Analysis software embedded in CATIA speeds structural analysis for new Cessna business jet

Aircraft Engineering and Aerospace Technology

ISSN: 0002-2667

Article publication date: 1 June 2000




Paulsen, G. (2000), "Analysis software embedded in CATIA speeds structural analysis for new Cessna business jet", Aircraft Engineering and Aerospace Technology, Vol. 72 No. 3.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2000, MCB UP Limited

Analysis software embedded in CATIA speeds structural analysis for new Cessna business jet

Gene Paulsen

Cessna Aircraft Company, Wichita, Kansas

Keywords Software, Analysis, Cessna

The ability to perform structural analysis within the CATIA design environment made it possible to reduce structural analysis time on the main landing gear trunnion on Cessna's new CJ2 business jet. After evaluating ten different design iterations using PolyFEM, the CATIA-integrated structural analysis program from LMS CADSI, Cessna engineers were able to eliminate more than 5 per cent of the original design's weight. They were able to accomplish this in two weeks compared to more than a month that would have been needed if their design and analysis tools had operated in typical stand-alone fashion.

Cessna Aircraft Company is a subsidiary of Textron Inc., a $10 billion, global, multi-industry company with market-leading operations in aircraft, automotive, industrial, and finance. The Citation CJ2, formally introduced in October 1998 at the 51st National Business Aviation Association convention in Las Vegas, is a bigger, faster version of Cessna's highly popular Citation Jet. The Citation CJ2 features a longer cabin and tailcone to carry more passengers and baggage, a greater wingspan, a larger swept horizontal tail, new Williams-Rolls FJ44-2C engines, and advanced technology Collins Pro Line 21 avionics. Much of the CJ2's performance and economy is due to its natural laminar-flow wing, which greatly reduces drag. This unique wing maintains a smooth, uninterrupted flow of air across a much greater portion of its surface compared to a conventional wing. The response to the CJ2's introduction has been overwhelmingly positive. Cessna has already sold two and a half years of production of the new business jet.

Weight reduction

In the design of the main landing gear trunnion, engineers had to carefully balance the dual design objectives of meeting fatigue requirements while reducing weight. In the design, it was important to keep stress levels low in critical areas of the part, such as the actuator lug, to ensure long fatigue lives. However, it was also important that these areas were not over-designed because that would add extra weight to the plane. A lighter plane allows for larger payload and better fuel economy.

In the past, engineers would have analyzed the part by performing a stress analysis using stand-alone FEA software. Areas that show particularly low stresses are areas where excess material may be present. From a translated CATIA model of the pad, an engineer created a finite element model, manually fine-tuning the analysis mesh repeatedly in areas where the geometry was complicated. For a first iteration on a concept model, setting up the analysis and getting results took up to two weeks. If the results indicated excess weight in a certain area, the designer would change the CATIA model, give it back to the engineer, and the process was repeated. It did not take as long for the second and successive iterations because some aspects of the original analysis model were reused. But the new geometry always had to be remeshed and that was the most time-consuming part of the analysis process. The long turnaround time limited the number of optimization steps that could be tested and still maintain design schedules.

Better maths

To get a faster turnaround on stress analysis, Cessna engineers decided to add PolyFEM from LMS CADSI, Coralville, Iowa, to their toolset. PolyFEM runs within CATIA and automatically meshes and analyzes the CATIA solid models, eliminating the tedious process of manually creating and fine-tuning the mesh. Since all parts at Cessna are created as solids within CATIA, PolyFEM's seamless integration makes it a very desirable tool.

PolyFEM uses a p-element adaptive solver that uses high order polynomials as the basis functions to approximate the solution. The solution algorithm is adaptive based on problem size and available machine resources to produce the best results in the shortest amount of time with no user intervention. The maximum order of the basis functions (p-order) can be progressively increased to obtain the desired convergence without remeshing.

Integrated process

The landing gear trunnion was modeled in CATIA by a design engineer who provided the CATIA model to a structural engineer for analysis. After applying loads, constraints, and material properties to the solid within CATIA, PolyFEM then automatically meshed the solid, created the solution, and initiated PolyFEM's post-processing window. The software's automatic mesher is notable for being the first mesher capable of automatically using tetrahedral (tets), pentahedral (wedges), and hexahedral (bricks) elements whenever each is appropriate.

To determine the loads to apply to the part, the engineer created a simple stick model in NASTRAN and ran an analysis to determine overall loads on the landing gear. This was a very coarse model that did not show stress concentrations in fillets or areas around fittings. It provided just the basic reaction loads into the trunnion that were then applied to the PolyFEM model. After the engineer specified boundary conditions, material properties, and constraints, the analysis was ready to run. The entire process took about a half a day.

Results of the first analysis indicated areas of low stresses where excess material was likely to be present. The design engineers modified the CATIA model to remove some material and asked the engineer to check it again. Provided that none of the loaded/constrained surfaces changes, all the engineer had to do was restart the analysis, because the PolyFEM boundary conditions and material properties are mapped to surfaces of the CATIA solid. Since PolyFEM uses the exact CATIA model, the solution to the next iteration was ready in about an hour. This speed of analysis allows multiple design iterations to be performed in much less time than would be possible with a stand-alone package. In this case, the landing gear trunnion was optimized in about two weeks. With a stand-alone FEA package, this would have taken about one month. With PolyFEM, once the geometry of the part was changed in CATIA, it was immediately ready for another analysis.

In all, the landing gear trunnion design went through about ten iterations. The design engineers did things like changing fillet radii and reducing material thickness, each time using PolyFEM to make sure that in their attempts to reduce weight they did not exceed stress levels on the pad necessary for good fatigue life.

Cessna has found PolyFEM to be an ideal optimization tool for determining stresses in complicated parts. As design engineers become more familiar with it, the plan is to encourage them to perform analysis as part of the design process, which will save time. With automatic meshing and a p-type solver such as PolyFEM that runs directly in CATIA, it is feasible to reduce risk and optimize weight in many parts, while reducing engineering costs and time-to-market.

For more information contact the LMS CADSI UK representative, John Ridley, PO Box 2020, Rayleigh SS6 7NH, UK. Tel/Fax: +44 (0) 1268 741 741; E-mail:; Internet:

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