SpaceX decided to enhance the performance of its Falcon rocket and Dragon capsule was by adopting advanced composite materials. Once that decision was made, SpaceX conducted an evaluation of available composites engineering solutions and decided that Siemens PLM Software’s Fibersim™ software was the best fit for its design and manufacturing environment. “Based on our comparison, there was no question that Fibersim was definitely the best choice on the market for designing and manufacturing composite components to suit our needs,” says Kirk Matthes, SpaceX’s design manager.
Fibersim is now being employed from the outset on all new composites projects and has enabled SpaceX to reduce the design-to-manufacturing time on composite parts, such as the 5-meter fairing boat tail panel, by 71 percent (from seven days to two days). For other designs, the generation of manufacturing data was reduced by 86 percent (from seven days to one day) with Fibersim. These dramatic time savings mean that changes are processed more quickly, designs are updated more reliably and the overall process flows more smoothly.
SpaceX has used Fibersim to perform a variety of tasks – including creating designs, making flat patterns and working in conjunction with its finite element analysis (FEA) software – and to create laser data.
“Fibersim enables us to work in parallel between design and manufacturing, which is very important to us since we’re such a fast-paced organization,” notes Derek Lies, structural designer for composite panels used on the Dragon capsule. “It definitely helped improve the collaboration between design and manufacturing. And we also found that Fibersim very nicely captured the vocabulary of composites and provided an intuitive workflow, which enables our people who aren’t trained in composites to get up and running very quickly.”