Autoship Systems Corporation Software: The Advanced Approach to Vessel Design
Autoship Systems Corporation (ASC) of Vancouver, Canada has been a world leader in CAD/CAM vessel design software for all of its nearly forty years. Originally conceived for the monohull, ASC software is now used for designing all types of marine vessels – from conventional hull forms to oil rigs. What has made ASC the software vendor of choice for thousands of customers worldwide?
The Early Days
In the early 1980s, PCs were beginning to have respectable computing power at a relatively affordable price. This situation encouraged Mr. Grahame Shannon of Vancouver, Canada to develop his novel idea of designing vessels on the PC-platform. Soon Mr. Shannon had many naval architects knocking at his door. Grahame’s design software, called Autoship, had made the vessel designer’s life a whole lot easier. Before long Mr. Shannon had to hire employees and move his business, Coastdesign Inc., out of his basement.
Coastdesign Inc. quickly became known around the world as a CAD software specialist. Dealerships were established in key maritime countries, such that by the late 1980s the company had an unquestionably dominant position among the PC-based CAD software suppliers around the world. But business success did not simply rely on market penetration. It is equally key to have a vision to satisfy all of the market needs.
Coastdesign had by this time licensed and developed analysis tools to complement Autoship. These new software tools comprised: AutoPlex (for designing with developable surfaces), Autoplate (for plate expansion), GHS (for stability and longitudinal strength analysis) and Autopower (for resistance calculations and powering estimation). A total CAD solution, whereby software could be used to take the vessel design completely around the design spiral, had emerged. The niche software developer had clearly let the marketplace know that it understood the vessel design process. Now was the time to tie the design process with vessel construction. The vision was taking shape.
The link between vessel design and construction was made in two steps. First, Autobuild – an internal structural modeling program was developed. Second, AutoNC, a proven nesting and cut-file generation program, was licensed. Now, parts created in the Autoship CAD suite could be exported using standard dxf file format to AutoNC for part nesting and cutting. The CAD programs also advanced, with Autoplex being integrated into Autoship, and GHS being replaced by Autohydro. The company, now called Autoship Systems Corporation, had a complete CAD/CAM software product line.
The First Autoship CAD/CAM Suite
Since these early days, Autoship Systems continued to innovate. In the early 1990s, all products were re-written to move from the DOS operating environment to Windows™. Further, the products have undergone continuous improvement, taking advantage of increased computing power available in PCs, and more advanced programming tools. Finally, ASC has further proved its commitment to making the vessel design and construction process easier by integrating with third party software. This, new, dynamic suite is the topic of the next section.
Today, the Autoship CAD/CAM suite is as follows:
Autoship – for surface modeling. The Autoship program uses Non-Uniform Rational B-Spline (NURBS) mathematics, the high-end CAD standard for surface modeling.
Autohydro – for stability and strength calculations. The program performs damage and intact stability analyses on a 3D model of the vessel. The program input can either be an Autoship-generated model, or a table of offsets.
Autopower – for resistance and powering prediction. Twelve independent resistance and propulsion methods for variety of hull forms are offered.
Autostructure – for internal structure design. This is a group of programs consisting of: Project Manager – for project management, Autostructure – for design work, and Report Manager – for report generation. Autostructure is built on top of the Microsoft™ SQL Server database.
Production Manager – for nesting and stock management. The foundation of Production Manager is the Autostructure database. Parts for nesting are read from the database; nestings and inventories are stored in it. Production Manager exports nesting drawings and tables into AutoCAD.
Third Party Integration
Vessel design is not done in isolation. In today’s shipyard, there are many different software packages in use. The individual software alone may improve efficiencies within a given department, however the real benefit of these disparate packages can only be realized through meaningful data transfers between these systems. Ultimately, the supply chain will still experience bottlenecks if these links are not made. ASC understands the shipyard supply chain and therefore continues to work hard to integrate their state-of-the-art CAD/CAM systems with other notable shipyard software.
To this end, some key Autoship CAD/CAM suite interfaces with 3rd party software systems include:
Models created in other programs can be imported via IGES or DXF. In addition, if the vessel designer wants to start his vessel in the Autoship suite from the lines of an existing vessel, this is possible with the surface match routine (available only in Autoship Pro). The user has two ways to enter the data: a. manually typing in offsets into a table; or b. by importing the existing vessel’s offsets using a “csv” (comma separate variable) file format – a file format easily created from a Microsoft™ Excel spreadsheet. Either way, the surface match routine will generate a set of curves from the data, and then loft a surface through them.
Autostructure interfaces with two third party software: AutoPLANT™ and AutoCAD™:
a. AutoPLANT™ is a third party piping design software. The link between Autostructure and AutoPLANT™ ensures that any conflict between piping system design and structural design is resolved during the vessel design stage, rather than during the vessel construction stage.
b. AutoCAD™ is used by Autostructure for editing 2D flat parts, and exporting of parts, assemblies and cross-sections in 2D and 3D.
Production Manager. Production Manager exports nesting drawings and tables to AutoCAD™. Optionally, the program operator can write out a DWG file.
A successful company’s vision has to be in line with what its customers need. It is one thing to be innovative, however if the innovations do not translate into meaningful features for the end user, then the effort expended simply becomes a pure academic exercise. In the case of ASC, the company’s vision has always remained in line with customer needs. Subsequently, customers have rewarded ASC by remaining Autoship software users many years.
Autoship Systems Corporation is a leader in marine CADCAM software because it has not strayed from its original vision of forty years ago: “to provide state-of-the-art marine design and construction software solutions.” Why not start benefiting from ASC’s commitment to the marketplace, and consider Autoship software for your future marine design and construction projects.