The potential benefits of 3-D plan review are anything but standard

Vessel designers and shipyards are increasingly looking for ways to innovate and adopt digital tools in support of measurable efficiency gains. Recent initiatives have included the introduction of 3-D plan review capabilities to streamline the approval workflow process, reduce project risk, save cost and increase efficiency.

With the process gathering momentum, so is interest in standardisation for exchange of 3-D plans using the OCX format. Standardisation is one approach and most of the world’s leading classification societies are among the supporting members of the coalition to develop it, however it is not the only approach.

An ‘open standards’ strategy that accommodates multiple approaches and does not constrain designers and shipyards to one process could also be beneficial. Digital innovation in CAD will eventually develop an optimal process for digital data exchange to truly flourish.

Ultimately, the class society shouldn’t mind what format is used – OCX included – by having the capability to support, convert and manage data however designers want to send it and yards want to receive it. Determining that a particular standard is the ‘right way’ for yards to receive 3-D plans could add costs and restrict innovation if it forces them to manage production in a specific format.

Designers and builders should have the freedom to use any particular standard that suits their organisational needs. This enables the industry to be flexible, agile and allow for innovation. The key point is not to hinder innovation or anchor it to a point in time but rather let technology mature.

Safety remains the primary concern but designing and building ships requires flexibility and competitiveness. Stakeholders should not feel obliged to reject flexibility, competition and innovation to adopt a particular standard.

The risk of standardisation, apart from potentially curtailing innovation, is that the result will be one more standard among all the existing standards. For example, in the trials and core workflow processes our organisation has used with clients for 3-D plan review to date, all have used standards like JT, STEP, and IGES; none used OCX.

Class societies need to be able to work with OCX or a different standard, but cannot insist on one or the other; advice should always focus on what’s best for the particular application.

This reasoning recognises all the possibilities the future will bring. Will robotics add an unforeseen dimension, could additive manufacturing mean changes are needed to the way models are created? It’s the things we don’t yet know that make us wary of saying ‘this should be done in that way’ so early in the adoption timeline.

The industry is becoming familiar with using 3-D disclosures, though it is still relatively new beyond a handful of early adopters. As such, more shipbuilders understand the potential, even if they don’t necessarily have a full handle on which formats work best for them and whether they need full fat or lightweight versions that work in the design office, the yard or fabrication shop.

A few shipyards are fully digital on newbuilding projects, while others are at the evaluation and joint project stage. It is critical to give them flexibility rather than say ‘this is what you’re going to get, now go work with it’.

There are benefits for designers too. In situations where design changes are requested by Class, a standardised process could require updating and re-supplying an entire model, whereas using native CAD would mean simply changing the affected piece, potentially saving time and money. Adding repeating file conversions into the design process is a drag on innovation that we don’t want to impose.

Currently, there are two planned exchanges between Class and the designer. The designer submits drawings, Class reviews and comments and the designer revises. This creates a lot of waiting time, which results in cost, schedule and project risk.

By going digital, can we manage change better, thereby moving the review and comment process up the schedule? If so, it presents a huge incremental value proposition for owners in terms of risk reduction, compliance and safety.

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About the Author

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Patrick Ryan

Patrick Ryan is Senior Vice President – Engineering and Technology for ABS. He is responsible for global engineering, digital engineering, rules and software, research and development, and the Global Ship Systems Group. For over 20 years prior to joining ABS, he was in a design and construction role, and most recently responsible for digital innovation around those two processes at Newport News Shipbuilding.

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