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'FRESH' project still hot

Completed in 2007, the SME-led 'FRESH' project, which developed advanced tools for aircraft electrical design, is still making waves. Project partners are now looking to carry out further research into electro-magnetic and thermal effects in aircraft.

Aircraft interior © Peter Gutierrez
FRESH research for aircraft
electrical systems
© Peter Gutierrez

"We managed to overcome a major difficulty in aircraft design and installation: the electrical harness simulation," says Fabienne Daveran of FRESH partner Euro Inter, "starting from the conversion of traditional paper wiring diagrams into CAD (computer-aided design) format."

What is it?

An electrical harness is a string of cables and/or wires bound together by clamps, ties, sleeves, tape, conduit and the like. Commonly used in all kinds of vehicles and machinery, modern-day harnesses provide several advantages over loose wires and cables. For example, aircraft contain masses of wires that would stretch for kilometres if fully extended. Bound together, these wires and cables are better secured against the adverse effects of vibrations, abrasions, and moisture, reducing the risks of shorts and electrical fires.

"Until now, the industrialisation of an aircraft electrical harness has relied almost entirely on manual methods," explains Daveran. "When changes are needed, wiring diagrams have to be checked manually and a new harness design process has to be started to integrate modifications.

"The system developed under the FRESH project allows us to simulate the electrical harness as a whole. We can insert a friendly man-machine interface into any CAD software. This is a key point as today most of aircraft manufacturers have problems in the design and customisation processes of their aircraft harnesses."

Positive working relationships

Daveran says project management was a challenge, especially with FRESH's strong SME component, but thanks to good co-operation and support among team members, the project was a success. "The participation of all partners, whether universities or SMEs, was excellent throughout the life of the project. Without this, the project would not have seen this level of technical success."

FRESH partners have also acknowledged the support of the European Union, especially the 'SCRATCH' accompanying measure, aimed at supporting SMEs in the Aeronautics sector.

What's next?

Now, the FRESH team is hoping to extend its work with a new project under the Seventh Research Framework Programme. "We would like to do more work to follow up on FRESH,says Daveran with European partners including universities and SMEs, but also Fokker Elmo, one of the largest harness manufacturers in the world, aimed at investigating electro-magnetic and thermal effects linked to aircraft electrical systems."

Daveran says the ultimate result could be reduced design costs for aircraft manufacturers and increased safety on board. Moreover, the new FRESH system already makes it easier to customise aircraft electrical installations, a major element in assuring modern air passenger satisfaction and comfort.

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