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Model-Based Systems Engineering: what it is and what advantages it entails

What does Model-Based Systems Engineering mean?

We recently supported one of our clients active in the design of propulsion systems in the aerospace field in the definition and implementation of a strategy for a more effective management of the simulation process along the entire product development process, from design to testing phase, passing through the production and assembly.

Being a particularly complex engineering system such as an aircraft engine, characterized by a set of subsystems of various kinds, the study required a high-level systems approach.

In this post we will briefly describe one of the most popular concepts underlying a system approach based on new digital technologies, namely Model-Based Systems Engineering (MBSE).

 

What does Model-Based System Engineering mean?

 

Model-Based Systems Engineering (MBSE) is a methodology used to support the definition of requirements, design, analysis, verification and validation associated with the development of complex systems.

Contrary to the more traditional document-based approach, the MBSE approach places models at the heart of systems design. The increased adoption of digital modeling environments in recent years has led to a greater adoption of MBSE in the process of developing highly complex products. The management of complexity, in fact, has become an extremely important subject in the field of new product design, as now all products are characterized by a high level of integration of often different technologies. Taking as an example the customer case study mentioned at the beginning, an aircraft engine can be described on the basis of a series of main subsystems, including:

  • Fan
  • Compressor (low and high pressure)
  • Combustion chamber
  • Turbine (high and low pressure)
  • Nozzle
  • Accessories

Furthermore, each subsystem has specific peculiarities. For example, the design of the compressor stages involves, among others, the structural and thermo-fluid dynamics analysis of the subsystem, while the electrical generation system involves the study, among others, at the electromagnetic level. The modification of the input and output conditions of each subsystem inevitably impacts the boundary conditions of the other subsystems, triggering a series of design loops that must be appropriately managed. For this reason, the use of parametric and integrated digital models, rather than files such as 2D tables, procedures, etc. represents the most effective management solution at the system level.

This approach represents in some way an extension of the Model-Based Definition (MBD) concept and evolves into what is called Digital Thread at the design life cycle level.

 

When to use an MBSE approach?

 

We have underlined how an MBSE approach is fundamental when dealing with complex engineering systems. But what are complex engineering systems? The complexity of a system can in fact depend on several factors, some of which are:

  • Number and type of subsystems involved
  • Nature of the technologies involved
  • Complexity of each technology
  • Skills required for each technology
  • Resources available
  • Management skills required

A car, a motorcycle, an aircraft are all systems characterized by high complexity. Similarly, a production system or a factory certainly represents a complex engineering system, in which different technologies and skills are integrated in order to achieve the set objectives, such as cost targets, production capacity, quality, delivery times, etc.
Whenever a team has to manage complexity, it is always recommended to follow an MBSE approach.

 

What are the benefits of a MBSE approach?

 

Some of the benefits of using an Model-Based Systems Engineering approach over a traditional document-based approach are as follows:

  • Better coordination within the product development teams. A MBSE approach can help the management process by providing a way to capture all information from the different disciplines involved at the system level and share that information with designers and other stakeholders;
  • Satisfaction of stakeholders. MBSE tools help analyze stakeholder requirements and manage them to ensure they are met. Therefore, the system engineer is responsible for translating the requirements from electrical engineers to mechanical engineers, from IT engineers to the system operator, from maintainer to system purchaser. Everyone speaks a different language. The idea of ​​using models is a means of delivering these communications in a simple graphic form.
  • Greater Return on Investment (ROI). The tools associated with the MBSE help automate the system engineering process by providing a mechanism not only to acquire the necessary information in a more comprehensive and traceable way, but also to verify that the models are working. If these tools contain simulations and from that execution provide a means to optimize cost, planning, and performance, fewer errors will be introduced early on in developing requirements. Eliminating these errors will avoid cost overruns and problems that may not have emerged from traditional document-centric approaches.

 

A practical example of Model-Based Systems Engineering

 

The use of digital models in the design of an aircraft engine facilitates standardization when different simulation cycles are required, using different tools at different stages of the design life cycle. For example, the iterativity typical of complex processes can be managed semi-automatically by implementing parametric models connected to each other. When a modification of a subsystem or component is required, a warning is generated to all the components-subsystems associated with it, which must therefore be updated to verify the appropriate requirements. The loop thus triggered continues until all components and subsystems meet the system requirements.

A structure of this type requires at the same time that the simulation tools are integrated as much as possible within the same framework. This integration can be ensured by using platforms on the market, or by creating customized ad hoc systems with the support of developers. For this reason, the main players in the field of system modeling such as Siemens and Dassault (at the aeronautical level) already provide integrated platforms that integrate tools for managing models during the entire life cycle of product development.

 

Where to start?

 

In this post we have described the concept of Model-Based Systems Engineering (MBSE), a methodology used to support the definition of requirements, design, analysis, verification and validation associated with the development of complex systems.

Complex systems include not only products such as cars or aircraft, but also production systems and factories, increasingly characterized by a high level of technologies of various kinds, especially with the new digital trends of Industry 4.0. For this reason, it becomes essential that companies are equipped with their own system engineering tools to reduce the risks associated with the introduction of new technologies and to take full advantage of the associated benefits.

Accialini Training & Consulting offers specific support in this field: thanks to our skills acquired in strategic sectors and an extensive international network, we are able to help you define the best strategies for the implementation of an MBSE approach within your product development team at every stage of the life cycle.

 

For more information, contact us.

 

Stay tuned.

Nicola Accialini

Hi there! I am Nicola, founder and admin of SkillS4i. Aerospace Engineer, technology enthusiast and industrial expert. I live in Spain and I like travelling, cycling, hiking and reading.

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