Machine Design

Direct modeler, high-fidelity translator help build aircraft audio equipment

Manufacturer Alto Aviation in Leominster, Mass., uses a direct modeler to design audio equipment for corporate aircraft. The equipment must often fit in such small spaces as the seat frame. Seat-frame models typically come in native Catia V5 format. The models get translated via KeyCreator software from Kubotek USA, Marlborough, Mass., which also provides the direct-modeling capabilities.

“KeyCreator lets me quickly change almost any aspect of a geometry without having to worry about a history tree,” says Alto Senior Engineer Jim Gutterman. “In addition, the translators flawlessly import and export Catia V5 files, letting me seamlessly iterate with customers to final designs.”

Gutterman creates the initial enclosure volume in the file that was translated in KeyCreator from the customer’s geometry. “I add more details and convert the single file into a multiple-file assembly,” he says.

The customer then either accepts the design or sends a new model with additional parts. This process repeats until Alto has something that works.

“Translation accuracy is critical because it could be a disaster if errors crept in during repeated cycles,” says Gutterman. “Fortunately, the Catia translators are high fidelity. In fact, we have never had translation errors.”

A more detailed model is created after customer approval. “At this stage, the last thing I need is a layer of abstraction between me and the geometry,” says Gutterman. “It’s much faster to work directly with the geometry. The software lets me, for instance, quickly slice off portion of the enclosure and add flanges to make the cover and then shell the rest of the volume to convert it into an enclosure. Adding various components and assemblies completes the audio system.”

The software lets users quickly edit geometry without worrying about how the model was parametrically defined. “For example, speaker drivers typically require a grille — a piece of sheet metal with a series of punched-out one-quarter or one-half-in.-diameter holes,” says Gutterman. “Holes are in a pattern with one hole in the middle and the rest in concentric circles. KeyCreator lets me copy a part with this pattern into the enclosure, position it where the speaker will be, trim the material, and union it with the surrounding material. These steps would be much harder in history-based system. The software recognizes holes as features, so pointing to one hole selects all of them, letting me change their diameter or perform other edits on them all at once.”


Kubotek USA,
Alto Aviation,

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