Python Success Stories

Introduction

Tribon Solutions develops, markets and supports CAD/CAM/CIM software solutions, with the mission of increasing overall efficiency in the maritime industry.

For more than 30 years the company has provided shipyards, design agents and maritime equipment suppliers with new ways to improve cost efficiency, quality and performance. Our solutions are proven to generate time savings and to increase speed to market.

With its head office in Sweden and offices in the Republic of Korea, China, Japan, Germany, the UK, Russia, Singapore and the USA, Tribon Solutions serves the global maritime industry and customers in more than 43 countries.

The Need for a Ship Building API

The building of a ship is initiated by the need to transport goods, people, or firepower. The particular need dictates the dimensions, layout of the cargo area, engine power, and other basic attributes for the ship. The design for the ship then meshes these requirements with strength and safety regulations. Because most transport needs are unique, many ship designs are built only once or only in a small series.

The Tribon software suite covers the ship building process from the first concept to the finished ship. The design and construction of a ship involves a high degree of concurrent engineering. To solve this problem Tribon uses a Product Information Model (PIM), which is the central repository and single source of information for designers, planners, administrators of material, manufacturing personnel, and others working on design and construction.

View of a small part of a ship's PIM created using the Tribon system

View of a small part of a ship's PIM created using the Tribon system. Picture courtesy of Samho Heavy Industries Co., Ltd. Zoom in

Even though most ship designs are unique, shipyards try to lower cost by using as much standardized and parameter-driven design as possible. The problem for a software vendor is that design principles are different at each yard due to factors such as ship type, production facilities, prior experience, and national regulations and standards.

Tribon's solution to this problem was to make it easy for shipyards to develop their own functionality based on Tribon core technology, including the Tribon PIM. To achieve this, Tribon Solutions had to create an API that was platform independent, easy to use, had all the strengths of a modern programming language, and was extendable and embeddable.

Choosing Python

Tribon began work on its API in 1995. Two different paths were considered at this stage: Either to publish directly the libraries used by Tribon, or to create a wrapper on top of existing code.

The first approach would make all our functionality available to the user, but users would have to use the same development environment as Tribon Solutions, change compiler versions when Tribon Solutions did so, and so forth. This would have been an expensive and complex solution, only usable by the largest shipyards in the world, those that had their own large IT and development departments.

The second approach was preferable, as long as a tool could be found or developed that covered most of the given criteria. Tribon already had a geometry macro language that was developed in-house, but to extend it to the desired level of functionality would have been costly to implement and maintain. The remaining option was to find a 3rd party solution that fulfilled the API's needs.

During investigation of options, Python was discovered quite early when a member of the development team read about Python in a computer magazine. After some initial experimentation there were really no other contenders. Python had it all. It was a beautiful programming language that was extensible, embeddable, platform independent, and had no license cost.

When it came to incorporate Python into the Tribon software, we found the integration to be quite easy and problem-free, and it was achieved with very little effort. The result of this merge between Tribon and Python was named Tribon Vitesse, and the first version of Python used was 1.2.

Experiences

During the last seven years Tribon Solutions has been able to move with the updates of Python without any major inconvenience to our customers or ourselves. Today we have customers that have developed hundreds of modules over the years. Python's platform independence, and the fact that it is an interpreted language, have been a major benefit to customers that have migrated from the VMS and UNIX to Windows. They have been able to port their code with no changes or at most only minor changes.

Today Tribon Solutions has customers that have, by utilizing the power of Tribon Vitesse, been able to reduce design time of certain complex ship structures from four weeks to two days, while improving overall quality. This enormous reduction in design time has been possible by automating more of the design, calculations, information search, and result checking.

Other customers have created entire applications, based on Tribon technology, that fit perfectly into their way of working and thinking.

Python is also used to customize the Tribon system through the implementation of hooks and event driven triggers that allow the user to control the graphical user interface, information display, design standards, and much more.

In the fall of 2002, as a further service to customers, Tribon Solutions formed a Developer's Network that supports third party vendors building maritime solutions based on Tribon Vitesse.

Summary

Today Tribon Vitesse consists of over 500 functions and more than 50 different classes, and it is still growing. Development is to a large extent driven by customer requests.

Python has proven to be a perfect tool for creating an API to existing applications because it is:

  • Extendable
  • Embeddable
  • Platform independent
  • Easy and logical to learn, even for non programmers
  • A beautiful programming language

Visit Tribon Solutions on-line at www.tribon.com for more information or contact info@tribon.com.

About the Author

Henrik Wimmerstedt is product manager for the Tribon Developer's Toolkit and chairman of the Tribon Developers Network. He joined the company in 1997, after studies in naval architecture.

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