Contract Trial Balloon

Please print and mark-up the following.  Then put it in my mail slot for update before I send it to the addressees via EM/OS.  If the changes are extensive, wait until I get back to GD and pass this to you as a Word document via TOPS via the network.  Then you can make the changes and I can send the results via EM/OS.

To:    Steve Sheldon (GD DSD-WC CAD/CAM ANC Developer)
          Richard Jennings (GD DSD-WC CAD/CAM Manager)
          Dave Ellis (DEC CTC COMPASS development manager)
          Michael Virnot (Matra DataVision Euclid marketeer)

Copies:    Rick Brusch (GD CVD IMS Program Manager)
                Steve Ziner (GD CVD IRM Director)
                Steve Boyack (DEC IMS on-site representative)
                Al Arnold (DEC IMS Program Manager)

From:    Bill Holmes (GD DSD-WC CAD/CAM IMS Architect)

Subject:     Business relationship trial balloon

The cost of ownership of software is such that commercial software with a large customer base is invariably less expensive than home-grown software or even free software that must be maintained by GD.  This is not only because the development and support costs are distributed over many more customers, but also because the funds available for enhancement costs are lower per customer, which allows for a larger investment in product improvement, which results in longer product viability, which reduces the mean time between changing products, which reduces disruption and training costs.  It is this understanding that drives the Integrated Manufacturing Systems (IMS) Program of the Convair Division and motivated the Convair partnership with Digital Equipment Corporation.

Unfortunately, there are functions in the aerospace industry process for which computer-based solutions have been internally developed for which there is no foreseeable commercial alternative.  The demand for commercial software is such that the suppliers have yet to saturate the major markets sufficiently to warrant the development of products for niche markets.  Unless the aerospace companies can demonstrate the commonality of their niche functions across the industry to the extent that the niche market is really larger than it appears, the aerospace industry is doomed to develop and maintain computer-based solutions for these niche functions.

Those who develop and support niche tools are often their own customers.  They are the experts in the field.  They seldom have commercial counterparts.  They often develop very advanced tools, but the high cost of sustaining the tools after their originally intended use is such that they normally become inferior or useless due to neglect.  When the time comes to use them again on a new aerospace product, a major investment is often required to reactivate or replace the tool.

There are many examples of aerospace companies selling or trading niche solutions.  Some have become major commercial successes (CADAM, CATIA ...).  Where the market for the solutions for niche functions can be demonstrated to be commercially viable, there is the opportunity for a partnership.  An industry/commercial partnership that would sustain the experienced industry experts as developers with the proceeds of the commercial sale of their products through commercial marketing, sales, distribution and support channels is proposed.

The Advanced Numerical Control (ANC) system (aka Generative NC or GNC) developed by General Dynamics Data System Division Western Center (DSD-WC) CAD/CAM personnel (Steve Sheldon, et al) under the auspices of the Convair Division (CVD) and more recently and significantly by the Fort Worth Division (FWD) is an example of an advanced tool with commercial prospects.  Important to the success of ANC at FWD is a manufacturing resource data base that contains the characteristics of most of the machines (mills, lathes ...), machine tools (cutter assemblies, drills ...) and fixtures (clamps, jigs ...).  IGES and PDES interfaces are used to convert solid models from Computervision CADDS 4X and Dessault CATIA format to a Parasolids format (here-to-fore Romulous was used as the ANC kernel modeler).  The ANC software examines the model and infers manufacturing features from it (currently limited to 2.5-axis and some 3-axis).  It selects from the manufacturing data base the optimum machines, machine tools and fixtures necessary to make the part if they are not specified by the ANC user.  It strategies the optimum machining process, including tool changes.  Finally, it generates all of the cutter motion statements, spindle speeds, feed rate, coolant type and flow rate and tool changes typical of a Numerical Control (NC) program.  In addition it generates all of the necessary tool orders and operator instructions, including machine, cutter and work piece set-up and re-fixturing instructions (keeping labor costs in 'mind').

Given the current close working relationship among DSD-WC, CVD, Digital Equipment Corporation (DEC) and Matra DataVision (Matra) relative to the CVD Integrated Manufacturing Systems (IMS) Program, and the common interest in ANC, the following is proposed.

1.    Matra funds DSD-WC CAD/CAM to develop an ANC interface (PDES) for Euclid's successor (TopGun), and package it and the ANC (user, installation and maintenance instruction documentation and compiled code) as a product for the DEC COMPASS framework.  (From the perspective of Matra COMPASS can be construed to be an extension to the Matra SDS 'framework'.)

2.    DEC funds DSD Central Center CAD/CAM and/or FWD to help DEC re-host their 'Fabrication Resource System' (FRS) to COMPASS, and provide user, installation and maintenance instruction documentation.  (The FWD database provides a comprehensive base from which new users can depart by modifying it to match their machine, tool and fixture inventories.).  Else the user will have to select and specify the machines, tools, fixtures and their characteristics to the ANC prior to each execution, which will undoubtedly result in suboptimal benefits.

3.    DEC installs alpha and beta versions of the ANC and FRS in the CVD IMS laboratory for CVD use, evaluation and feedback to DEC, Matra and DSD CAD/CAM prior to the purchase of the product versions thereof.  (This early opportunity for CVD to modify the FRS data to match CVD resources and learn to use the ANC and FRS is a competitive advantage for CVD as well as means for DEC, Matra and DSD CAD/CAM to learn of product improvement needs prior to release.)

4.    With the aid of the respective GD resources, DEC and Matra refine and publish the ANC and FRS documentation in a form that is consistent with their standards.

5.    DEC and Matra sell the ANC and FRS to TopGun (COMPASS included) and COMPASS subscribers.  (Matra will have a defacto 'exclusive' on ANC during the time it will take other solid modeler suppliers to integrate their modelers with COMPASS.)

6.    DEC and Matra recoup their initial investment in ANC from the profit from ANC and FRS sales.

7.    DEC and Matra give a portion of the subsequent profits to FWD for a period of years to compensate FWD for its investment in the ANC and FRS.

8.    DEC and Matra give a portion of the profits to DSD-WC CAD/CAM to maintain (improve and extend to 5-axis, process planning ...) the ANC as a viable commercial product.  (DSD will have to modify its accounting practices so that the profits less overhead may be used exclusively by the ANC development team, or establish the team as a subsidiary.)

I suggest that you use this strawman 'business relationship' as the basis for a meeting amongst yourselves.  Modify it until all parties are happy with it as an informal document.  Add some rough monetary information to it.  Take it to Bob Mahon of FWD.  Repeat the process with Bob and refine the monetary information.  Then involve others as necessary to formalize the proposed business relationship into a satisfactory contract.

This is just the beginning.  There are many other potential commercial products hidden in the bowls of GD.

    Bob Foley Program rep.(DSD-CC)
9.Cand/or FWD FRSElse DEC or a supplier to DEC should assume this responisbility.standing that drives the Integrated Manufacturing Systems (IMS) Program of the Convair Division and motivated the Convair partnership with Digital Equipment Corporation.

Unfortunately, there are functions in the aerospace industry process for which computer-based solutions have been inter ...?

| W.T. Holmes | Innovations | General Dynamics | ANC |