TRW Aeronautical Systems

Company: Sun MicrosystemsCustomer: TRW Aeronautical SystemsSubmitted by: Text 100Date: Summer 2001DESIGNING components for civil and military aircraft is one of the most rigorous and challenging of engineering disciplines. There is no room for error, yet speed of development is also critically important.

In short, the designers have to be both creative and productive at the same time.It is absolutely critical, then, that the technology underpinning the design process is powerful, robust and highly effective. It must allow the design team to use the full functionality of the applications software, must be available whenever it is needed, and must provide substantial productivity benefits. If it can’t fulfil all these requirements, then it isn’t doing its job.TRW Aeronautical Systems is one of the UK’s leading aviation contractors, supplying generators and control systems for a range of different aircraft, both civil and military.

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The Hemel Hempstead facility uses Sun Microsystems hardware at the core of its design function. It is currently in the middle of an implementation of 37 Ultra 10 workstations, linked to a central Enterprise 450 server. So far, 25 of the Ultra 10s have been rolled out onto the desktops, with the rest to follow over the course of the next 12 months. Two older Sun servers are also linked in to the network.The company is delighted at the results it is achieving with the new network.

“We really decided to opt for Sun out of historic choice,” said Sean Hemming, the company’s CAD Applications Engineer for the Hemel Hempstead site. “We’ve always used Sun, so it was something of a natural progression for us. But we’re very pleased with the results we are achieving. The performance is excellent, and the price is attractive as well.”The company is gradually moving from one application, PTC CADD5, to another, SDRC’s IDEAS software package, which is running on the new Sun system.

The company also uses a range of other applications, including Citrix Metaframe for PC emulation and other packages for additional design and stress work.CAD work is highly processor intensive, so the Ultra 10 workstations are fitted with a minimum of 256mb of RAM. Three of the devices are configured to carry out a lot of local processing and fitted with no less than 1024mb of RAM.”We spent 10 months benchmarking the software before implementation, although we didn’t feel that we had to do much benchmarking on the hardware,” said Hemming. “The aim is to eventually swap out completely from CADD5 to IDEAS, and the new network will allow us to do that.”Having used Sun Microsystems hardware since the late 80s, TRW Aeronautical Systems did not have to be convinced of its merits.

“We’ve never had any problems and always found it to be perfectly reliable.”Obviously, though, we do have to increase the performance of the hardware every so often when the CAD application demands it. Ten years ago, for instance, we were still designing using 3D wire frames: now we’re using full 3D modelling, and that clearly requires a lot more processing power. If you want to make full use of the functionality of the latest software, than the hardware has to be up to the job.”The first phase of the new installation took place in the summer of 1999.

The London-based resellers Random Computing partnered with TRW, implementing and configuring the system and carrying out continuing maintenance.Again, Hemming said he was pleased at the way the implementation had gone. “There weren’t any problems, and with the IDEAS software now available to us, we’re now looking at a 50 per cent productivity benefit over CADD5. We’re starting to put a lot of project work onto the new software and we’re really beginning to see the benefits of that.”It’s faster, it’s more reliable, and its brings us a whole range of other benefits – for instance, it’s more robust in making changes to a solid model.

“Hemming says that he is pleased with the level of availability from the system to date. “Out of the 25 workstations we’ve installed so far, only one has caused us problems. We did have a difficulty with one of the hard disks on the server right at the very beginning, but if you’re going to get a problem, than that’s when it is going to happen. But we haven’t experienced any downtime and in general, we’re very happy.”With the system working well, the remaining workstations will be added to the network as staff are recruited to use them. “Everyone from new graduates through to older designers who are used to drawing boards has found the new system to be enjoyable and highly flexible.

“In short, we expect our hardware and our software to work, and this works very well. It means that we can use flexible and functional software and it brings us real benefits.”I don’t see any reason to change from Sun. We’ve always found the company’s products to be very reliable and to offer great value for money. They deliver for us, and that’s very important.”