Safran Engineering Services: Reinventing aeronautical electrical systems design
The digital transformation currently taking place in the aeronautics industry is revolutionizing the way electrical systems are designed and controlled. Yves Bley, Innovation Manager at Safran Engineering Services, offers his insight.
Aeronautical electrical systems design is a profession that combines two activities: Firstly, installation, which consists of establishing the best possible routing for an electrical harness between two systems of the aircraft, and of designing its attachment points inside the aircraft. And secondly, functional aspects, specifying the technical characteristics of the harness and the types of cables and components to use. “These two activities are related,” explains Bley, “as the constituent materials or diameter of a harness will impact on its possible routing in the airplane.”
Safran Engineering Services has unique expertise in this area: As a subsidiary of Safran Electrical & Power, the company benefits from both historical know-how and a specific product vision. This positioning now enables it to act as a powerful force for digital transformation in the aeronautics sector, both by supporting its customers and by innovating in its two core business areas.
Supporting digital transformation in industrial and aeronautical programs
Safran Engineering Services has provided support for digital transformation projects for industry. The company is now able to create a 3D digital model of electrical interconnection systems from old plans – which is no easy task. “We provide business expertise and support our clients, both in the creation of digital models and in transitioning to this new mode of operation,” Bley points out.
The supplied model then acts as a base for all manufactured products, and makes it easier to ramp up production. It also enables the team to anticipate routing and inter-system consistency issues, and thus reduce non-conformities.
After all, with the increasing complexity of airplanes, access to a 3D model is becoming a necessity – for aircraft manufacturers and their equipment manufacturers alike. The principle of Model Based System Engineering (MBSE), which is now being used by Safran Engineering Services, will then ensure digital continuity. The (technical and financial) impacts of a change of material or a new cabin configuration will be visible directly in the electrical installation system model. “For future programs, we want to be able to offer a quick response to this type of customer request,” Bley explains.
Robots and artificial intelligence: Key areas for the electrical systems of tomorrow
Digital transformation is also opening up new horizons for electrical systems design and control. Safran Engineering Services has identified three key areas of innovation: automation, Data and Artificial Intelligence, and augmented reality.
Aeronautical electrical systems in the automation age
As a result, the company is running two projects in partnership with the DessIA start-up, whose bot platform automates repetitive tasks performed by engineers. Current work is related both to harness design and control of this design work.
“We want to develop a digital design solution to automatically generate the optimal harness path, in 3D, for any given configuration,” Bley says. The solution needs to be able to suggest the best path for connecting two items of equipment, taking into account the characteristics of the various routes, such as their length and the problems they encounter (crossing a watertight bulkhead, for example), “in the same way that a vehicle's GPS system does.”
The second project is related: It involves converting aircraft manufacturers’ electrical installation requirements into code, then integrating this information into the bots. The end goal: To automate the harness design control processes in order to reduce non-quality.
In this way, thanks to automation, the work of Safran Engineering Services amounts to nothing short of a reinvention of the way electrical systems are created.
Quality driven by artificial intelligence and augmented reality
Artificial intelligence is also disrupting the field of quality control. For example, Safran Engineering Services is developing the SENSession project, the purpose of which is to optimize the way in which dispensations are handled: Operators required to deal with a dispensation for a non-conforming part are assisted by artificial intelligence, which draws on a history of previously recorded dispensations. The system automatically suggests an approach (accept the part, alter it or reject it), which provides faster response times and will ultimately reduce the number of dispensations.
In the interests of improving dispensations handling still further, Safran Engineering Services is also taking an interest in augmented reality, via its “No Concession” project: Controllers scan the part on their tablets to see details of acceptable deviations appear directly on screen.
Towards a human-robot collaboration
“Business expertise remains essential,” Bley concludes: “It supplies the necessary sense of context. But our experts will increasingly find themselves working on digital platforms, in partnership with coders, and supported by bots.”
A new era is thus dawning for Safran Engineering Services, in which humans, assisted by bots, can concentrate on their value-added work and quickly arrive at the most optimal solution.