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CENIT introduces design and manufacturing innovations at Airbus

More than 8,000 single parts from 3 master parts

Stuttgart, January 12, 2016 – In September of 2015, after a mere 10 months, Airbus successfully completed the concept phase for its freight aircraft Beluga XL. The contribution to the outstanding productivity of the Airbus engineering was a rule-based and process-oriented design methodology which CENIT formulated and introduced for the company. In this approach, assemblies and individual components are standardized and harmonized, making it possible to define parts families and their respective master parts. On this basis, the CAD program can then automatically generate all the variants from the master parts. The process is the result of a long-term innovation partnership between the two companies.

In the case of the Beluga XL, Airbus used the procedure to develop structural components for the upper shell of the cargo compartment, i.e. stringer and frames and the associated connectors (clips).

CENIT developed “master parts” for these component families and defined the associated design and manufacturing rules iwithin the CAD program CATIA V5. In the case of the clips, for example, these would include the dimensions and angles of the components and the dependencies of these on neighboring components and drilling sequences.

For the cargo hold, the software automatically generated approx. 7,500 clips and about 600 frames and stringers. For the clips, of which there are a particularly large number of variants, CENIT implemented an (again software-based) comparison with existing clips to optimize the re-use rate of the parts. In this way, the number of different clips could be reduced to about 1,400.

Within just 24 hours, the engineers had the complete, parametric digital 3D model (the digital mockup) of the cargo hold on their screens. The work effort from project launch to completed 3D design has been reduced by more than half. Automation also ensures 100% correct data quality and uniform display standards for each component. This information is later used e.g. in the largely automated production of the required forming tools, which also enables a more rapid rollout to production.

Research, Implementation and Tangible Competitive Benefits

The design methodology that Airbus is using for the Beluga XL was developed by CENIT as part of the research project “i-chain”. Following the successful conclusion of “i-chain” in early 2014, the two companies extended their innovation partnership. First off, Airbus commissioned its partner with testing the concept under real-life conditions in various enterprise divisions. CENIT used the insights gained during these tests to develop the training content for Airbus. For further information on the focal point aerospace at CENIT, please see

Beluga and Beluga XL by Airbus

Airbus currently operates a fleet of five transport aircraft at its plants in Europe. The A300-600ST is capable of transporting extremely large, mounted assemblies such as aircraft fuselages or wings. The plane earned its nickname “Beluga” from its characteristic nose, reminiscent of the white whale of the same name. To boost its capacities still further, Airbus initiated the project “Beluga XL” in November 2014. From 2019 on, five new transport aircraft of this type will be taken into service. The Beluga XL is based on the A330-200.