From CAD User AEC Magazine Vol 24 No 05 - SEPT/OCT 2011
AceCad focuses on model accessibility in the latest version of StruCad and its associated StruWalker free viewer, says David Chadwick
The user interface to the latest version of StruCad is the clue to the whole system. StruCad is AceCad's structural detailing solution. It allows the detail engineer to take an architect's or structural engineer's design, in either 2D or 3D format, and add the nuts and bolts - quite literally!
When you launch StruCad, though, instead of just setting the stage for the detail engineer to work on the imported data and configure all of the beams, connections, base plates and other structural entities that have been added to the design, he will find himself in a workspace gateway to the whole system - with direct access to administration, model and document management, as well as the total range of interoperability functions.
Without demeaning the specific role of the detail engineer, who converts the design requirements of the structural engineer into a fully detailed, constructible model, he could now find himself as the linchpin between the owner of the model, the structural engineer, and the rest of the supply chain - the supplier, fabricator and sub-contracting construction company.
StruCad has evolved into a complete BIM solution, with the emphasis on collaboration and interoperability. With the engineer in possession of all of the information required by each party, StruCad has facilitated the collection and dissemination of the data, in the format required, to each of the participants whenever it is required. Simultaneously, AceCad has introduced an enhanced version of StruWalker, a freely available collaboration package, which gives everybody the tools they need to view the model, make comments on it, perform clash checks on critical areas, and extract the data they need for their own purposes.
The workspace provides even more administration functions, including a License Manager that keeps track of who has what version and particular license of each of the StruCad modules, reflecting each person's job function, such as the Checker license for those whose functions are just to check models for standards, suitability of production and so on. Administrators can transfer individual licences to detail engineers working on specific contracts. For some companies this will reduce the total number of licences required to be held, as well as saving money.
There is also a full document management system that has a bi-directional workflow and provides the control and management of all RFI/TQ's with documents, screenshots, notes, annotations and whatever else is connected with the model from a central designated server, where all details are held. Another visual part of the Workspace allows users to click on model names and display a preview version on screen to confirm its current status, before loading the full 3D model to work on.
At some stage, I suppose, you actually have to load the 3D model that you want to work on, using the now obligatory customisable ribbon tool interface. The model can come from many sources, with StruCad capable of importing and using 3D models from most familiar applications and sources, and even 2D drawings, which can be used just as easily to model a detailed structure.
StruCad has a model transfer wizard that makes this import and export even easier. It gives maximum interoperability, requiring just the start and finishing formats to be used along with the direction of transfer. Data can also be managed in layers and levels, specifically to control all items within the model.
If we take a step back and look at the detailing attributes of StruCad itís clear that, even here, the importance of working to BIM standards is evident. Once the 3D model is imported by the detailing engineer they can start to map each of the connections in the model, applying standard connections or configuring types of connections to meet non-standard criteria. The engineer is helped in this by the large libraries of standard parametric connection types he has available.
Whilst the detail engineer may have expertise in the types of connections that can be used with the structure, the fabricator has expertise in other areas; the optimal way that such connections can be manufactured depending on their steel stock and manufacturing costs which, should they be made available to the design engineer and incorporated into the model, will allow him to specify lower manufacturing and tendering costs.
It is even possible to design moment connections in StruCad using StruConnect, AceCad's unique integrated connection design system. Consequently, a solution that enables an efficient flow of data and ideas between design, detail and fabrication is entirely beneficial to the success of the project.
It goes further. The full AceCad suite of tools includes costing and tendering modules, enabling design and detail engineers to be aware of the costs and implications of design changes. The detail engineer is the practical smoothing operator between the structural design and the fabricator.
BIM and Accountability
It might appear that StruCad has gone overboard in respect to admin at the expense of detailing. Quite the contrary. By automating most of the processes, making them easily accessible and traceable, detail engineers are freed from the worry of chasing documents and sorting out data trails, giving them more time to spend on detailing.
Document transmissions are recorded in detail, specifying what has been sent, to whom and when, and bi-directional information can be exchanged between StruCad and StruWalker. Modifications and additions can be incorporated into the model, with StruWalkers annotation facilities, electronic file attachments and specific item information.
When the model is returned to the originator, a function within the integration platform which also graphically tracks model changes between StruCad and external packages, will compare the incoming model with what the originator has, using colour coding to define new, unchanged, deleted and modified items. This enables the design or detail engineer to instantly see the changes made.
There is also a multi-user facility within StruCad to apportion sections of a model to many users in the structural supply chain. They can be working on a specific part of a very large model - in one or many diverse locations. The Model Manager/Administrator, of course, co-ordinates their efforts. The message that comes across is that StruCad has covered every aspect of BIM collaboration, creating accountable and auditable links between all users, and facilitating the passage of information in whatever format required.
Besides allowing any user to attach comments to a model and raise issues, StruWalker can be used to combine and send RFIs, selecting and adding documents and screenshots and checking the appropriate drawings, subsequently exchanging information to users with or without StruCad.
StruWalker keeps track of all of the model data using customisable spreadsheet type displays (Member Grids) which can be filtered to provide the results of itemised searches. RFI responses can be handled similarly, with results attached in an appropriate column in the spreadsheet for easy access and traceability.
It can even be used to prompt changes to the construction process. Models can use colour coding, as above, to specify construction phases, recorded within the Member Grid - which can be modified by the construction managern and, being bi-directional, can be relayed back to the detail engineer to be signed off as a change to the model construction process.
StruWalker also allows attributes of any element to be checked, measured or whatever, and used to create videos and walkthroughs of models. You can even use it to add backgrounds to reflect locations - or shortly to drop it into a Google Earth location. And, reflecting the global aspirations of today's manufacturing companies, it facilitates the translation of notations and comments in real time using Google's translators.
Finally, engineers can use the system for project management purposes to create Gantt charts from the model data to itemise sequences of construction with the allocation of specific contract timeframes. Important chappies, your detail engineer and his tools!
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