Global Product Data Interoperability Summit 2010

Wow, I sure wish I knew how to play golf! I'm in Chandler, Arizona, at the Crowne Plaza Resort, attending the 2010 Global Product Data Interoperability Summit, hosted by Boeing, Northrop Grumman, and Elysium Inc., which provides data translation software. It's great to walk around on the green lawns under the blue sky and hot yellow sun, watching players tee-off and zoom back and forth in their golf carts. Boeing has been hosting the summit for 13 years, with Northrop joining last year.

Inroads have been made to solve the interoperability problems that have plagued aerospace (and other) OEMs throughout the years, but, in some regards, issues are more pressing than ever. So said several of presenters on the first day of the event.

For example, the interoperability issue has become global and is therefore increasingly important. As one presenter mentioned, many event attendees might be partners one day and competitors the next.

Marc Nance, Boeing Systems Engineering & Analysis Leader says that trends driving data interoperability include product complexity, program diversity, and time to market, among many others. The competitive landscape has changed drastically. For instance, this year, there will be more autos sold in China than anywhere else in the world. The U.S. is no longer the world leader and it doesn't help that we don't use data to help us get faster. In fact, data is making us take more time. He proposes a model for data interoperability: Start with strategy (what do you want to use the data for? Where will it be stored?) to structure (what is the data format, what data standards apply?), and last, to the data itself.

Another presenter from Boeing said that visualization is a big interoperability issue. The information age is progressing according to Moore's Law. By 2011, there will be 1.8 zetabytes (ten to the twenty-first) stored digitally. He spoke about the concept of “massive model visualization.” Boeing uses an internally developed tool it calls a “superviewer” to stitch together an entire aircraft at one time (a seven-hundred-million-polygon model).

What can you do with visualization? Find objects in a complex scene; focus on object to understand its surface; visually scan a scene; work with multiple versions of the same set of objects; and lots of other stuff. Applications: safety, part catalogs, maintenance instructions, engineering analysis, to name a few. The superviewer lets users see all the data at once and on a commodity laptop. The “human flicker fusion threshold” for video is 16 Hz. So stuff has to be faster than that, but a practical limit is 10 Hz or faster.

Data can be bytes, triangles, points, said the presenter. Badly formed data for visualization purposes includes T-junctions (formed when B-reps are tessellated); lots of so-called z-fighting, which causes ugly artifacts; unusual modeling practices can generate multitudes of polygons; textures hugely data size; object morphing; and amounts of occlusion – lots of long, skinny things like pipes cause a lot of problems.

The superviewer removes memory limits, said the presenter. The tool lets users define a “flying spline” -- a path through the model that you can follow anytime.

More to come later...

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