we are today, to areas like connectivity and smart cities.”

It’s about having design processes that keep up with today’s products, with customer demands, and with other challenges. “Products are becoming far more complex and the focus has evolved toward consumer experience,” said Sappin. “If we want to be a key partner for our customers, we have to adopt a new approach with systems engineering. That’s becoming a top priority for our clients and users.

“At the same time, our customers like Boeing and Lockheed Martin are focused on the workforce of the future as well. The world is fundamentally changing–everything is designed differently now. That means workers will need new skills, and we have to be there to support them.”

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