Computer-aided design (CAD) software and other product life-cycle management (PLM) tools have become ubiquitous in industry during the past 20 years. Over this time they have continuously evolved, becoming programs with enormous capabilities, but the companies that use them have not evolved their design practices at the same rate. Due to the constant pressure of bringing new products to market, commercial businesses are not able to dedicate the resources necessary to tap into the more advanced capabilities of their design tools that have the potential to significantly reduce both time-to-market and quality of their products. Taking advantage of these advanced capabilities would require little time and out-of-pocket expense, since the companies already own the licenses to the software. This article details the work of a small research team working in conjunction with a major turbine engine manufacturer endeavoring to make better use of the underutilized capabilities of their design software. By using the scripting language built into their CAD package for design automation, knowledge-based engineering applications, and efficient movement of data between design packages, the company was able to significantly reduce design time for turbine design, increase the number of feasible design iterations, increase benefits from relational modeling techniques, and increase the overall quality of their design processes.
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