AEDC teams improve design engineering capability

ARNOLD AIR FORCE BASE, Tenn. – Arnold Engineering Development Complex is in high demand for testing.

In order to help meet that demand, AEDC Test Operations and Sustainment, or TOS, contractor, National Aerospace Solutions, LLC, expanded its design engineering staff in 2019 to support capital projects, test programs and the overall AEDC mission. But without the proper tools for the job, new team members would be left spinning their wheels.

With all graphic workstations in use and new team members coming through the gates, 21 new high-end graphic workstations were purchased, according to George Fry, a NAS Engineering functional manager. The Base Communications and Information Technology Services, or BCITS, contractor, OBXTek prepared and installed the computers as they were purchased.

Analysis and computer-aided design software used by design engineers places a heavy burden on computing power. The new machines include upgrades in RAM and graphics cards.

“The computer upgrade has increased my efficiency in performing analysis,” said Troy Wetherholt, a NAS engineer. “Getting results back quickly from a simulation allows me to stay focused on the problem at hand and converge on a design solution more promptly.”

A fellow drafter, designer and CAD operator, Allie Snider, agreed.

“After receiving a new computer and monitors, it was very clear how much of an improvement it would make on my daily productivity,” Snider said. “The new workstation can handle a significant higher load put on it from the various programs we use in design. Previously, the computer would freeze often and slow me down; this is not an issue with the new workstation.”

An initiative by the NAS leadership team, Brown Bag Lunches, provided the opportunity for such an issue to be raised with the highest level of NAS leadership – the general manager and deputy general manager. The meetings provide employees at various points in their careers an opportunity to discuss suggestions and concerns with management. Design engineers identified an opportunity to improve the capability for executing their tasks and improving their work environment with new, larger, higher resolution monitors. NAS General Manager Dr. Rich Tighe, and NAS Mission Execution Director Jeff Henderson arranged the funding to support the monitor purchases.

Fry said that design engineer team members can spend more than 75 percent of their time at their computers. The ability to display additional AutoDesk tool bars is particularly helpful for the efficiency of the CAD operators.

He also noted the larger displays allow larger portions of spreadsheets, drawings and models to be reviewed.

“The new computers have made a vast improvement to the efficiency of working with 2D and 3D capable software,” said Emilee Lopez, a NAS drafter, designer and CAD operator. “The AutoDesk software freezes and crashes much less often, allowing us to get our work done more efficiently.”

The higher resolution of the monitors is also beneficial.

“The monitors provide superior detection of differences in graphical analysis results and improve the interface with the 3D facility and component models,” Fry said.

These benefits came with a minimal cost increase over the monitors typically provided.

“The NAS Design Engineering Group is dedicated to the AEDC mission, and each of our employees are integral to the successful design of systems and structures to help the government complete plans and programs,” said Sabrina Williams, NAS Design Engineering group manager. “Computers and monitors are critical for our employees to provide solutions in a better and timelier manner.

“As technology and the needs of our customers change and evolve, Design Engineering requires updated tools in order to meet requirements and commitments. Some of these tools are the high-end workstations and up-to-date monitors that are being purchased and installed.

“Most of the models that are produced cannot be completed on a standard desktop type of machine due to the complexity and speed required to run them. The new computers and monitors that are being provided to Design Engineering reduces eye strain and helps employees in meeting current requirements and furthering the AEDC mission.”

BCITS is expected to finish installation of the monitors by the end of the year.

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