“All vehicles are growing in [functional] complexity, creating significant challenges,” said Martin O’Brien, General Manager of the Integrated Electrical Systems Division for Mentor Graphics, at his company's Integrated Electrical Solutions Forum (IESF) held in June in Dearborn, MI. “This problem is complicated by a myriad of issues today. As you’ve seen in the latest commercial aircraft offerings, systems that were mechanical are being replaced by electrical due to reliability and weight.” This further increases electrical content while presenting integration challenges, according to O’Brien.
It is certainly a problem not unique to aircraft. Tanks, planes, off-highway vehicles, automobiles—they all face the same challenges to their electrical distribution systems (EDSs) to differing degrees. Others include long product-life cycles that present data-management issues and the need to engage the supply chain in collaboration. These challenges increase the need for more cross-domain integration. Cost challenges are forcing the need for shorter product-development cycles. Moreover, no one can neglect quality.
A barrier to collaboration and integration, according to O’Brien, is the lack of transparency of data abstractions. Engineers design mechanical parts, software, integrated circuits, electrical distribution, or printed circuits simultaneously. However, they use their own abstractions and their own design language.
Designs mature through multiple abstraction levels, moving "down" the left hand of the familiar System Engineering V from requirements to component design. In essence, multiple Vs are pursued at the same time, overlaid on one another, one for MCAD, one for EDS, another for software, and so on. Each will also "climb" the right hand of the system engineering V through validation and verification. “These multiple Vs need to mature both alone and within the context of the integrated end-product,” said O’Brien. However, doing so in isolation—today’s default condition—lengthens product development cycles. It also opens the possibility for interface errors between disciplines—MCAD and EDS, for example.
Full transparency between all abstractions would solve many of these design issues. How to achieve this? Enter Mentor Graphics Capital tool suite. It is designed to integrate design processes for better collaboration, specifically for EDS and harness engineering.
“We do just two things within our Electrical Platform Engineering. First, make the data flow and manage it. And second, improve automation and verify results,” said O’Brien. The Capital tool suite also embeds analysis and simulation capabilities to aid validation and support designers. While acknowledging that automation does not eliminate validation, O’Brien believes it forms a strong first line of defense against errors that validation might find.
O’Brien said that customers are reporting results consistent with the promise, with companies reducing product-development cycle time by greater than 65%. He also noted that board design times are reduced by over 50%, and one major automotive OEM is deploying a common IT design platform based on Capital across three continents.
In related news, Mentor Graphics announced in June that its Capital tool suite has been accredited to IBM’s “Ready for IBM Rational” program. This program validates integrations between the Rational Software Delivery Platform and adjacent applications such as the Capital tool suite, ensuring mutual customers benefit from seamless interoperability, according to the company.
In a press release, O’Brien said that “design change is a daily event in the electrical domain. Capital has very powerful design change management capabilities, and this integration allows direct linkage with the Rational project management environment. Digital continuity is created between the project manager and the engineers implementing their assigned tasks, maximizing visibility and minimizing the potential for errors.”